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I can't help but wonder what might have been had Judas Priest decided to pursue an experiment like Nostradamus earlier in their career, when they were in full writing capacity and churning out hit after hit. Perhaps they might have chased the idea in place of Point of Entry, or Turbo, or one of their other divisive records. Certainly they've got a front man with the capable range, and all the tools to create a satisfying rock opera concept album, but the problem is that by 2008 they were coming off almost two decades of mediocre music, and this was not really the time to be reaching so far outside the comfort zone. As a result, Nostradamus is a whole lotta ambitious nothing that is effectively one of the saddest studio efforts of their career (and I'm including the 'Ripper' Owens records in that statement). Not for lack of trying, mind you, but for the lack of results.
Hell, they couldn't even make this album LOOK good. Why in the name of the powers would you replace your iconic, wonderful logo with a shitty font like that? Yeah, it's a concept album about Nostradamus, and it makes sense that they were going to showcase the prophet, but it comes off like some cheap Photoshop. I didn't even think the album was real when I first saw this artwork, I felt like someone had played an online hoax. As it stands, I'd rather stare at the cover of Demolition than this eyesore, and that's not even really a cover. Of course, had this been two hours of lightning bliss with the compositional fortitude of a Painkiller of Stained Class than I'd be more than willing to overlook its outer shell, but sadly its lackluster quality does not end at that, but at the 100+ minutes of good intentions gone awry, a bloated and dramatic musical narrative which at its very best rips off past Priest triumphs or revels in haughty, "Carmen Burena"-like nonsense, the caveat being that they focus in on Rob Halford's voice rather than backing choirs.
This was produced by the guitarists, and I must say they didn't do a bad job of it, though it's not so bold and bright and polished as Angel of Retribution before it. The strings and keys swell accordingly to the emotional tension the band thinks its creating, but the real downfall is that across 23 tracks they can't even manage to pull out one that is remotely memorable. The double-album is divided into a series of shorter vignettes that often alternate with 5-8 minute pieces, the latter of which usually contain the harder guitars. The riffs on this song are simply abysmal, pulled from about 35 years of history and loosely paraphrased from metal tunes you've no doubt heard in the past. At the most 'exciting' you'll get a piece like "Persecution" which wants to very much belong to the Painkiller era, only the delivery of vocals and lyrics just don't cut it, and the note progressions feel tired and unsurprising. Others like "Prophecy" try to creep along with a very simple, almost heavy/doom driven riff like something you might have expected on the Halford solo records, and while I can't deny that he manages to conjure up that same, strong character in his voice, the songs really lack excitement.
The leads actually seem like they put some thought into them, but since they're not launched at you from the foundation of killer rhythm guitars, their uphill battle can't seem to reach the summit. Most of the pieces are so heavily multi-tracked with strings and synthesizers that it feels like the soundtrack to some big budget video game, like a God of War score without the menace and bravado. The bass lines are boring, the drums somewhat caged in by the orchestration. Add to this the rather cheesy lyrics in a cut like "Lost Love" and the whole things feels like an immense failure to broaden the band's horizons towards Trans-Siberian Orchestra fans (who don't realize Savatage was better). The worst thing about this is that the ratio of pay-off to duration is frustrating, who wants to listen to two full discs of mediocrity? Perhaps they should have reined in the writing to a single album and given a 'trial run' to the whole concept album, before going overboard. It's hard to believe this even got the green light from Columbia/Epic, but I guess they've just been around so long that they can pull their own strings.
Nostradamus is not the most incompetent bumbling of a career I've heard from a major metal outfit like this one. It's no Virtual XI or St. Anger. In fact, there are elements to its execution which show me that all of the band's constituents still know how to play, in particular Rob's pitch is still quite stunning. But I would be hard pressed to find a more lackluster skeleton in their closet than this one. Okay, Demolition is a sliver worse, but at least we didn't have to spend nearly two hours to find that out. What might have been an interesting, in depth glimpse into the life and times of a near mythic figure is gimped by generic, uninspired lyrics, and weak music that puts bombast above ballast. It's a little late to close my eyes and pretend everything after 1990 didn't happen, but Judas Priest are a long, long way from home here. Time to book a return flight.
