Stained Class is the only Judas Priest album to feature songwriting by all five members of the band. It was at this point, however, where Glenn Tipton started to take what can be described as a preference over K. K. Downing as the main lead guitarist of the band. From this point forward, he would mostly share songwriting duties with Rob Halford. Downing's only standalone performances on Stained Class are "Savage" and the second solo on "Beyond the Realms of Death" and "Heroes End", with the rest of the album either featuring Tipton exclusively or duets between the two. Newly added drummer Les Binks earned a songwriting credit on "Beyond The Realms Of Death" for composing the acoustic intro.
The sleeve artwork, by Rosław Szaybo at CBS Records, introduced the now-classic Judas Priest logo, replacing the Gothic Script logo which appeared on all of the band's prior albums. Stained Class was the first Judas Priest album to dent the Billboard 200 chart and was eventually certified gold in the US.
Dennis MacKay was brought in by CBS Records to produce the album. His resume at the time consisted mainly of jazz fusion artists, plus David Bowie, Supertramp, and others. He set himself to the task of cleaning up the band’s unwieldy songwriting style and making their material shorter, tighter, and more direct. The recording sessions for Stained Class took place in October and November 1977 at Chipping Norton Recording Studios in Oxfordshire.
The album was the heaviest the band had released up to that point – with the lyrics often dark and violent – with only slight instances of progressive rock; hereafter, the progressive influences that characterised the band's first few albums would be completely eliminated so that Judas Priest completely embraced heavy metal as their sound.
"Better by You, Better than Me" was a last-minute addition to the album when CBS Records insisted on including another more commercial track to liven up a record with which a majority of the songs have a very dark and sinister undertone. It was recorded in a separate session with James Guthrie, as Dennis MacKay had moved on to other projects and was no longer available. The band was impressed with the production Guthrie did on "Better by You, Better than Me", as it stood out in comparison to the overly thin, flat sound that had plagued their albums up to this point, and they asked him to produce their next album, Killing Machine.
"Beyond The Realms Of Death" was the only song from Stained Class to become a live staple, with 681 performances, being played from 1978 through 1981, being revived on the Mercenaries Of Metal Tour and appearing on every tour afterwards, except the Firepower World Tour. Although the title track has been performed relatively often by Halford away from Priest, Judas Priest themselves have played it live only three times – twice during 1978 and once in 2005 – while after 1979 "Exciter" disappeared until 2002, also being played in 2005. "White Heat, Red Hot" was frequently performed between 1978 and 1980 but never since, "Saints In Hell" debuted on Firepower tour in 2018, and "Invader" and "Heroes' End" have never been played live. The notorious "Better By You, Better Than Me" was played live only seventeen times, mostly in 1978–1979 (with two performances in 1990) and the obscure "Savage" eight times in early 1978.
Stained Class was remastered in 2001, with two bonus tracks added.