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An Extraordinary Masterpiece - 98%

GuiltySpawn, May 5th, 2016

Stained Class is easily among the absolute greatest heavy metal albums ever produced. All 9 songs, all of them, are exceptional. There is never a dull moment in the entire 43 minutes of the album. There is a musical depth and creativity here that is unmatched by any other Priest album. In my opinion Stained Class is Judas Priest at their creative peak.

In addition to being among the best metal albums ever, it's also one of the most influential. The opening track, "Exciter", is quintessential speed metal, and can be said to have laid the foundation for what was to come later, 80's thrash. The tempo for Exciter is about 132 bpm, which is not super fast by today's standards, but for it's time it could be said to be pretty blazing. Exciter also features double bass drumming from Les Binks, which was pretty groundbreaking for its time.

Every track features top notch guitar riffs that really stand out melodically. The riffing is not as thick or as heavy as on, for instance, British Steel. They are generally more groovy, and they are spectacular. Every song has at least one really great guitar riff, and several songs have more than one. "White Heat, Red Hot", and "Better by You, Better Than Me" both begin with a few measures of an excellent opening guitar riff, after which the rhythm section kicks in, creating a perfect, groovy, pounding melody. The lead guitar parts are played harmoniously, and with beautiful feeling and soul. Tipton and Downing's twin guitar teamwork produces some of the finest melody and counter-melody action I've ever heard. Their playing technique is delivered with impeccable skill and precision.

Of all Priest albums, this one takes the cake featuring the clearest, cleanest vocal sound by singer Rob Halford. He's perfectly on pitch, vibrant, and ripened with an operatic, high ranged tone that he delivers with great passion and power. The vocal melodies themselves are also very well composed. Lyrically, Stained Class is of a darker, deeper, and more sophisticated nature than other Priest albums. The lyrics for songs such as "Savage", "Beyond the Realms of Death", and the title track are all masterfully crafted and contain very passionate, heartfelt meanings. The overall level of lyrical artistry and creativity on Stained Class is better than any other Priest album in my opinion. There is also great use of harmonic, studio backing vocals on many of the tracks, such as "White Heat, Red Hot", an absolute gem. The opening of "Savage" features an amazingly high note sung by Halford which is just mind blowing. Rob Halford's performance on Stained Class might very well be the greatest work of his career.

The production and the mix on Stained Class is damn near perfect. Every note from every instrument can be clearly heard and is dialed to just the right volume. The drums have a particularly crisp sound, and Les Binks makes good work of the entire drum kit. The bass guitar can be heard and is distinguishable from the electric guitars over top of it, and Ian Hill uses an appropriate playing style which backs the band without being excessive. The bottom end of the music is not overly heavy or distorted, rather it is nicely tuned to a very clear sound which makes everything easier to hear and enjoy.

There are no weak songs on the album. As I said, all 9 of them are great. There are only some parts which are slightly less interesting than others. Listening to this album, from start to finish, truly is thoroughly enjoyable on multiple levels. The entire band plays with passion, depth, and talent. Stained Class highlights every great feature of Judas Priest in its best form. It surely will stand the test of time for it's outstanding musical quality and tremendous influence.