43. Judas Priest, 'Stained Class' (1978)
A crucial turning point in Judas Priest's career – and in the history of metal – 1978's Stained Class was where the British band jettisoned the last remaining vestiges of their early progressive-rock leanings, and went for the jugular with faster, tighter and more menacing songs like "Exciter," "White Heat, Red Hot" and "Invader"; even the album's lone power ballad, "Beyond the Realms of Death," sounded downright economical compared to their previous work. Although Stained Class would later be used as Exhibit A in an infamous "backwards masking" court case (brought against the band by the family of a teenager who killed himself after allegedly listening to the track "Better by You, Better Than Me"), the album put Priest on the U.S. charts for the first time, and helped steal the thunder of British punk by igniting what would become known as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. "It was an exciting time for the band," frontman Rob Halford told Classic Rock in 2011. "There was a lot of self-belief in what we were about to do and a sense of adventure. When you think about the intensity of tracks like 'Exciter,' for example, or 'Invader' or 'Savage,' maybe it was a reaction to what was going on around us. It kind of turned the fires up under our feet: 'We're a fucking metal band, mate, and this is what we love to do. Get an earful of this.'" D.E.