To be honest, I only bought Stained Class (1978) because of the controversy surrounding this album, specifically for the band’s cover of “Better by You, Better Than Me” by Spooky Tooth. In 1990, 12 years after the album’s release, Judas Priest was sued by the parents of a teenager, James Vance, who entered a suicide pact with his friend Ray Belknap after allegedly being inspired by the band’s cover of “Better by You, Better Than Me” on December 23, 1985. The parents believed that the band added subliminal messages in the track, encouraging the teens to “do it.” Thankfully, the band was not found guilty. I mean come on, why would Judas Priest (or any band/artist) wish for their fans to kill themselves?
Anyways, before I say anything I might regret, let’s just move onto the album! It is the first album to feature Les Binks on drums and the first to feature the band’s now iconic logo. The line-up that played on Stained Class consists of Rob Halford on vocals, K.K. Downing on guitars, Glenn Tipton on guitars, Ian Hill on bass, and Les Binks on drums for tracks 1-9.
Why only tracks 1-9? Because the remastered copy I have features bonus tracks that aren’t even from the same era! Dave Holland is on drums for track 10 and Scott Travis is on drums for track 11. With all that said, let’s get on with the music!
“Exciter” is up first and it’s pure speed metal! The fast drum intro is perfection and the guitars are piercingly aggressive. My only complaint is it’s kind of hard to understand what Halford is singing; he’s singing so fast and also really soft at times. It reminds me of how Michael Jackson sings, which is really, really soft and incomprehensible. “White Heat, Red Hot” is ok; it’s not my favorite Judas Priest chorus. I love the little flavors the guitars add to the song, but because of the “red and white” thing, it reminds me of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Next up, we have “Better by You, Better Than Me,” the worst song on the album. Not because of the controversy though, it’s that stupid guitar riff, it’s so annoying. I think the song title is dumb too and the original version by Spooky Tooth isn’t any better; it’s so slow that I thought it wasn’t going to end. The title track puts the album back on the right path with that killer, chugging guitar riff. Halford sounds great, but if you have sensitive ears, I should warn you that he goes mighty high on “Stained Class.”
“Invader” has an interesting opening because the guitar is making like a helicopter sound or something that resembles a wah pedal. Guitar people, help me out! My favorite part of the song is actually the bridge because it’s a somber moment and I love the lyrics. “When they come to take control, every man must play his role / They won’t take our world away when the children we leave / Will have to believe in today.”
“Saints in Hell” is a slow headbanger and if you guys have been following me for a while, you’d know that I love slow headbangers! It has an epic guitar riff (by the way, that tone is amazing), an underrated bass riff, and I love the little drum fills throughout the song. “We are SAINTS / In HELL.” The next track is “Savage” and the worst part of the song is the chorus, everything else is great. I think “savage” is such a strange word because depending on how you use it in a sentence, it can be in a serious tone or a sarcastic tone. The verses are serious (“You poisoned my tribe with civilized progress / Baptizing our blood with disease”), but the chorus ruins the mood. Plus, I don’t like the way Halford sings “modern man;” he does this weird vocal run that sounds off to me.
“Beyond the Realms of Death” is really haunting because of its lyrical content and it played briefly during the 1991 documentary titled, Dream Deceivers: The Story Behind James Vance vs. Judas Priest. The album’s best guitar work is on this track; the playing is so emotive and passionate. The acoustic guitar riff is so beautiful and the song tackles a serious subject, which describes a man suffering from depression, who eventually commits suicide because of the mental state he was in. Les Binks also got a songwriting credit for “Beyond the Realms of Death,” so props to him! The guitar playing on “Heroes End” is really good, the solos are incredible, and I love the guitar effects fading out the song. I do like the verses better than the chorus, but “Heroes End” overall has grown on me overtime (I used to hate it).
Next, we have the two bonus tracks! First up is “Fire Burns Below” from the Ram It Down (1988) sessions, with Dave Holland on drums. It’s a bit slow and too long (almost seven minutes), in my opinion. I love the moodiness of the track and I think it works great as background music, but I can’t bring myself to read the lyrics while listening to it cause it’s very sleepy. The last track is a live version of “Better by You, Better Than Me” from a performance at the Foundations Forum in Los Angeles on September 13, 1990, according to Wikipedia, with Scott Travis on drums. I hate the live version just as much as the studio version, enough said!
So, I enjoyed 6.5 out of the 11 songs (“Savage” got half points), which is about 59 percent. With that in mind, I’ll give Stained Class a rating of 2.95 out of 5 stars. Now I know why 2loud2oldmusic gave this album a low score, I get it! Sorry to those of you that are fans of Stained Class, please forgive me.
If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it with your friends. I write about music, Disney, TV shows, movies, and whatever suits my interests. If that sounds like your cup of tea, please subscribe to my blog for more content like this! To help me keep this blog going, click here to make a donation or click here to join my Patreon. You can also follow me on social media through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!
Don’t forget to leave a comment down below to start a conversation!
Take care and see ya real soon!