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Judas Priest: Nostradamus

For over thirty years Judas Priest has been delivering the goods for Metal fans around the world and with each album seems to find new and interesting ways to keep their music relevant for an ever changing genre and its listeners. Their last album found the official reunion with lead singer Rob Halford and thus Angel Of Retribution was presented to a very hungry audience that had longed for the sound and voice that had been missed together for a number of years. Heavy touring followed the release and it was some time before a new album would come to pass but when the band disclosed the information about it, the Metal realm stood a bit stunned. No, they would not do a cover album, or an acoustic one for that matter and this could have easily been the case since I have to admit that both of these options has been par for the course these days. Instead they would announce that a double disc effort was being planned and that it would be the bands first ever concept album. The subject of the concept would be the enigmatic prophet Michel de Nostredame who history refers to as Nostradamus. If you know anything about the historic individual then you will probably immediately realize that such a task in the musical sense would be nothing less than epic in scope and should you be among those who don't have any idea about him then I suggest that you search a medium like Wikipedia to be brought up to speed before you continue on. The album would simply be titled Nostradamus and find Judas Priest presenting their music on a grandiose scale like never before. Holding strong on two complete CD's of music the album is a tad daunting when it comes to reviewing its subject matter and the melodies that bring it to life because there is so much detail and a hell of a lot of story to absorb and read about. The journey into the past begins with lush orchestrations and Judas Priest has never really used this aspect before so it was interesting to find it being done here. The album also marks the return of the guitar synthesizers that so many of their fans loved on the Turbo album. Of course there is nothing "commercial" about Nostradamus and these elements are used to some positive effect in terms of setting up the performance and its dramatic mood about the man and the mythical nature of his gifts.

As you begin your listen, I suggest that you first give the album a spin with an open mind and without looking too deep into the lyric book because sometimes the best way to enjoy an album is to just kick back and listen to it before you over examine it. What we find in the story that is presented about Nostradamus, is that such a complex individual finds the band delivering an equally complex storyline for their fans. It begins with his early life as the man known as Michel de Nostredame discovers his gifts and starts to compose his quatrains of prophecy. One can imagine that being such a person of apparent mystical ability during Europe of the 1500's would have come with more difficulty than good and this is indeed what he would experience. There are songs about some of the quatrains and how they related to catastrophe, war and plagues of the world and there are even moments where they speak of his innermost feelings of love and feeling alone despite the great gifts he possessed. Like I said, this was deep and well-thought out stuff. The feeling that one gets when the album starts off is that you are bearing witness to some big theater production or major motion picture as opposed to listening to a Heavy Metal band who is raising their own personal bar. There are moments of heaviness throughout the album but this is not really something along the lines of Painkiller or Screaming For Vengeance. There are no "hit singles" per se and to really appreciate what they have done the listener needs to understand that skipping around the album is not really going to allow them to get the picture or even understand what the band wanted to present. The effort is quite mature and will most likely annoy those fans that just wanted to find the band kicking ass with head banging numbers from beginning to end. If you are one of those types of fans then I fear that what is happening on Nostradamus might not be for you so maybe you should stick to the classic material until whatever the album after this comes to pass. However, should you be one of the bands hard core supporters who will give everything that they do a chance, then I suggest that you proceed because while I am always charged for a head banging track I was finding myself fascinated by the sweeping storyline and all of the roads it took me down. The musicality of the guys is as good as ever but the key standout element is just how incredible Rob Halford is on every single track. He sings with passion and fire and reminds us over and over why we refer to him as The Metal God. Some of my favorite tracks are "Prophecy", "Visions", "Lost Love" and the title track "Nostradamus", and while everyone will find preferred tracks of their own, I must say that these only came to me after completing the release after two full listens.

The bottom line is that this is Judas Priest, and that with any new music from them we will always find someone who has a problem with this or with that. Let's face it, there are probably people who loved British Steel so much that they felt Screaming For Vengeance was too over the top. Personally, I felt that the band not only did an incredible job but made a bold statement in tackling something like this when they very easily could have taken the quick formulaic road. Their plan is to take the entire album out on tour and then play hits which I don't necessarily agree with. Some might recall Iron Maiden doing this for A Matter Of Life And Death in 2006 and finding their tour being met with mixed opinion and much disappointment. What I would like to see Priest do with Nostradamus is a limited tour of mid-sized theaters where they can set up a full production and record it for release on DVD. Perhaps Apocalyptica would be a perfect opener for that idea. Once done, they can return to touring the arenas with material we have loved and held close for decades as they continue to add new songs to their list of hallowed Metal numbers. The CD comes with some liner notes and all the lyrics for the songs in the standard edition, but there is also a deluxe version that comes in a mini-book which details more about the man called "Nostradamus". The question remains as to whether or not his gifts were factual, or were these quatrains merely translated and interpreted to suit specific situations that happened in the world. Perhaps after a little research you can better decide for yourself.

