Judas Priest's namesake razor-blade logo is recognized the world over. So, too, is the band's leather-and-studs look, the roughness and rebelliousness seamlessly meshing with the group's no-nonsense music. Both trademarks arrived with 1978's Stained Class, a benchmark not only for the British quintet but for the international hard-rock community. Boasting cleaner, crisper, and more refined production than previous efforts, the record became an archetype of the style that ultimately became speed metal.
The last Judas Priest album to feature songwriting by all five members, Stained Class briefly attained infamous status during the early 1990s after it became the subject of a legal case involving two misguided youths. Yet Priest's unanimous victory in court further reaffirmed the LP's purist, no-frills appeal and, moreover, drew attention to the symphonic precision and cleaver-sharp melodies within what Metal Hammer magazine declared "the heaviest heavy metal album of all time."
At once visceral, complex, aggressive, sinister, and focused, Stained Class addresses topics such as death, victory, and the alien unknown with combustible relentlessness and instinctual passion. While the turbo-thrust gallop of "Exciter" and blaring momentum on "White Heat, Red Hot" rank as straight-ahead shots of adrenaline, the band displays a still-underappreciated lyrical intelligence on "Savages," the title track, and "Heroes End," all owing to long-view perspectives and Biblical imagery. And with "Better By You, Better Than Me" and "Beyond the Realms of Death," Priest cut two songs whose influence is undeniable.