"Stainless Class" is easily the darkest Judas Priest album.
Judas Priest’s “Stainless Class” opens a new era not only for the band, but also for Heavy Metal in general. If the first three albums of the famous quintet had more of a Hard Rock/ Proto-Metal image, this fourth album is the first one where they are incorporating heavier guitars, faster rhythms, and more screamed vocals by Metal titan Rob Halford. Although not an immense landmark album for the genre as a whole (that is, not as much as something like “Sad Wings Of Destiny”, “Painkiller” or “British Steel”), it symbolizes nevertheless a turning point for one of the greatest bands of Heavy Metal.
As said previously, “Stained Class” has, in comparison to previous Priest works, a heavier sound much more similar to the golden eras of “Screaming For Vengeance” or “British Steel”. Basically, an approach much more towards the famous NWOBHM that was blossoming right during the period this albums was released. The compositions and the production of the album though are extremely peculiar and recognizable as part of this LP only: the sound is very clean, yet it has abrasive guitars, and more sparse and loose rhythms, (instead of the metallic, rigid rhythms of future albums) to give a more hellish and uneasy mood.
“Stainless Steel” remains possibly the darkest Judas Priest effort, not only because of the infamous trial of the two kids who, ten years later the LP was released, committed suicide, inspired by a presumed subliminal message in the song “Better By You, Better Than Me”: also, because of the lyrics themselves, frequently dealing with death, afterlife, underworlds, futile heroes, and unearthly demons. “Stainless Steel”, with such a background to the music itself, can’t not be massively influential to all of those bands that followed 1978 and went on the road Judas Priest paved.
This album is home of some of the greatest, most famous and celebrated JP songs, from the energetic, fast-paced opener “Exciter”, a massively influential track for many bands to come, to the gorgeous, gloomy semi-ballad “Beyond The Realms Of Death”. Then, others like the Spooky Tooth cover “Better By You, Better Than Me”, the title track’s elegance and cool, the straddling rhythms of “Savage”, or the darker “White Heat, Red Hot” are other tracks that will deeply impact the mind of a fan, and of anybody who is at least a tiny bit interested in Heavy Metal.
“Stainless Class” not only has a peculiar style and mood, but it also contributes in creating the NWOBHM and in letting it become what it did become. One of Judas Priest’s most accomplished works.