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Review of Judas Priest's "Stained Class"
Intro and track list (Courtesy Wikipedia.org)
Written and recorded in 1977-1978, Stained Class was, at that point, Judas Priest's most cleanly produced record of their catalog. The album was their "thrashiest" release and is considered one of the most influential heavy metal albums of all time. Classic hits, such as "Beyond the Realms of Death" and "Exciter," became staples of Priest's live performance. Here we'll take a look at this powerhouse of a metal album, undoubtedly one of the metal gods' best.
1. Exciter 5:34
2. White Heat, Red Hot 4:20
3. Better By You, Better Than Me 3:24
4. Stained Class 5:19
5. Invader 4:12
6. Saints in Hell 5:30
7. Savage 3:27
8. Beyond the Realms of Death 6:53
9. Heroes End 5:01
"Exciter" has to be one of the earliest thrash songs of all time. A cover band is named after it, many musicians cite it as one of their favorites from Priest. It's also one of the first songs of many from the Metal Gods telling the tale of some fictional character, in this case, Exciter. Featuring twin guitars thundering away throughout the vocals, it was, indeed, rather fast for its day. Though lacking a bit in the bass department (a criticism of most of Judas Priest's records), the solo's will have you banging your head, and depending on your drunkenness, playing along in the air. While a great song as a whole, the finale is particularly impressive. Do what Rob advises, "Stand back for EXCITAAHH!!"
"White Heat, Red Hot," while not an extremely memorable hit on this record, it is a decent little song with a good chorus and lyrics. The riff that plays through most of the tune makes it worthy of a place on this record. "Better By You, Better Than Me" is a cover of a song from a band called Spooky Tooth. While I've never heard the original, this version apparently inspired two young lads to kill themselves due to a noise in the song they interpreted as "Do it!" Is there something that can be heard to that effect? Yes. Is it of any significance that criminal action should be held against the musicians? No. Does this little setback take anything away from the overall quality of the song? Hell no!
Next, we have my personal favorite and one of the most unappreciated songs ever; the title track of this album, "Stained Class," features some heavy lyrics as well as some heavy guitar work. Rob hits high notes (as in, unusually high) and Tipton and Downing quickly strum their guitars until the chorus. A noteworthy section of this song is from 2:47 - 3:29, it's simply metal gold! When they say Black Sabbath were the heaviest of their time, I always recommend they feast their ears on this.
"Invader" details the invasion of Earth and eventual triumph of man. I've had some arguments with some online morons over which is better, this song of Iron Maiden's "Invaders." Anyway, after Rob warns us that invasion is neigh, "Saints in Hell," which is as just as metal as it sounds, kicks off. How Rob can reach such vocal heights in so many songs and how the guitarists can find so many kickass riffs are both realities beyond my comprehension, so I just sit in perplexed ecstasy. It can be a grower, though, to those not thoroughly acquainted with some of these tracks. The more you listen, the better they get. Highlight is the end of the song wherein Rob wails, "Saaaaints iiiiiiin heeeeeeell!"
"Savage" details an invasion of another kind. Natives have been kicked from their lands by white men and their culture destroyed. You could make the claim, without being charged of insanity, that a bunch of English guys lamenting such greedy conquest is ironic. Anyway, it's a decent tune but probably one of the flattest ones on the album. Not a huge fault, as it's got some serious competition. Case in point: "Beyond the Realms of Death."
Very emotionally charged, very sorrowful, very intense. This is pretty much as close as Judas Priest got to a ballad at this point. Its influence is evident in songs like "Fade to Black" and the like. Whether Halford's mournful voice or one of the emotionally provocative solos, this song is the epitome of what a metal ballad should sound like. An appropriate end to it all is "Heroes End." While unremarkable compared to the song it followed, it ranks on the top half of the whole CD. Sort of jazzy, sort of groovey, it's worth the listen if you aren't drained from "Realms."
Some believe, foolishly, that the title "Metal Gods" was given to them due to their song on British Steel. But it is clearly earned well before then, at this album, to be specific. It is hard to view this album subjectively if you're a fan of classic metal, as it is deserving is called a masterpiece. The only faults I could assign to the CD is a lack of bass and not holding some songs to the same standards as the best ones. Though that might not be plausible to expect every song be a hit, a few could have been improved.
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