Album Listening Club – Stained Class discussion

I’m no connoisseur of heavy metal music. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I’ve never heard even one of the songs on Stained Class, which is one of the most highly regarded Judas Priest albums.

Sure, I know “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” and “Breaking The Law” and “Living After Midnight,” and I recognize the cover for their album British Steel – iconic. But I don’t have the long listening history to differentiate the Priest in any meaningful way from, say, Iron Maiden. I mean, of course there’s nobody who sings like Rob Halford, but I don’t know what the central themes of their music are.
Stained Class is Judas Priest’s fourth album, released in early 1978. So, while one subculture was being fed from Talking Heads 77, another was reaching out for Stained Class. Wikipedia says that before this record, the Priest played more prog-rock and this and subsequent albums were more heavy metal rock and roll.
So, let’s club Stained Class, shall we?


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Tony C.reply
November 21, 2014 at 11:16 pm

I wasn't really familiar with this album – mostly their later stuff. I've listened to it a few times now, and at first it felt a bit disjointed. Reading up on the album, it makes sense. It was essentially a bridge album between their earlier prog-rock roots, and their later heavy metal sound, and it's also the only album with songwriting by all five members of the band.

One bit of trivia I found interesting: it was a song on this album, "Better by you, Better Than Me", that was the subject of the now infamous 1990 class action suit by the parents of a teen who entered into a suicide pact with a friend supposedly after listening to this song. The teen successfully killed himself while his friend was critically injured. The suit alleged that Judas Priest recorded subliminal messages on the song that said "do it." The suit was eventually dismissed. I remember that case, but didn't realize it was a song off this album.

Anyway…this album isn't really my cup of tea. I do enjoy some prog rock now and again (Yes, Rush, Pink Floyd, etc.), and also some Metal (later Judas Priest, Metallica, etc.), but this album doesn't really do it for me. After several listens, nothing really jumps out at me, making me want to peek at Spotify to get the track name.

November 23, 2014 at 10:03 am

The thing I noticed listening to this album most of all was the incredible drumming by Les Banks. There are some impressive drum fills. The guitar work is great as well. This type of music isn't my style although I do enjoy a good metal song every once in awhile. Rob Halford's voice can get tiring fast to listen to because of the higher register tenor that can get rather screeching at times.

There are some catchy, rocky songs on this but I highly doubt I'll listen to it again.

-Your Older Brother, Samreply
November 25, 2014 at 1:03 am

So, before I respond to comments, I'll give my take on the record.

I wasn't much of metalhead/hessian/headbanger/Mötley when I was younger. The dudes and chicks who listened to metal were intimidating to me. This one kid Trigg bullied me a lot, and he got in a lot fights. They all seemed to smoke cigarettes. (My parents smoked too, but somehow kids doing it was intimidating. Maybe I was flashing back on Jackie Earle Haley or Matt Dillon – they were intimidating in their early movies!)

The prototypical metal kid in our school was named Mark. Jean jackets, mullet – he was like the king of the metalheads. Pretty sure he smoked pot. And back then, I looked down on him and others of his ilk. I was terrified of them, but I looked down on them all the same. Kind of a dick thing on my part, but we were all young & stupid, I'm sure they did the same to me. I was probably some new-wave fag to them. Anyway.

I never quite understood the music, what the draw was in listening to Priest or Sabbath or Maiden or the Crüe. The closest I got was AC/DC, and I remember trashing their "Back In Black" vinyl that I had in a fit of Christianity-fueled "This stuff is bad for me and it's devil music." (Nevermind that I now consider Back In Black to be one of the best rock albums of all time) All that stuff seemed like devil music, and I just…well, I never listened to it enough to know what they were singing about, but it sure seemed scary.

Listening to this album and reading some of the lyrics, I feel like I understand the draw, now. From "Exciter":

Everything he touches
Fries into a crisp,
Let him get close to you
So you're in his trip,
First you'll smoke and smoulder
Blister up and singe
When ignition hits you
the very soul of your being will cringe.

From "Beyond the Realms of Death":

Yeah! I've left the world behind
I'm safe here in my mind
Free to speak with my own kind
This is my life, this is my life
I'll decide not you
Keep the world with all its sin
It's not fit for livin' in
Yeah! I will start again
It can take forever, and ever, and ever
And ever, but I'll still win.

Are you kidding? That's classic teen angst stuff. I'm on the scene and will burn all of you up! I get to decide my life! I will win!

I totally see how the grinding, gritty, energetic music and these lyrics of "fuck the world, I will triumph" would appeal to a certain type of outcast. I gravitated toward a different kind of teen angst ("I wear black on the outside/'cause black is how I feel on the inside") but it was of the same cloth.

As I recall, Mark died in a car accident. I can't remember if it was before or after we graduated high school. Maybe before, maybe he had left school to go to a trade school or dropped out – I don't recall. But if Mark were alive, I would want to find him and tell him that I understand now. I get it. We never talked much (ever?) in school, and he probably would wonder who the hell I was. But I get it now. This one's for Mark and his friends, the other "Mötleys", the metalheads, the hessians. m/ -_- m/

-Your Older Brother, Samreply
November 25, 2014 at 1:05 am

Yeah, there's nothing here that necessarily jumps out at me, but then again it's not my normal cuppa anyway. However, I do like it. It's not like some of the other records that we've listened to that I just didn't connect with, I did kind of find something here. If there wasn't a constant avalanche of music (and back then, there wasn't), I'd probably revisit it on a regular basis.

-Your Older Brother, Samreply
November 25, 2014 at 1:08 am

Yeah, I think Halford got a better hold on his voice and what he was trying to do after this record. It definitely helped set the stage for those kind of vocal pyrotechnics, though.

As I said to Tony, I'm sure I'll listen to it again sometime. Not sure when, but like you, I do like the songs on the record. It's exposed my inner metalhead. 😀

s rreply
November 26, 2014 at 8:55 pm

All I got to say is I listened to Judas Priest! Now here's the kicker, I have nothing intelligent or unintelligent to say about the record. The end. I enjoy reading your comments, however.

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