JUDAS PRIEST — Stained Class

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JUDAS PRIEST - Stained Class cover
4.11 | 127 ratings | 12 reviews
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Album · 1978

Filed under Heavy Metal


1. Exciter (5:33)
2. White Heat, Red Hot (4:19)
3. Better By You, Better Than Me (Spooky Tooth cover) (3:25)
4. Stained Class (5:17)
5. Invader (4:11)
6. Saints In Hell (5:28)
7. Savage (3:28)
8. Beyond The Realms Of Death (6:51)
9. Heroes End (5:00)

Total Time 43:40


- Rob Halford / vocals
- K.K. Downing / guitar
- Glenn Tipton / guitar, vocals
- Ian Hill / bass
- Les Binks / drums

About this release

Released by Columbia, February 10th, 1978.

Reissued in 2001 with the following bonus tracks:

10. Fire Burns Below (recorded during the 1988 Ram It Down sessions) (6:58)
11. Better By You, Better Than Me (live at Foundations Forum, Los Angeles, California; September 13, 1990) (3:40)

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1978's Stained Class, the fourth album of Judas Priest is actually one of two full-length albums that the band released that year, the other being Killing Machine. Les Binks become the first drummer of the band to play on two of their albums between these two. Stained Class is probably the most infamous album of Judas Priest due to them being put on trial many years later, in 1990, accused of putting an subliminal message (saying do it) in the track Better by You, Better Than Me, cited as a trigger for the suicide attempt of two American men in 1985 (one successful the other dying a few years later). The case was rightly dismissed.

Where the previous album Sin After Sin has always been a disappointed me to me, Stained Class represents the exact opposite. Judas Priest sound absolutely on fire here. While there are a couple of songs that I don't enjoy so much, most of the album is classic Judas Priest for my money. Especially the opening trio of Exciter, White Heat, Red Hot and Better by You, Better Than Me (which is actually a cover song, originally by Spooky Tooth) are really strong work and how can I also not mention the title track and Beyond the Realms of Death? While out of their 70's releases I think I will always prefer Sad Wings of Destiny Stained Class comes in at a very close second.

Attribution: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/judas-priest-stained-class-t3790.html
Judas Priest's fourth album is where the band really began to define the new sound of heavy metal. Rock journalist, Martin Popoff, states that it was with "Sad Wings of Destiny" Judas Priest "redefined" heavy metal. Over the course of their first three albums, the band moved from recording older material in a heavy blues-based, somewhat progressive rock sound to writing new material with a focus toward developing their own personal approach to heavy metal. With "Stained Class", Judas Priest had successfully shrugged off any cumbersome multi-part compositions and went for straight-ahead heavy rockers. While the older generation of metal bands were struggling to fit in with the punk scene all around, Judas Priest set the tone for the New Wave of British Heavy Metal.

The album sets off with a rapid drum intro by session drummer Les Binks who was asked to be a full-time member of the band but declined. The "Exciter" character mentioned in the lyrics is one of the first of many characters to find life in the band's songs. It’s a speedy rocker with double bass drum, guitars chugging away at high speed, and Halford’s soaring vocals. The song also finds room for two separate guitar solo parts, the second one hinting at Glenn Tipton’s classical training. This song remains a Judas Priest classic

Most of the rest of the album follows in a similar vein with excellent riffs, cool licks, some fine drum work by Binks, and metal track after metal track. Compared to today’s heavy metal sound, the music here now seems primitive; however, the ingredients of heavy metal music are found throughout each track. There’s no pop number, no cheesy ballad, and with titles like “Saints in Hell” and “Beyond the Realms of Death” you know this is serious stuff. A word of mention might also go to the title track which I think is as good as “Exciter” only without the fantasy character aspect.