For a quick summary if you can’t be bothered to read my long review scroll down:
After what could be considered a “safe” comeback to lead vocals of Rob Halford with Angel of Retribution Judas Priest decided they need to do something more creative with their 16th LP release Nostradamus and by creative I mean they have ventured into Symphonic metal. This time round Judas Priest attempt to do a concept album based upon the life and visions of the famous French seer and I have to say I think it is a great success.
The album’s production is fantastic, everything is clear and precise. Every lyric is audible and every instrument is perfectly placed. Individual performances are as good as any this band has ever recorded. Rob may not be the youngest boy on the block but he still has a hell of a voice on him and one that is still better than most on the scene. He shows a great range from the almost operatic intro to the title track, to the soft and gentle ballad Lost Love and the straight ahead metal approach of Prophecy. Glenn Tipton and K.K Downing are as good here as anytime in their career, the riffs are powerful and varied and some of the bands greatest ever solos are present on what could yet be Priests last ever album. Scott Travis and Ian Hill are both consistent and powerful on drums and Bass and the former has some great fills over the course of the album. A special mention has to be given to Don Airey who provides the keyboards here too, very well done. Overall production wise Judas Priest has created an album that focuses as much on the music as it does on Rob’s powerful voice, never sacrificing one for the other and always finding the balance between the two.
The atmosphere throughout the album changes constantly and never are you in one frame of mind for too long, this is helped a lot in my opinion by the various interludes spread throughout the album which help break the pace down to something which helps balance everything.
Dawn of Creation, Solitude, Awakening, The Four Horsemen, Sands of Time, Peace, Shadows in the Flame, Hope, Calm Before the Storm.
These tracks are not full songs by themselves but lead seamlessly into the next track and may as well be as a whole the next song because they work perfectly and are in no way out of place. They are all soft pieces and all lead into something heavier but it works. The first two tracks listed are the respective intro’s to each disc as Nostradamus is split over two disc and both are amazing ambient songs that with no more than a little piano and a few strings build the atmosphere to a point where you know things are about to explode.
There are various moments throughout the album where you hear some great orchestration, the sort of thing you would hear in a movie soundtrack. This can be shown to very clear effect in the song War which has a beautiful build up half way through the song and is something not to dissimilar to what you would expect from Hans Zimmer. The song Death has an almost Epic Doom metal sound to it and contains some great Doom styled riffs and one of the albums great guitar solos. The albums obligatory ballads are Lost Love and New Beginnings both of which are very nice, the former especially has a beautiful guitar solo, even if it is a bit short. The song Plague and Pestilence is one of the best songs here and contains some lyrics in Latin but more importantly one of Priests best solos ever. The atmosphere throughout the song is hopeful despite the opposite being described lyrically. The weakest song here is Visions and it also happens to be the most commercial sounding on the LP. Nostradamus has an epic blood pumping orchestral intro which leads into possibly the best vocals of the album which are almost operatic up until what is the best scream Rob does the entire album. The final track The Future of Mankind another amazing track containing everything you would expect from a great Priest song, powerful vocals and an amazing dual guitar solo from Downing and Tipton. Tracks like Exiled and Alone are also very strong the former expressing a lot of emotion lyrically and the former sounding almost rebellious.
