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ARTIST: Judas Priest
ALBUM: Stained Class
SERIAL: JC 35296
CD REISSUE: 2001, Legacy, CK 85434
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
LINEUP: Rob Halford - vocals * K.K Downing - guitars * Glenn Tipton - guitars * Ian Hill - bass * Les Binks - drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Exciter * 02 White Heat Red Hot * 03 Better By You Better Than Me * 04 Stained Class * 05 Invader * 06 Saints In Hell * 07 Savage * 08 Beyond The Realms Of Death * 09 Heroes End
Judas Priest's coming of age truly began with 'Stained Class' despite three timeless previous releases. This album set the blueprint for the next decade or so and handled in a manner Priest never managed again themselves, as the cliches and metal themes weren't quite as obvious, more an introduction. Ask many Priest fans and they will declare this the essential Priest album and it surely rates as one the best metal albums of the seventies. Listening to the intensity and heaviness of 'Stained Class' almost thirty years later you can only laugh at the assumption punk had attitude and was cutting edge. This was a marked improvement over 'Sin After Sin' with Priest further refining their metallic approach, although still noticeably the same band heard on 'Sad Wings Of Destiny', only updated. Sadly Priest would replace this with a commercial edge for 'Killing Machine', and it's hard to say if things were ever the same again.
'Exciter' stands as one of Priest's finest character driven themes, fast paced with chainsaw riffing from Downing and Tipton. Halford sounds as if his head is ready to explode with his screams and this remains as fresh as it surely did in 1978. If you're asking yourself how it could get any more metal then don't, because it doesn't. 'Better By You, Better Than Me' was the Spooky Tooth
cover that caused Priest much grief in the late eighties due to a pair of young fans shooting themselves to the track allegedly, and it removed some of the impact of this cover. The band gallops forth with menace during the title track, definitely a mean, scathing attack on a musical level. 'Saints In Hell' could have been taken from 'Sad Wings..' melodically, and listening to this closely it is astonishing just how much of a frightening proposition Priest had the capability of being. Drummer Les Binks helped pen the revered epic ballad 'Beyond The Realms Of Death', a track which makes a mockery of Zeppelin or anything they conjured in the late 70's. Halford gives one of his greatest vocal performances, and all nine tracks qualify as some of the key moments for all of heavy metal's long history. 'Savage' is aptly titled and the word itself sums up the overall tone of every note contained within 'Stained Class'.
If this heralded a new beginning then it also signaled the end of an old one. When 'Killing Machine' was recorded later the same year suddenly Priest had changed direction, cue the likes of 'Take On The World' and 'Rock Forever' which began the era of Priest's American foray. Somehow Priest had lost their original sense of spite and menace and never regained it, despite becoming legends. It's hard to shake the notion 'Stained Class' was the last of real Priest, although it may be simply because it was the first Priest album I was exposed to that gives it that charm. However you choose to view it 'Stained Class' will stand forever as an example of when metal was still fresh and innovative, something Priest helped create. They never bettered it, It would have been a mountainous task anyway as the word 'classic' was invented for an album this great.
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