This album contains the infamous Priest cover, “Better by You, Better Than Me”, which was allegedly responsible for the attempted suicides of two Nevadan youth. Ironically, the song is the only number not written by Priest but is rather a cover of a Spooky Tooth song (which is not very heavy at all). The father of one of the boys claimed that when played backwards, the words “Do it” could be heard, and clearly this was a subliminal message that the youths heard (when they were high on marijuana and beer). In the documentary about the trail, Rob Halford points out that it is not good business for a band to tell its album-buying fans to kill themselves. During the trail, he played the chorus for “Exciter” backwards and said that the words could be deciphered as, “I asked her for a peppermint / I asked her to get me one,” in order to point out how one could hear whatever he chooses in the music played backwards. In the end, it was concluded that the words “Do it” (do what exactly?) were not actually in the recording but could be heard by confusing the mix of background vocals. During the eighties there were a few cases of subliminal messages in music (Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica). The American comic strip “Bloom County” made a succinct statement about the matter when in the strip someone claimed that Billy Joel had Satanic messages on his albums that could be heard when played backwards and the character Milo Bloom listens and says, “I can hear something. He’s saying, ‘No matter which way you slice it, it’s still baloney.’”

The song “Beyond the Realms of Death” is indeed worthy of mention as well. One member referred to it as Priest’s “Stairway to Heaven”. With an acoustic intro and melancholic story about a man who shuts his mind to the world, the song switches into heavy gear and builds to a full-on metal conclusion. We are treated to two guitar solos here, too: one with more focus on the melancholy theme and the second energy-driven and aggressive.

This new formula would be repeated on their next album “Hell Bent for Leather” (a.k.a. “Killing Machine”) and developed further on their very successful “British Steel”. “Stained Class” is a stand-out classic album in the annals of heavy metal history in my books. It was a great pleasure to listen to it yet again this morning in preparation for my review.
I'm in the minority here but i much prefer the previous album "Sin After Sin" to this 1978 release. I remember the first time i heard "Sin After Sin", i just loved how it sounded. It was quite the oposite for this one where it just didn't "sound" good to me. Now of course there are some excellent tracks here but overall i can't give the fourth star. I feel the drumming is much better too on "Sin After Sin". Highlights for me are first of all the opening track "Exciter" which is an uptempo rocker. Some killer guitar along with some great screams from Halford. "Better By You, Better Than Me" has this excellent riff throughout and is another favourite. "Beyond The Realms Of Death" rounds out my top three. It starts off laid back with reserved vocals before turning intense and these contrasts continue. A good album but one that has failed to grab me like their previous two recordings for some reason.
Phonebook Eater

"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.
"Stained Class" is the first Priest to abandon the heroic 70s cover paintings in favor for something more metallic and straightforward. A very fitting choice as also the music sheds the more progressive and mellow aspects of the preceding Priest albums. The result is their first - and one of their few - albums that I find entirely consistent, in sound as well as quality. It was sure their most aggressive album till then and a leap towards the NWOBHM that would soon take off.

An excellent work, and even if my personal preference goes to "Sad Wings" and "Sin After Sin", this is the album where Priest fully fleshed out their full metal potential. Alas, they would abandon this level of excellence to return with a more commercial approach on the next couple of albums.
Stained Class captures Judas Priest in the middle of a transition from the fearsomely innovative metal pioneers of Sad Wings of Destiny and Sin After Sin to the accessible (but still inventive) megastars of the Killing Machine/British Steel era. New drummer Les Binks is probably the weak link in the chain, since there's really not much to separate his performance from dozens of other hard rock drummers of the era, but he can keep time and that's all Tipton and Downing need to raise a storm with their dual lead guitar solos.

In terms of the material presented, the album kicks off with a blueprint for speed metal in the form of Exciter - featuring some of the most ear-piercing wails Rob Halford would ever muster - before delivering an album divided between accessible, catchy tracks like Invader or Better By You Better Than Me and murky, mysterious, death-obsessed experiments such as Stained Class and Beyond the Realms of Death. The latter song is the piece most reminiscent of previous material - mainly progressing as a quiet, low key ballad before erupting for the mighty choruses, with Halford singing the praises of death as an escape from an unacceptable world over some of the doomiest riffs the band would ever produce.

Beyond the Realms is probably my favourite track from the album, although picking a favourite is necessarily a rather arbitrary process with an album as fearsomely consistent as this one. Although it is not as groundbreakingly innovative or crushingly heavy as its predecessor, Stained Class is at least a highly listenable album from beginning to end, with each and every track more than justifying its presence - quite simply, there is not a single piece of filler on the thing. Though I wouldn't put it above the two immediately preceding albums, Stained Class more than qualifies for a place in the top tier of Judas Priest albums.
Judas Priest's fourth full length studio album Stained Class was released all the way back in 1978 and was the band's first album to feature Les Binks on drums.