In my opinion this is Judas Priest greatest ever album, better than Painkiller or British Steel purely because of the variation they show here. They have shown they are not afraid to try something new and not allowing themselves to be the stereotype band that many people think Judas Priest of. Everything here is perfect, the vocals, guitar riffs, the solos, the atmosphere, the orchestration, the lyrics are very good, the production… hell even the booklet is beautiful to look at. This is in my view Judas Priests best album, their magnum opus. Does this mean all Priest fans will like it? No…. but there are many people out there who will appreciate this album for what it is and I hope to one day see this album played in it's entirety
A quick summary for those that can’t be bothered to read a wall of text
- Lyrics and vocals are brilliant
- Some of the greatest guitar solos Priest have ever done
- Production is perfect
- Interludes between songs create a great atmosphere and keep the pace of the album varied
- As good as the solos are I wish there were more of them
- Priest used some symphonic elements during this album; I would have liked to see them be a bit more forward with it. I hope next time they use a real full orchestra, choir and really give it the beans
- Only 102 minutes of music, I want more god dammit
My choice tracks
- Plague and Pestilence (Amazing solo)
- The Future of Mankind (Amazing solo)
God I love this album, I hope Priest continue this path and create a even more bombastic and grandiose symphoic album next time, rather than revert back to thier more traditional style... as good as it was I want something new and fresh.
Wow priest has created a symphonic concept album, full of bombastic keyboards, tasty orchestral elements, interludes, and all that stuff a la Nightfall In Middle Earth, and the great thing is that they manage it perfectly. This album sounds fresh and is something adventurous for Priest, a stark contrast to the safe comeback of Angel Of Retribution. As the name suggests, this is a concept album about the 17th century French prophet Nostradamus. The sound of this album is closer to Virgin Steele’s Atreus series or Jag Panzer’s Thane to the Throne, except that this sounds more dark and brings out a mysterious atmosphere with it. One more thing about this album is that Judas Priest sound reenergized something that has failed to happen since Painkiller.
The highlight of the album is once again Rob Halford. On this album he proves to the world that he isn't called the Metal God for nothing. Even in this age the man has got an amazing power in his voice that none of his thousand imitators have. He sounds aggressive and possessed on tracks like Persecution, Death but also melodic on softer tracks like Lost Love or Sands Of Time. His range is intact and he uses it to perfection. KK and Tipton are also in great shape. Their soloing in tracks like Persecution, Future Of Mankind reminds me of the glory days of Painkiller and Stained Class. The riff work of these two is equally competent as evident on songs like Death. Scott Travis is as competent as he was on Painkiller, but avoids his excess showoff here as he did on that album. Ian Hill is the bass player so I think it would be wise not to speak anything about the bass. The keyboards are used perfectly. Some people claim that they drown the guitars, true, but they are instrumental in creating the dark, mysterious feel of the album. The production has drowned the guitars much more than it should have done, otherwise it is great.
This is a double CD album with 23 total tracks comprising over hundred minutes of music. It contains several interludes of which most are soft, containing lot of keyboards and calm vocals of Halford. Containing 14 tracks with variations this album is bound to be a bit inconsistent which I expected, but surprisingly it is a lot more consistent than expected. We start the first disk with a keyboard intro and a great one that too. Not one like the countless silly modern European power metal bands put in their album. It has a great atmosphere. It leads it way into Prophecy, a catchy up-tempo Priest rocker with atmospheric keyboards. Revelations, another great song starts with an excellent guitar work. It contains interesting vocal pattern during the verses. It is another highlight. War isn’t as interesting as the above songs. It is overlong, but again great atmosphere in this song. Surprisingly, the interlude Sands Of Time sounds great thanks to a great vocal performance. Pestilence And Plague is another song which sounds like an epic-fied traditional Priest rocker. Then comes the essential highlight of the album, Death, which is Judas Priest successfully attempting doom metal. The vocals are the real standout in the song. Halford sounds fucking possessed and aggressive. The atmosphere is also superb. Lost Love is a ballad and one of the low points in the CD. The closer Persecution is the fastest and most intense song in the first disk. It is one another of the essential highlights of the album.
