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When Rob Halford turns out of tune - 45%

DonutBoy, September 4th, 2018

Few would say this album is excellent. However, if we place it in its historical context we start to appreciate it, right? Stained Class supposes a certain rupture with the past, since that moment, Judas Priest would begin to do their own way on the heavy scene. Keep thinking, in 1978 were not Iron Maiden, Saxon, even Black Sabbath at their worst moment, the last one being their likely sources of inspiration, and the one which wandered through no man's land with Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die, waiting for Dio who was able to bring new airs. Judas Priest is a band whose sermon of a social nature is sung by Rob Halford, the voice that overwhelms after his first tongue twisters (being famous at the end), of very accurate metrics and rhythm, undertaking his verbal tirade until reaching a moment when he seems to chew with eagerness what he sings, giving way to a ceremonial riff that'll inaugurate the imminent birth of a frenetic solo, be it from Tipton, be it from KK… unfortunately we’re not talking about Sad Wings of Destiny. As much as I insist, in my judgment Stained Class is the most irregular work of Priest catalog, only surpassed by the lousy Ram It Down, but that's another business.

To open your mouth and stay with it open, Exciter presents one of their glorious pre/post bridges as the brand has been offering since the Sad Wings era, a fast-paced song which justifies the whole álbum. It'd reach its sublimation as a perfect machinery under the name of Painkiller, another savior like this song, but coming soon as a whole musical genre. White Heat, Red Hot gets your feet back on the ground and sets to a lower level that'll be maintained for a good part of the album. Better By You, Better Than Me is a Spooky Tooth cover and was the reason which they were accused of suicide induction. In short, a real crime against art itself is to use music as a scapegoat for such macabre acts, although luckily some fans did not take it seriously after all, and that's why I'm still alive after hearing this. With the title track we left the bike for a while just to get a trot in a darker path. Musically, the change is not comparable to what Sad Wings supposed regarding Rocka Rolla, the intention of distancing themselves from previous influences affect fundamentally their appearance. They abandon the hippie aesthetic after a small stage of transition and adopt the leather and studs definitively. The gothic logo is replaced by a red one, more aggressive and known, which looks like it would prick you if you touch it. After two magisterial deliveries, I find Rob Halford very forced and out of tune in several moments, unforgivable from someone of such class.

Little by little I'm getting cold, and when I start to assume that I'm facing a not so good LP, it appears, like an ostrich-sized Easter egg, Beyond The Realms Of Death, a piece of shit which turns brutish and returns to set the bar where Exciter had left. The tip still missing, Heroes End is a compact closer for a record that most times doesn't seem particularly interesting but hey, it contains at least two or three really memorable songs. Interestingly, they released Killing Machine in the same year; I always thought what would happen if Priest waited a little longer to release Stained Class, it would have the heaviness of Killing and would be a good disc in the vein of British Steel, like a heavy metal band which writes heavy metal songs. Surely someone looked for a decent prequel to what they'd write in the eighties, a pity that this album is only a slight hint for that.

I try to like it, however, the whole album is not as impressive as it might seem. Numerous unfortunate songs dotted here and there the "stain", case of poor Invaders with its pseudo-Hawaiian solo which doesn't help too much to raise the level of the album. Savage very simple and with Halford very out of tune, although with a good solo of KK. There are good solos by Tipton which save some moments but Rob mostly gives acute tones that don't convince because, again, he goes out of tune like a chicken. Stained Class announces new times and marks ways to face a harder future, but it is clearly inferior to Killing Machine and of course to the extraordinary Sin After Sin. Rob Halford is not up to his "legend" condition as what he is, the "metal god". This album is the least better of their 70s era. The evident big rooster Exciter, the solo of Beyond the Realms, and the majestic closer show the album purpose. There are people who say this is a record to enjoy quietly, for trained ears, the one that escapes from any genre, which supposedly is beyond the metal music, hell no. Far away from the impressive Sad Wings Of Destiny, this last does touche perfection. Well, I thought to rate it with 25%, but DonutBoy is generous, DonutBoy is genteel, so it deserves more than its own value, just for the aforementioned songs. Hope you to re-think after reading this.

3 out of 5 stars
Beyond the Realms of Death 101/100