How could I not dig Judas Priest Stained Class, opening as it does with a great tune about me?

Racing’ cross the heavens
Straight into the dawn
Looking like a comet
Slicing through the morn
Scorching the horizon
Blazing to the land
Now he’s here amongst us
The age of fire’s at hand

With combustive dance
All shall bear the branding Of his thermal lance

Oh yes! How did they do it? I was only six in 1978 when they cut ‘Exciter’.  I have a bit of an issue with Rob Halford sounding a bit shrill around this period of Priest, but the production of Dennis MacKay keeps enough bass in the mix here to keep it all grounded enough* and what we have left makes for some real, umm, exciter-ment.  We get some very meaty riffs, some brilliant harmonising dual lead guitars later on and Ian Hill bass-ing** away like a crazy ass bass-beastie.

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The first sound we hear on Stained Class though are the barrelling drums of Les Binks, smashing forwards at a bazillion miles an hour, they set the tone not only for ‘Exciter’ but for the whole album and they are thrilling.  No wonder the man is a French plural noun, he sounds like there was at least three of him!  The band almost sound too fast, it’s like watching a marathon runner sprinting away from the start like Usain Bolt, you think both ‘he’ll never keep that up’ and ‘Ooh, that’s gonna hurt’; now the latter may well have been true but the first shows just how little I know.  He was a much better fit for the band than session drummer Simon Phillips on the previous LP, Binks’ sound is far more martial and harder, making the band’s sound punchier and more metallic.

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Proof? just listen to the title track, it stomps and parades around, Halford hitting all the operatic highs and the guitars riffing and playing in that regimented tandem they did so well.  As always with Priest there’s an element of self-parody involved, or at least I hope so for the sake of the sanity of everyone involved; I find a lot of their posturing funny anyway^.  I hear a large amount of what NWOBHM became in this track, a lot of spotty youths in bedrooms as far-flung as Rochdale, Canterbury, South London and Newcastle were clearly listening to the that churning galloping riffage and taking note.  I remember hearing ‘Stained Class’ on Tommy Vance’s Friday Rock Show in the mid-80s and thinking ‘Wow, that’s proper metal’; it still is.

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I will spare you the full autopsy on Stained Class, but here are some personal highlights:

  • The almost Hawkwind-like opening of ‘Invader’, before it gets a bit too well-mannered.
  • The line in ‘Saints in Hell’ where Rob, anticipating this blog post by 39 years, yowls ‘Abattoir, abattoir, mon dieu quelle horreur!’^^.
  • The sheer menace in the riff for ‘Heroes End’^*
  • The incongruous Abba-esque quality to the melody of Spooky Tooth cover ‘Better By You, Better Than Me’.

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It’s difficult not to write about Judas Priest, surely the most metallophile of all the metal bands, without using words like burnished, steely and gleaming to describe their music, so I won’t.  Most of Stained Class gleams like a burnished steel broadsword, there isn’t much blues flesh left on the robot by this point and you can hear the band’s excitement at the progress they’re making.  Unfortunately it isn’t a flawless triumph yet (that came later), you can keep the decidedly third-rate ‘Savage’ and I know folk hail ‘Beyond the Realms of Death’ as a classic, but great guitar solo aside, it just doesn’t spark my thermal lance any.

So time to fire up les Binks again as le Priest c’est incroyable!

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734 Down.

PS.  A big thank you to my special guest star, Russell the metal hippo.  British museum souvenir and all round good guy.

*I’m really not a treble fan at all.

**I believe that is the proper verb: I bass, he/she bases, we all bass.

^cf. Halford’s wonderfully camp, umm, ejaculation on ‘Exciter’ for us to  ‘Fall to your knees and repent if you please’. 

^^the whole track is utterly preposterous and utterly brilliant though, this verse may be my favourite non-sexy-sex Judas Priest lyric:

Fetch the scream eagles
Unleash the wild cats
Set loose the king cobras
And blood sucking bats

^*if I ever have to retire to a bungalow I’ll definitely name it after this track,  Hell Yeah!

54 thoughts on “Les Binks (FR. n. Pl.)

  1. I never did well in French. Can I assume Rob Halford was singing “1537. 1537. You rule dude.”

    Since you do not like bass, should.I assume you had a hand in writing the Meghan Trainor song All About That Bass.

    Lastly, although Russell is a great name for your metal hippo, I will call her Dimple Tits.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I own a lot of albums with songs about the enigma that is 1537, but that’s a comment section game for another time…

    Stained Class is oft described as my favorite Priest and this post reminds me why that is the case. Excellent album all the way through, but especially because it contains “Beyond the Realms of Death,” which you correctly cited above as “a classic… great guitar… thermal lance.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm, I fear my words may have been cut-up and reassembled into new meanings there, William Burroughs style.

      I just can’t get past the track ‘Saints in Hell’, totally awesome.

      Like

  3. Not sure whether I enjoyed the post or the comments best. Probably the comments. No slight on your post, right enough… “No wonder the man is a French plural noun, he sounds like there was at least three of him!” made me smile, y’see. Smashin’ stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. MONDAY NIGHT AND THE PRIEST IS BACK!
    Binks! Man first time i heard him launch into Exciter from Unleashesd i was hooked. Those drums are sick man….and little did I know as I was 12 at time of Unleashed’s release he was already gone as the two pics on Unleashed album prove as u see drums but no Binks! hahaha…u funny Metal Brits pulling the metal wool over my young eyes!
    Fair enough and than they get Troublemaker Holland and a second drummer by Turbo? Should have rang Binks!
    I got this album a long while after but it’s a fine record on it’s own…for sure!
    Cool Stuff Boss!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So, the wee metal beastie, Russell. Confess to being just a tad disappointed that the little fella came from the Brit Muse and does not signify you acquired a lesser spotted pygmy hippo as a family pet. And I thought you were a trend-setter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. From memory Russell (named after the museum’s Russell Square address by my daughter) is a Sumerian hippo God. Word up.

      Much as I’d love a lesser spotted pygmy hippo as a pet, I’m not sure we’ve got anyone here who could walk it for us when we were at work. Or do they just wallow all day? I’m not too sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I spent almost half an hour trying to leave my comment. If you see a bunch of hits from Canada — that was me reloading.

    Anyway, I was just trying to say I agreed with everything you said! And that this was the last Priest I needed and got.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Thanks Mike, I will repay your friendship one day.

        Comments were glitching for me too, which is why I typed the word ‘testes’ to you twice – it’s not that I’m weird or anything. No, really.

        Liked by 1 person

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