The second disk starts again with an interlude, not as good as the one that opened the album but still well to do. Exiled is another slow and mid-paced song, with a well to do chorus. Alone is a ballad and a fine one. Again it has a very catchy chorus. Visions is another song which sounds like an epic-fied priest rocker, so not much to say about that song. New Beginnings is another ballad and the worst song off the album. Then comes "they, never broke my will", the title track which is the heaviest, the fastest and the most intense song in the album, and yes it maintains the epic nature of the album. It starts out softly in an epic way, but the suddenly it gushes out like a storm. Halford's scream which might be one of his most vicious is indeed hair raising. The lead work in this song is truly spectacular. The album closes with Future Of Mankind which is the longest and the most epic song in the entire album. Some of the best vocals by Halford are found here. It contains an excellent interplay between the guitars and the keys.
This is one of the best albums ever put out by Priest, yes I dare to compare it with Stained Class or Sin After Sin. It may not be as aggressive as Painkiller, but the songwriting and composition attempted here is one of the highest levels by Priest ever. Surprisingly the lyrics are good. Again the reason for this album to sound this good is that Judas Priest attempted something new and unexpected here. Many of the songs are traditional Judas Priest rockers but with the atmospheric keyboards and orchestral elements they sound completely new. So concluding Nostradamus is an amazing album and a must have for any heavy metal fan.
After reviewing the Nightfall in Middle Earth album, I have no idea when compelled me to put on Judas Priest’s Nostradamus. Perhaps it was a subconscious attempt at suicide due to an overdose of interludes and synthesized pompous epic metal. It was an album I don’t think I’d listened to more than a few times since I bought it, which to be honest was about 50% for the music and 50% for the free Priest ticket code inside. (Which I claimed the free lawn seat and then got a free better ticket from a guy from a radio station at the show. I got mid-pavilion seats on Rob Halford’s dime.) I brought up how I enjoyed this album, and a friend asked how I could enjoy Nostradamus and yet be so indifferent, and at times so critical, towards Blind Guardian’s so-called masterpiece.
The first thing I noticed was that there are 9 interludes and 14 real songs, a big difference towards the 11 interludes and 11 songs of Blind Guardian, and only of the interludes clock in under a minute and all feature instrumentals of some kind. A difference from many of the ones on Nightfall being under 30 seconds and many just being speech or sound effects. Are the interludes on here still rather pompous and unnecessary? Yes. But I feel like there was some real effort and energy put into them.
Now, the synthesizers, choirs, and all of the epic sounding elements are very different for Priest, but I felt they were used in a very interesting way. They never truly drown out the guitars, except on some palm muted chug riffs, so I have no complaints about that. There are some great interesting solos, and there are many different and new (well, for Priest) ideas tried out in the writing department. Revelations features an interesting start-stop vocal pattern (I… See… All… Things…), which I never expected to hear from these guys. And despite songs like Prophecy sounding like classic Judas Priest with synthesizer and even the song Nostradamus sounding almost like an epic-ified Painkiller, the boys try things unlike anything they’ve ever attempted before. I don’t know what I could describe War sounding like, perhaps something similar to what Manowar did on their Gods of War album, except if that album didn’t suck. And on the song Death, we hear Priest attempt what could almost be doom metal. And while not exactly Black Sabbath, they do the style justice. It’s a little overlong but very interesting. And other ideas just feel like a re-vamp of a classic style. I don’t know what it is, but the song Alone brings to mind Priest’s classic anthems such as United or Take on the World. It feels to me like the kind of song the crows would be singing the chorus to in a live environment. But maybe I’m crazy.
Now, I know the band has attempted ballads before, but I don’t think I can remember them trying anything quite like Lost Love. It’s VERY mellow. I can’t think of something to compare it to, mostly because I tend not to listen to anything comparable to it. And yet, it’s followed by Persecution, probably the heaviest song on Disc 1.
Also a lot of the album is mid-paced. Persecution and Nostradamus are really the only speedy rockers, Nostradamus, again, being almost Painkiller-esque after the initial buildup. It’s really a great piece of fucking furious metal. Other than that it’s almost all mid-paced or slower.
