Sunday, 5 August 2012

CD Review: Stained Class, by Judas Priest (1978)

On their fourth studio album, Judas Priest find their range, their image, and their mission. Stained Class is an outstanding achievement, filled with Rob Halford exploring ever more impossible notes within his high range, and the guitars of K. K. Downing and Glenn Tipton engaging in frequent memorable friendly solo duels that helped to re-defined the sound metal.

Two of the tracks are all-time heavy metal classics. Opener Exciter explodes out of the blocks at breakneck speed, Les Binks' booming drums heralding the album and introducing a magnetic riff that sets the stage for the entire set. It takes Halford all of one minute and 15 seconds to issue the classic command "Fall to your knees and repent if you please", triggering the first solo. But when he repeats the decree at 3:20, Downing and Tipton really take off with a harmonic solo made in heaven, and containing most of the DNA harvested by Iron Maiden to being metal to a wider audience in the 1980s.

Title track Stained Class has one of metal's most uncompromising introductions, a screeching solo giving way to an unrelenting chugging riff that underpins the entire track as Halford delivers more restrained vocals. The most melodically robust track on the album, Stained Class builds an enormous head of steam, with a chorus full of power and lyricism.

And the goodies keep on coming. Invader is a worship of groove, the tightest selection on the album featuring the band operating as a comprehensive, self-supporting unit. Beyond The Realms Of Death slows the pace down, but only to roll out the red carpet for a magical solo that kicks of at 3:10 and goes on for an incredible 90 seconds of soul, during which time stands still and the angels pause to listen.

Saints In Hell and Heroes End are also strong, Priest delivering one of their deepest albums in terms of quality and consistency.

Years after its release, Stained Class was embroiled in a 1990 controversy when the band was sued by the parents of a teenager who attempted suicide allegedly after listening to Better By You, Better Than Me. After a tumultuous court case the charges were dismissed, Priest unwillingly thrust into the role of defending metal from the wildest of accusations. If one album was destined to receive unexpected additional attention and new fans due to an unfortunate court case, then few deserve it more than Stained Class.


Rob Halford - Vocals
K. K. Downing - Guitar
Glenn Tipton - Guitars
Ian Hill - Bass
Les Binks - Drums

Songlist (ratings out of 10):

1. Exciter - 10
2. White Heat, Red Hot - 7
3. Better By You, Better Than Me - 7
4. Stained Class - 10
5. Invader - 9
6. Saints In Hell - 8
7. Savage - 7
8. Beyond The Realms Of Death - 9
9. Heroes End - 8

Average: 8.33

Produced by Dennis MacKay and Judas Priest.
Engineered by Neil Ross, Ken Thomas, and Paul Northfield.

All Ace Black Blog Heavy Metal CD Reviews are here.

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