It may not be the bands heaviest, fastest or most famous album, but the record still contains some of the fan's favourite tracks such as the dynamic opener `Exciter' as well as the powerful building semi-ballad `Beyond The Realms Of Death,' which is often praised for its amazing guitar solo.

Listening to Stained Class can sometimes feel almost like studying the early development of the genre, the album contained both a lot of firsts and the perfecting of a lot of key elements for the genre in a concise and effective manner.

The Spooky Tooth cover song `Better By You, Better Than Me,' which Priest absolutely make their own for example, seems to find the missing link between classic rock like Kiss with early Heavy Metal. `White Heat, Red Hot' contains some early examples of double kick drum usage in the modern sense. The whole album is full of guitar solos and riffs which would influence bands for years to come.

Beyond mere historical value, Stained Class is simply a good record that it is enjoyable to listen to from start to finish. Rob Halford would push his vocal style further in the future, the guitars would become faster and more technical and the songwriting direction would take many twists and turns over the years, but Stained Class remains no less of a good album with its early and pioneering Heavy Metal sound.

Highlights include the fantastic Title Track as well as `Saints In Hell,' and the aforementioned `Beyond The Realms Of Death,' all of which are of serious interest to fans of the band.

Overall, if you like Judas Priest then Stained Class is something that you want to pick up a copy of at some stage and get an idea of how they sounded back in the seventies, making some of the first pure metal albums free from the influence of The Blues.
Long ago, when men were kings, Judas Priest stood head and shoulders above the competition. Stained Class marks the point in Priest’s career where they became “more metal”, that is, they began adapting many elements to their sound that would become synonymous with metal in the 80’s and would become a major part in their sound for years to come.

Take the drum stool for example. In comes Les Binks, bringing with him his tight style of play and a rapid right foot. His work on “Exciter” would help to give speed metal drumming a template to work from. From a tonal perspective, the sound of the guitars/bass and overall production also steps away from their bluesy hard rock sound and more towards a new, slick sound to take with them into the next decade.

The highlights are numerous. All very solid to spectacular songs with nothing I consider being filler. Aside from going on about the more popular numbers (“Exciter”, “Beyond The Realms of Death”, “Better By You, Better Than Me”), I get great enjoyment from listening to “Heroes End”, which has a nice midsection with the thundering bass/guitar and soaring vocal followed by one hell of a metallic guitar riff. The title track has a great chorus, and Halford’s wail in the chorus of “Saints In Hell” is of the Geddy Lee school.

The remastered version of this album includes the previously unreleased bonus track “Fire Burns Below”. It doesn’t fit in with the material on Stained Class, but it’s a nice song. It’s a song with definitely dated 80s elements, but the slick guitar and electronic drums compliment each other nicely in this case.

Stained Class comes as an easy recommendation from me when I want to introduce someone to Judas Priest. One of their best!!
Album number 4 from Judas Priest and the progressive rock tinges are only very slightly there now. Now it is mostly White Heat, Red Hot thrash metal that singes your eyebrows off if you stand too close to your speakers. Highlights include Exciter, Invader, and Beyond the Realms of Death, but again I find there to really be no weak songs from the metal masters. I must say once again that Rob Halford produces my favorite screaming vocals in the metal world, and very few bands can boast of having the twin lead guitar bombast of K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton. If you've not figured out from reading my previous reviews of Judas Priest's albums, I am a huge fan of the band, so my reviews should be taken with that grain of salt. Judas Priest were my favorite band for quite some time before being replaced by the band in my MMA nickname, but they are still one of my all-time favorite bands. I have rated this album with 3 and 1/2 stars, as I feel that it is a good to excellent album that will appeal to many metal fans, and definitely should appeal to Judas Priest fans. This being said, their best work is still yet to come.