But for all their experimentation, do these new ideas work? That’s what seems to cause the arguments over this album. Some people might tell you this album was a failure, and others may put it with Priest’s masterpieces. If the idea of Judas Priest playing epic, sometimes longer songs, with synthesized orchestra and choirs, to both classic sounding metal and other new experiments like doom metal, you might want to go back and put on Painkiller or Sad Wings of Destiny and just forget about this. On the other hand, if you’ve played all of your Priest albums too much, and Stained Class is starting to sound old, you might want to give it a shot. However, I do not recommend this for someone new to Priest, as it’s not the best representation of their style. On the other hand, if you’re new to Judas Priest, and you’re on a metal site, you might just be in the wrong place.
That being said, I personally enjoyed the experimentation Priest attempted. I felt that many of the ideas worked out well, but that while my favorite song is on Disc 2, and Disc 2 is still solid, Disc 1 is the better overall Disc. I’m glad to hear new ideas like this. Sometimes, even if a new idea is a failure, it’s better than rehashing the same ideas a million times. Someone should mention that to AC/DC. I wouldn’t consider this a failure, and I’d recommend this to a Priest fan, but urge them to have an open mind about it.
I've always been rather indifferent to much of Judas Priest's catalogue. Their 70's albums were hurt by the flat and punchless production while much of their 80s material sounds dated, especially their big singles like "Hell Bent for Leather." The only studio album of theirs that I can enjoy from start to finish is "Painkiller" because it actually sounds like they're trying to break new ground as opposed to getting more and more commercial appeal. The Ripper albums do not really need to have anything said about them other than that they were failed experiments. A lot of people seem to like 2004's comeback reunion album "Angel of Retribution" even though for the most part Priest just seemed to be going through the motions and doing what is expected of them, as well as a terrible bid for mainstream airplay in "Revolution." There really is not anything on that album worth listening to more than several times other than the speed metal of "Judas Rising" and the epic "Loch Ness," despite the laughable lyrics.
I'm not exactly sure what spurred the creative minds in Judas Priest to go the route that they have taken on "Nostradamus," because judging by the reviews and fan reaction, most people would be quite happy with Priest becoming the AC/DC of heavy metal. Perhaps Halford, Tipton and Downing realized that they were not quite ready to become a nostalgia band, releasing the same basic material every few years as an excuse to tour and play "Breaking the Law," "Living After Midnight" and "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" to thousands of screaming fans. Whatever the reason, Judas Priest have revamped their sound and have put out an album that surprised many a fan, including me.
Anyone with even the slightest knowledge of metal knows that Nostradamus is an idea that has been done to death, and sadly, the lyrics of this album are still pretty bad, although certainly not their worst. However, it seems like for the first time in twenty-five years, the band actually HAS something to sing about, as opposed to more songs about super-heroes, machines, machines that are super-heroes, self-references and gay sex. For the first time in years, it seems like the band is actually trying, without being influenced by what the rest of the music scene is doing like they were on the two Ripper Owens albums. It's obvious that Judas Priest have put a lot of work into this album; a lot of labor is put into the arrangements of the songs. The band has said in interviews that many of the strings heard on this album are real, and the strings do factor prominently into several songs, most notably "War," which actually has a orchestral interlude in the middle.
The songs are almost universally epic in nature, thanks in part to interludes which serve more as intros to the songs that follow rather than displays of self-indulgence (take that Jon Schaffer!). However, despite the epic nature of the songs, there is a wide variety of sounds and emotions on display. Some songs, like "Revelations" and "Persecution" exhibit a sense of urgency that has been largely absent in Priest's music for many years. Others are true epics in nature, such as the aforementioned "War," "Alone" and album closer "Future of Mankind" which features fantastic interplay between the guitars and the strings. Album opener "Prophecy" should remain a concert staple for years as well as the title track. Special mention should go to "Conquest" as well; I cannot figure out why this song is so enjoyable, it is just so well-written that it stays in my head for hours after I hear it. The pinnacle of "Nostradamus" is the track "Death." This is what Judas Priest would sound like if they were a doom metal band, and I am blown away with the result. The atmosphere for this song is lethal, and Rob Halford is stunning vocally, it sounds like he is Death, and Tipton and Downing just slay on guitars.
