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Review of the Album "Stained Class" by British Heavy Metal Band Judas Priest

Ara is a journalism graduate from California State University, Northridge, who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.

How the Album Stained Class Became a Favorite

The 1978 album Stained Class is one of those albums that still remains in the memory of this writer for being a childhood favorite. This one was actually the very first Judas Priest album that I heard back in 1987 and we had it on cassette tape back then. It was just a few years before I would get my first CD player (1993).


Beyond the Realms of Death is One of the Early Classic Power Ballads by Judas Priest

What we have here is towering vocals by Rob Halford, interesting riffs especially in the song "White Heat, Red Hot" and a classic song called "Beyond the Realms of Death." That song starts with memorable acoustic guitar as the song builds up and Rob’s voice reaches a climax. The song is a story of a man who withdrew mentally and emotionally from the world. After the wind blows in his face, he dies because he had just about had enough of the world. Is this world not meant for living as the song says? Life is a gift that some people are not able to fully enjoy when they are severely depressed. This song can be classified as a power ballad because it starts out soft and then the guitar playing gets slightly heavier however in the 1970’s the heaviness was different than the decades that would follow. Depression is an ugly mental illness that this song covers and discusses. If you suffer from this affliction, get help as soon as possible.

"Exciter" is the Second Best Song in Stained Class

However, to begin the album is another well-known song called "Exciter." Salvation is the goal for this exciter and those that want to repent for their sins have a chance to do so. Near the song’s end Rob Halford sings the words “stand fight for Exciter” four times in succession. Each repetition sees him increase the loudness and tone of his voice as he really shows his range. There is an impressive fills section by drummer Les Binks.

The Song "Stained Class"

Stained Class: Album Review Part 3

The lead guitar playing in the second song is similar to the lead guitar work in this time period and those of you that listen to early Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden will hear those two bands use a similar lead guitar style. The song Stained Class has riffing that represents what heavy metal eventually evolved into as it was growing and maturing. The riffing gave way to countless thrash metal albums such as Metallica’s debut album in 1983. The song’s main message is that one day long ago when man was king of his world and domain, he had a clean heart. But since humans have sinned and turned to killing and other violent acts, they have become in the words of the band “stained class kings.” The song called Saints in Hell lyrically and musically is similar to what you will hear in the 1984 album Don’t Break the Oath. However, Rob’s voice is not as high and operatic as that of King Diamond. The song Savage lyrically tells the historical narrative of how the colonists in Colonial America came to a new set of lands where the Indians were living peacefully among themselves when their way of life was disrupted. These other people tried to bring progress but instead brought with them disease which wiped out countless Indians. The song Heroes End discusses famous celebrities who die tragically after reaching the peak of their popularity. As the song asks the question why you have to die to be a hero, it makes you wonder why these celebrities have so much difficulty handling their fame.

Final Thoughts about the Album Stained Class

Musically, Stained Class is easily Judas Priest’s best album of the 1970’s and it is right up there among their best albums. Is it better than 1990’s Painkiller album? At this rate hearing this album more than 40 years after it was released, you could certainly make a case for that. Note: in 2020, I still feel to some degree that Stained Class is a more consistent album because this album defined the style of Judas Priest and it is a style that suits them the best. Yes, albums such as Painkiller are more modern and heavier but that does not mean that it is a better album. Stained Class has the classic Judas Priest style along with the amazing song Beyond the Realms of Death. It may be a very close call as to which one of these two albums is better. But the bottom line is that Stained Class is solid in the history of Judas Priest even if it is not a flawless album. For the time that it was written, Stained Class was epic. The title track Stained Class has that sort of riffing that tells you that this is indeed a heavy metal album and albums like this defined the decade of the 1970s

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"White Heat Red Hot"

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This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2017 Ara Vahanian

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