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A classic with the wrinkles of age - 93%

TrooperEd, November 4th, 2016

Time can be a rather cruel mistress. Equipping oneself with the most elite technology and sound at the time may make you seem like the avant garde of the time, but 20 years down the road, only God himself will know whether or not your shit sounds dated and quaint. Which is not to say that I think this album sounds dated and quaint, I just understand why there are those that do.

To be honest, one of the problems with why this album sounds so stranded in time to the modern metal fan is because half of it was never touched live. Sure if a song sounds twice as fierce live it still makes the album version sound slightly inferior, but you make peace with that because you are aware of the raw power a song is capable of when unleashed in the right circumstances.

I feel very privileged to have heard Exciter, White Heat Red Hot, Better By You Better Than Me, Stained Class, and Beyond The Realms of Death live. It provides me with the foresight to emotionally give back more energy to these songs that the songs themselves may even be capable of conveying simply because I know their true power. That’s why albums such as Unleashed in The East are so important. It’s simply not possible for bands who recorded the “old way” to give off their maximum potential, they’re only playing to an engineer who 90% of the time could probably care less.

Then there's the poor man's Simon Phillips, Les Binks. Ok, let's be fair, everybody except Neil fucking Peart is the poor man's Simon Phillips, and Les doesn't do a bad job of imitating him, but all the little fills and flourishes that made Sin After Sin's high points stratospheric just aren't here. Let's not act like Phillips couldn't have come with that double bass beat to Exciter. While Les Binks should deserve credit for innovating metal drumming, he isn't really doing anything that Simon didn't do on SAS. Speaking of Exciter, as much as I love Motorhead, they really need to stop getting THE credit for thrash drumming that Overkill gets considering Stained Class (and by extension, Exciter) predates Overkill by a full year. They deserve some credit sure, but Priest did it first. Deal with it you punk rock assholes.

I also can't help but wonder if there should be a "Tipton," a "Downing," or even a "Hill," next to the credits of Beyond The Realms of Death. Ok yea he wrote that intro lick which the meat of the song is based off of, but what about the thrash-esuqe bridge or double time ending under KK Downing solo at the song's conclusion? Maybe KK should get the credit since according to him it was his guitar Binks picked up and jammed with since "Glenn would guard his with his life."* I'm not trying to retroactively demonize Binks or claim he was some kind of hack, just that he was a placeholder for Simon Phillips. He's better than Holland, I'm sure we can all agree with that notion, right? RIGHT?

Despite how near 40 years of progress makes Stained Class seem like no more than a building block, the important thing to remember is the importance of that building block. There’s a reason the guys from Slayer (well Kerry King) drop Priest’s name left and right. It’s the thrashy middle-eight of Saints In Hell; It’s the impossibly high note at the end of Exciter; it’s the double time double bass at the tail end of White Heat Red Hot; it’s the doom-riff breakdown following the most violent, gory tirade Rob Halford had gone on up to this point in the title track (can you think of an earlier example that “hung drawn and quartered” was used in a rock song?); it’s the idea of wondering why good men die like dogs, but with sass, like in Hero’s End. it’s the matching of deep emotional lyricism by two distinct guitar solos shining for 16 bars wondering if knowledge is indeed worth the bitter cost. Stained Class is not only solely responsible for every sub-genre of metal, it’s when heavy metal became heavy metal. Period.

*(Metal Works liner notes)

Recommended Songs:
Beyond The Realms of Death