Tipton and Downing have been one of the most famous and arguably best guitar duos in metal history, but on this album they take their playing to a whole new level. There is genuine emotion along with the shredding. They add a neo-classical influence to some of their solos and they kick Yngwie's ass by introducing an element that he cannot comprehend: subtlety. Some of these solos are not the type that knock one on their ass on the first listen, it takes several listens before it dawns just how well-written these solos are. There are some solid riffs featured throughout the album as well.
In addition to all of the positives mentioned above, Judas Priest have done something that they have not done in their entire career. I mentioned earlier how apathetic I was to most of Judas Priest's earlier studio albums, but I left out just how good their live albums are. I consider the 1979 album "Unleashed in the East" to be the greatest live metal album of all time, and anyone who saw Priest live in the 80's or even more recently can attest to how great their live show is. Earlier songs take on new life in a live setting, even Painkiller songs. "Angel" from "Angel of Retribution" is ten times better when performed live. However, with Nostradamus, Judas Priest have finally written an album where the songs reach their full potential in a studio setting. There are no songs that are watered-down so that they can be played on the radio, even the more straightforward songs like "Visions" or "Prophecy" are not simple enough to receive a large amount of airplay.
Some minor complaints include the fact that Scott Travis seems unfortunately restrained throughout, a shame because he is so talented. Also the two ballad-type songs, "Lost Love" and "New Beginnings" are not quite as good as the songs that follow and precede them. As mentioned before, the lyrics are still pretty weak, but thankfully it is not that noticeable unless one reads the liner notes.
If approached with an open mind, "Nostradamus" is a very rewarding experience. However, people who are expecting "Angel of Retribution 2" (Or "Screaming for Vengeance 3") will be disappointed. Many of the poor reviews for this album come from people expecting another re-hash of an earlier album. In a way, Priest is to blame for this because that's what their fans have come to expect from them, some just are not ready or willing to accept a Judas Priest that does something different this late in their career. Whether you like the album or not, Judas Priest have made a statement that they are not out of ideas yet and that they refuse to be a nostalgia act. Perhaps with a few more albums like this, Priest may experience a second life similar to what Iron Maiden have done with their past three albums.
Nostradamus is no doubt an album that has split Priest fans in half. I personally belong to the half that loves the album. It definitely is not traditional Priest, and that is why it is so good. Angel of Retribution was a solid Priest record, but it felt too much like Priest was trying to imitate the 80s and early 90s. Nostradamus is a departure from that; it blazes new ground and is completely unlike anything in Priest’s back catalogue.
The album is much more mid-tempo than most previous Priest albums, and more significantly, it uses some very unconventional features like choirs and strings. This of course creates a very epic mood to the album, and they are much easier to hear when the songs aren’t as fast as Painkiller. It seems I find something new every time I listen to the album; for example, last time I listened I noticed a nice acoustic guitar in the background of Revelations.
The album flows smoothly from one song to another and at no point does the music pause. This is achieved with guitars fading out from one riff or melody to another that starts a new song, the aforementioned strings, or a combination of both. Almost half the songs are interludes that progress the music from one song to another, and though some do not like them, I find them quite enjoyable. The music has a flowing and elegant feel because of them. Though few songs are instant hits like Breaking the Law or Painkiller, the album as a whole is very cohesive because of the interludes. It’s almost like listening to a long piece of classical music.
The lyrics are well above your traditional Priest lyrics (Breaking the Law etc.) as they tell about Nostradamus. I haven’t paid that much attention to the story as I know the basic idea anyway and I just haven’t been that interested. I won’t go into more detail about that, but I’ll say that Rob’s vocals work well on this album. He’s not trying to hit the super high notes like he does when he struggles live.
The songs are mostly mid-tempo and longer than usual, but Priest do manage to sneak in some songs that just sound like the fast, aggressive Priest we all love: most notably Persecution and Nostradamus. However, most of the songs are slower and more emotional; e.g. Revelations, The Future of Mankind, Visions, Alone, and War are the best ones.