Time Signature

Genre: heavy metal

Another great album by the gods of metal, "Stained Class" opens up with the for its time very speedy "Exciter" whose breakneck speed is still breathtaking in this day and age of death metal, thrash metal, speed metal, grindcore and what not. "Red Heat, White Hot" is more of a Zeppelin-inspired affair, offering some groovy guitar riffs and some great drumming by Les Binks. "Better By You Better Than Me" is the infamous "suicide song" that was accused of having inspired two drugged up youths to shoot themselves with a shotgun - the ridiculous thing is that this is a Spooky Tooth cover, and the other ridiculous thing is that those kids had access to a shotgun in the first place. Anyway, the suit was dismissed, and it's not even among the best songs the band recorded. "Stained Class" is an all out metal track which makes excellent use of Downing and Tipton's two guitars and Halford's amazing vocal range, as do "Invader" (one of my favorites of the album), "Saints In Hell", "Savage", and "Heroes End". The ballad-cum-supermetal track "Beyond the Realms of Death" is another highlight.

"Stained Class" is a heavy metal classic that fans of metal - young and old - should at least give a listen.

Members reviews

By the time of their forth release, Judas Priest have finally managed to fuse their creativity of "Sad Wings Of Destiny" and the commercial approach of "British Steel" in what would be one of their best releases!

"Exciter" pretty much continues the powerful album opener tradition of "Sinner" from "Sin After Sin" while featuring clear sounds of the NWoBHM era that was just taking off. "White Heat, Red Hot" keeps up the pace with another action packed moment while "Better By You, Better Than Me" is another cover great cover this time of the late '60s tune by Spooky Tooth.

The band keeps most of their material here very energetic and this, to me, is the key to "Stained Class". Songs like the album's title track and "Invader" clearly show that the band could deliver some pretty spectacular album tracks whenever they put their minds to it. "Savage" is probably the only song that falls short of greatness in my book, but I'm sure that most fans actually happen to enjoy even this track.

"Beyond The Realms Of Death" is the only ballad here but it's actually one of the four ballads ( together with "Before The Dawn", "Blood Red Skies" and "Night Comes Down") that I really like from the band. Come to think of if, I've always preferred their more upbeat and aggressive approach to the mellower material but that's just a personal preference.

"Stained Class" is one of the few Judas Priest albums that really made me wish that the band could have worked more on their other releases. The potential has always been there, especially with the magnificent songwriter trio of Rob Halford, K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton. It's really unfortunate that they didn't manage to recreate the magic on"Killing Machine" and the later releases since only a few of them would ever come to the top notch quality of "Stained Class"!

***** star songs: Exciter (5:33) Better By You, Better Than Me (3:25) Beyond The Realms Of Death (6:51)

**** star songs: White Heat, Red Hot (4:19) Stained Class (5:17) Invader (4:11) Saints In Hell (5:28) Heroes End (5:00)

*** star songs: Savage (3:28)
Fall to your knees and repent if you please!

1978’s Stained Class was the third excellent album in a row by Judas Priest! Sadly, it was also to be the last excellent album they would ever do, but that’s a story for another time. Judas Priest was a band in constant evolution in the 70’s, developing and changing their style with each subsequent album. With Stained Class they further emphasised every distinct aspect of their sound. Indeed, the present album might be seen as the one that best represents both the early and they later Judas Priest. However, some of the things that made the previous two albums great were lost when they “streamlined” their sound somewhat.

Like the previous album, Stained Class also opens with an exceptional piece of Metal music in Exciter. Indeed, this is one of my all time favourite Judas Priest songs and it has all of the band’s trademarks; great riffs, strong vocals, elaborated lyrics and some of the best twin-guitar work I have ever heard! I particularly like the way the two guitarists contrast those almost competitive duels with passages when they play in unison like at 3:37 into the track. That is just brilliant! What follows is one great song after another including a cover of the Spooky Tooth song Better By You, Better Than Me. While I think this cover is the least good song on this album, it by far outshines the original version!

Though every song on this album is great, they are mostly of the same type. By the time I reach Savage, I begin to feel that I hear more of the same. Thankfully, the excellent Beyond The Realms Of Death more than recaptures my interest. This is another highlight of the album for me. There are no ballads as such on this album like there were on all the previous albums and I must say that I really miss the diversity of Sin After Sin and Sad Wings Of Destiny. But this is really my only criticism of this classic album.

One thing to notice on this album is the lyrics. Rob Halford is simply a genius in the way he plays with words in these songs. There are some quite brilliant lines particularly in Saints In Hell and the title track. They also experiment with different effects which is great. This is quite inventive Heavy Metal. This is a truly essential album together with Sad Wings Of Destiny and Sin After Sin

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