Track Listing
1. Dawn Of Creation
2. Prophecy
3. Awakening
4. Revelations
5. The Four Horsemen
6. War
7. Sands Of Time
8. Pestilence And Plague
9. Death
10. Peace
11. Conquest
12. Lost Love
13. Persecution
14. Solitude
15. Exiled
16. Alone
17. Shadows In The Flame
18. Visions
19. Hope
20. New Beginnings
21. Calm Before The Storm
22. Nostradamus
23. Future Of Mankind

Added: July 27th 2008
Reviewer: Ken Pierce
Related Link: Judas Priest Website
Hits: 4660
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Judas Priest: Nostradamus
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-07-22 10:19:07
My Score:

Gotta give Judas Priest a whole lot of credit for trying something like this...Nostradamus is epic, melodic, pompous, overblown, you name it. Heavy though, it really ain't. Sure, there are moments of heavy metal thunder here on the CD's 2 discs, but don't expect Painkiller, Stained Class, or even Angel of Retribution, as Nostradamus sees Priest doing their 'grand concept album' thing, and it's pretty successful when you take it all in. The band rolls out the guitar synths for the first time since the Turbo days, but there's a darkness to the tunes here that help this not become that synth/pop/metal mess that Turbo was back in the late 80's. In addition, Rob Halford offers less of his high pitched wailing on Nostradamus, but his solid mid-range works quite well on these overly dramatic metal-opera-ish tunes. Funny thing is, it seems that the band could have kept this at a single CD release, as each disc doesn't push the time limitations anyway, and there are some filler tracks. One 80 minute concept platter might have been more than enough, and made this a stronger album overall. Still, as you snake your way around the 2 CD's, there's plenty of chugging riffs from Downing and Tipton, ripping guitar solos, even some delicate acoustic guitar work, and lots of epic, grandiouse moments, which might sound strange coming from Judas Priest, but for the most part it works.

Add in a really nice booklet filled with lyrics (some of which are a tad silly) and great artwork, and you have a solid concept package from one of the masters of heavy metal that somewhat misses the mark, but is still worth getting if you are a longtime fan of the band, or are a prog rock lover who can appreciate a veteran metal band who has taken a chance to put together something on a grander scale.

Now that they've gotten this out of the way, perhaps next time the beast will be unleashed.

Judas Priest: Nostradamus
Posted by Duncan Glenday, SoT Staff Writer on 2008-07-02 10:19:29
My Score:

Judas Priest goes progressive.

Well - not quite, but it's definitely worth a listen.

The two-CD rock opera Nostradamus is Judas Priest trying to be progressive. Regular metalheads and traditional 'Priest fans will doubtlessly hail this as the most progressive thing to emerge from metal since Dream Theater. Prog-metal and prog-rock fans - and probably most Sea Of Tranquility readers - will doubtlessly disagree.

The storytelling leaves something to be desired, and the lyrics are clicheic and contrived. In that way, it's reminiscent of Kayak's Nostradamus - also a contrived, over-the-top double-CD, addressing the same subject matter.

But the music is quite good, and far less metallic than standard Judas Priest.

The instrumentation is straightforward and pleasant - not particularly complex, somewhat symphonic, and definitely not heavy metal. It's well-produced, fairly inoffensive, moderately proggy, power metal. There's far more variety, the and the overriding atmosphere is soft and often acoustic music with very well controlled mid-range vocals. Rob Halford delivers almost none of his signature falsetto wailing - in fact, in the intro to the title track, he emulates the almost operatic delivery style that was characteristic of 1970s Italian prog. Halford is mostly pitch perfect, and shows more pure musical capability here than we've ever seen ever before.

There are some beautiful moments - such as "Exile", with its lush orchestrals - though many dyed-in-the-wool progressive music fans might call them cheesy. There are pleasing, softly wailing guitars played over acoustic guitar (a nice effect). Many other sections could be called experimental that for a classic NWOBHM. As you'd expect from a band that's been so successful for so long, the musicianship is generally good and the songwriting is fairly good.

All in all, Nostradamus is big cliche, but it's very well done. It's hardly recognizable as a Judas Priest album, and will have appeal way beyond the band's usual fanbase. But it may also cause them to lose some of their existing fans.

» Reader Comments:

Judas Priest: Nostradamus
Posted by Rod on 2008-07-29 03:34:32
My Score:

Cut it in half and get rid of all the fillers. I like concept albums but they have to keep me interested. The online soundclip they released before the album was a great marketing move. I was expecting a different album and I'm sure I wasn't the only one.

Judas Priest: Nostradamus
Posted by Grant Howarth on 2008-07-28 20:53:07
My Score:

Well, its been a long time between drinks for the Priest, and for me as a fan who started out cutting my musical teeth learning JP classics like "Grinder" , "Living after Midnight" "Exciter" etc etc so where are they on my radar now?
I have to put them into my current musical perspective to give you some idea of the reasoning behind my rating. I am a fan of interesting music, I have always preferred the more progressive side of things, and the downright weird. My current faves include Unexpect, Symphony X, Mars Volta, and my blood is infused with Rush, Crimson, Yes and Opeth, so you can probably see where my difficulties lie with Judas Priest's ambitious "Nostradamus"
In short this album sees them slipping between two stools. On the one side their rifftastic old school metal shout alongs, for which they are justifiably venerated. On the other their commendable desire to reinvent themselves with a progressive, orchestral conceptual piece. Here's the thing though, these guys can't write anything new, they seem to equate "high concept" with slow, ponderous and faux dignified, in other words the "filler" mid paced stuff from their less consistent albums, which predominates throughout "Nostradamus" and lyrically I'm afraid the whole thing is just too coarse, high schooly and "first idea"-ish. The first song (not intro) for instance, as soon as I heard the riff I knew EXACTLY where it would be going and dammit I was right! Lyrical banalities abound throughout this album, cringingly awful misuse of phrases and nonsensical lists of vaguely relevant rhyming words that sound like Rob plundered a thesaurus rather than think. Musically the interludes that have been lauded elsewhere just take up time as they don't expand or develop the next middle grade song into anything interesting.
I had such high hopes for a double album by this revered band but this effort I'm afraid can be summed up by two words : Spinal Priest!
* Two points for the two songs on a double album that didn't totally disappoint? Generous.

Judas Priest: Nostradamus
Posted by Scott on 2008-07-04 04:20:02
My Score:

Halford is awesome but it's too long one cd would have been sufficient with less tracks. 7/10 for me and I still think the two Halford cds are superior to Judas Priest's recent efforts.

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