April 10, 2018 Judas Priest – Stained Class 40 Years Later
Taking its roots in the late ’60s via pioneering blacksmiths such as Black Sabbath (“Behind the Wall of Sleep”), Deep Purple (“Mandrake Root”), and Led Zeppelin (“Good Times, Bad Times”), Metal has become one of the most diverse genres of music, branching over the years into so many subgenres and yet characteristically remaining the same. From the Bon Jovis and the Van Halens, to the Metallicas and the Mastodons, to the Cannibal Corpses to the Obituaries – it has really evolved and expanded into this broad palette of metallic splendor.
However, no matter how extremely cacophonous the grating noise of especially the new and young breeds of the Metalcore variety of the genre, when it comes to good ol’ Heavy Metal heavyweights, Judas Priest remains a classic and classy act.
Formed in 1969, in West Bromwich, England, Judas Priest has weathered so many personnel changes and experienced countless stylistic shifting, and yet the enduring and prolific band has stood the test of time. With 50 years of existence and 18 studio albums – from 1974’s Rocka Rolla to this year’s Firepower – Judas Priest is indeed made of British steel, a killing machine on turbo drive. Now, if you are keen to revisit its impressive discography, then you might as well start with Stained Class, which has turned 40.
Released on February 10, 1978, via CBS/Columbia Records, Judas Priest’s fourth full-length is regarded by many as the heaviest and darkest among the band’s albums. It opened aptly with “Exciter,” whose frenetic blast beats, galloping rhythm, grating guitar strums, soaring and melodic guitar ad-lib, and high-pitched, operatic vocal styling served as a sonic template to many other Metal bands that emerged after them. The ominous and feverish vibes carried on with the ensuing “White Heat, Red Hot.” Slowing down the mood for a bit, Judas Priest then turned bluesy with “Better by You, Better than Me,” only to revert to the breakneck, horse-track sprint of the title track.
If there was such a thing as Space Metal, then “Invader” was an epitome of it – dizzying, sinister, and, yes, space-film-scenes-conjuring interludes. Another Blues Rock-inspired track followed next in the form of “Saints in Hell,” which grooved like Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” The notorious swagger then flowed flawlessly into “Savage,” where Lead Vocalist Rob Halford’s voice pierced the skies of ember alongside the smoking section of guitar, bass, and drums.
The penultimate track, “Beyond the Realms of Death,” was a change of pace and style, starting as a slow Glam Metal ballad, then building up into a metallic stomper, and finally completing its transformation into a proper progressive and virtuosic Heavy Metal epic.
Finally, Halford and the rest of Judas Priest at the time – K. K. Downing (guitar), Glenn Tipton (guitar, backing vocals), Ian Hill (bass), and Les Binks (drums) – wrapped up Stained Class with the punchy, symphonic, spine-tingling closer – “Heroes End.”
Judas Priest remains one of the iconic representatives of Heavy Metal music, and among its weighty albums, Stained Class continues to be hailed as a masterpiece. Listen to it again and rediscover for yourself the reasons. If you regard yourself a Metalhead, then you do not have an excuse not to. Just do not forget to dim the lights and crank the volume up. After all, that is the drill when listening to Metal music, especially to something as classy, classic, and heavily metallic as the 40-year-old Stained Class.