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Judas Priest - "Stained Class, 1978 (re-release)"
CBS Records 2001

Band was getting heavier from record to record. Well, the fact is that "Sin After Sin" (1977) gives an impression being not so sharp as predecessor "Sad Wings Of Destiny" (1976), but "Stained Class" gathers now both aggressive and sophisticated face of a band on a superb way. With "Stained Class" Judas Priest defined their musical directions. It was in two words heavy metal, from where major N.W.O.B.H.M bands got highly inspired in their songwriting. "Stained Class" gave a birth to two classics Exciter and Beyond The Realms Of Death. Band decided again to include one cover. This time they chose Spookey's Tooth original from album "Spookey's Two" (1969) called Better By You, Better By Me, which verses truly contain "a few" spooky words. As you might already know, band was took to a trial 12 years later. Court case brought against Judas Priest in Nevada (where else!) was that this song carries "subliminal message", that caused death of one young person who committed suicide. Actually two guys tried to commit suicide, after they were listening to Judas Priest "subliminal message" in that song, and one of them was successful. This re-release contains also supreme live version of Better By You, Better Than Me.

Guitar duo was improving all the time! This is reflected in supremely spiced up solos in which both guitarists were equally involved and you could easily distinguish between both soloing styles. This was very important for the band. All guitar work seemed at that time as a heart of Judas Priest. K.K. and Glenn brought into music also a lot of guitar twin harmonies and this put along with stark crafted riffs a great contrast into band's music. Riffs and passages were glued together very smoothly. Guitar work in general made a giant step forward in comparison to what band offered on "Sin After Sin". Also what was of major importance is that band got permanent drummer (at least for three records) named Les Binks. This guy was quite close to what we were experienced with Simon Phillips. He was precise and able to approach with great feel. He hit his drum kit very fine in some slower passages and he was delivering diverse bunch of passages that contributed to overall perfection of this album. If we multiply all this with growing Halford's vocal aggression especially when singing higher vocal sequences, his great ability to approach with tender and sophistication that supremely works in drama Beyond The Realms Of Death, one of all time band's masterworks, "Stained Class" therefore offers a record where overall chemistry between guys really begin to work. Band got even more coherent. All compositions are crafted with big care and pedantry which reflects band's great working enthusiasm and musical perfection in those times.

This remaster also contains a ballad Fire Burns Below, which sounds by its production as if it was being recorded between "Turbo" (1986) and "Ram It Down" (1988) era. "Stained Class" actually does not offers ballad in a 100% meaning of that word, so Fire Burns Below makes a nice contrast to overall track list of the original album. Well on the other hand Fire Burns Below makes a great difference in sound quality and playing style and thus somehow does not fit along with the rest of material. Well, decision to include this song as a bonus track on "Stained Class" album has therefore some good and also bad points. It is up to you to judge.

Judas Priest first three albums contained also quite a lot of acoustics. Well "Stained Class" gathered all acoustic into pre-chorus of Beyond The Realms Of Death, atmospheric drama, with diverse moods that constantly change. Waving masterpiece where band slows down a bit, speeds up a bit, slows down a bit and speeds up a bit,... "Stained Class" offered further improvement in band's musical expression. Album got heavier production; compositions are much stronger and more compact, yet with nice portion of complexity which derives from band creative energy. "Stained Class" is striking louder and carrying overall higher dramatic atmosphere. Judas Priest became with "Stained Class" far provoking, shocking and thrilling band in studio and on stage. This brilliant remaster sounds after 25 years still so fresh and damaging as it would be recorded yesterday! Masterwork for all eternity.

Author:   Aleš

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