Overall, this is probably the most consistent Priest album after Painkiller. It features few definite hits, but it’s so epic, atmospheric, and just different that it earns a very high mark. This is an album that is always a great pleasure to listen to, for both artistic and entertainment value.
I make no qualms or secret about the fact I'm a massive Judas Priest fan, I love the boys dearly (not in the same way Dave Holland does either) and they've provided me with hours upon hours of fun much like some enormous heavy metal jigsaw. But with 'Nostradamus' all the excitement and hope of a new Priest album was quashed, once the floodgates had been opened 'Nostradamus' just sort of waffled its way out. All the heraldry, trumpet fanfares and strippers exploding out of cakes that so often comes with mainstream metal releases only added to the disappointment and as such 'Nostradamus' has sat collecting dust and the exoskeletons of all sorts of creepy crawlies (it seems renting a flat with Miss Havisham wasn't the most hygienic of my decisions). And upon revision it seems 'Nostradamus' hasn't gained anything, absence may make the heart grow fonder, but in this case it made me reckon that Priest's latest simply isn't a good one.
Honestly, I feel a tad guilty taking pot shots at this, I mean it's Priest - two guitarists with a strange similarity to those gin-drinking single mothers, a singer who is developing a back problem from his auto-cue and um... a rhythm section. I feel for the guys, the lovable eccentric (strangely spouseless in Rob's case) uncles of heavy metal. But something is very much astray here and I can't ignore it any more.
On his summer holiday someone must have given Halford a copy of Blind Guardian's 'Nightfall...' or maybe Virgin Steele's 'Atreus...' series. Obviously, he didn't listen to the bloody things and simply went;
"Yes, we are Judas Priest, we can pull off ambitious concept albums... quick Glen, to the Pro Tools!". And there we have it, Priest gave us 'Nostradamus'. This whole thing reeks of Pro Tooled castration, everything is ruthlessly neat and largely sterile. Honestly, I don't give a shit how much you dig all this modern equipment, you should still be striving to capture an organic feel to your record if you play in a traditional metal band. A main aim of 'Nostradamus' was to prove that Priest could still cut it with the young guns, they'd already done this with 'Painkiller' see, and it worked. The album actually succeeds in this aim, as this isn't the Priest of old or even the safe comeback of 'Angel of Retribution'. Instead this rather a saggy, bloated album is Priest for the 21st century: overblown and overlong much in keeping with most of the young fellows out there. The Pro Tooled vibe is best seen in the albums drumming. Scott Travis is an excellent drummer, that I can't doubt. But here he is bound and chained to functioning as a metronome simply to keep Glen and Ken's adventures in banality in time. But guess what? The boys haven't even worked out Pro Tools properly... they managed to delete most of the guitars from the verses in 'War', or at least I hope they did, I mean Judas Priest wouldn't have submitted that as a complete song, would they?
Oh lord, there are a whole bucket load of iffy moments to be had with 'Nostradamus'. 'Pestilence and Plague' for instance, nice enough verses here but then an Italian chorus? Ew, if I was of Italian descend I would have much preferred a big sing along of;
"GREASY WOPS, GREASY WOPS, PIZZA PIE!". Xenophobic as that may have been, it's much less awkward than the novelty of an Italian chorus. 'Death' is a complete snorefest, this was one of the tracks I was exposed to prior to this albums release, at the otherwise fantastic Download festival performance. It's heavy and sinister I'll give them that, but completely lacking in that necessary black magic (not the chocolates) to make a sinister metal classic. But honestly, most of the whole first side of this is pretty much interchangeable in its blandness and overwhelmingly modern in its approach to shit. There are a few glimmers of hope every now and again but this is a Judas Priest album, even 'Ram It Down' had more killers than this!
But there are two excellent numbers on the first half of this incredibly overwrought album, 'Prophecy' and 'Persecution'. The former is a tacky, schlock-tastic song with a storming mid-paced riff that will fill up those arenas quite nicely. Halford's vocals are still in excellent form, albeit a tad raspy and are generally well accented by the cheesy B-movie keyboards that aren't too far from Geoff Nicholls' work with Sabbath. And of course, the chorus had us in all in a bought of laughter all over the world... brilliant stuff. The guitar break is nice too, recalling 'Defenders...' era stuff like 'Love Bites'. But it's a lulling you into a false sense of security, I suppose I shouldn't hear the first song of a record and go "Agggrh best album ever *insert band name here* are back!". 'Prophecy' begins with an atmospheric if slightly processed guitar motif and then settles into some comfortable speed metal, good stuff but hardly awe-inspiring, but by the low standards this album has given itself, quite enjoyable, especially in such a nadir of none-starters.
The second disc generally continues the album's true concept - the none-starter. But somehow it feels a little a better, maybe it's because you can see the light at the end of this dry concept album. After two go-nowhere-nothing-special Priest tracks, we get 'Alone'. This one is a nice anthemic balladic song, it does seem like it's trying a little too hard, but then again so does the whole album. Just before the five minute mark we get a nice little UFO reference, hear that? Pinched from the truly beautiful 'Love to Love' from UFO's 'Lights Out' album... yeah KK, I fucking spotted it. Ears like a hawk! Earlier in the song we get a nice bit of 80s arena metal Priest riffage which is pretty satisfying. 'Visions' is a standout here, something a little different for the band. This wouldn't sound out of place on any modern power metal album, for instance it's not far removed, stylistically at least, from some of the Deris era Helloween ballads. Still compare this to the truly moving 'Night Comes Down' or the psychedelic haze of 'Dreamer/Deceiver' and it falls far short of the immense emotional depth Priest have been capable with their ballads in the past. The title track is another good 'un, a complete retread of 'Painkiller' but enjoyable. The synths are well used here and Halford's quasi-operatic vocals are a nice touch (but don't you think it should go into the Gloria Gaynor song after the 'But I will survive!' line). It's very cheesy, even by the Priest's own standards, but somehow it works... maybe that's because we all loved 'Painkiller'. However, the timing of this being the first single has only gone to further undermine 'Nostradamus' as it's the only song of this sort on the album. Nowhere else do Priest achieve this velocity or bombast on this album... so it simply crushed the expectations of many fans.
Glen and KK do rip it up here with the leads, no surprise really. But then again guitarists often dig stuff like this to shred over. Give a guitarist a nice simple chord progression or riff to work over and they can really let rip (I'm not implying that they can't do this over more complex arrangements, mind you) . So in all actuality, this album is Glen and KK getting with the Joe Bonamassa crowd- boring songs and killer solos! Guitar World loves you!
The segues here are generally dull too, the only advantage they have over the rest of the album is that they're much shorter! So that's a positive I guess... I'm going to put this album up on the fridge, well done guys. A lot of the time the band are trying to capture that beautiful epic feeling of 'Children of the Sea', but the magic is gone, the dragon slain and the it's a complete case of déjà vu - it's been done before and it was much better. Conceptually this album doesn't achieve much either. The lyrics are generally poorly done. I've been told that this is what happens when Glen Tipton gets a big hand in writing lyrics, it happened with the Ripper era too. The rhyme schemes are painfully obvious... love/dove/above stuff, GCSE English fodder. Historical and literary lyrics have always been Iron Maiden's forte, so it is completely beyond me why the authors of 'Living After Midnight' decided to go down this route. Perhaps, it's a case of keeping up with the Harris'... but Priest need to come to terms with the fact they are Judas Priest, not a European power metal band and not Iron Maiden. However, this isn't the first time the two's careers have intertwined - from the synth experimentation, the dodgy replacement singers, the solo careers which both involved Roy Z and now the controversial reunion albums. In all these periods it seems Iron Maiden have come out on top, as their latest actually maintained my interest for more than one listen! Astounding!
'Nostradamus' is a functionless album- if I want a Priest album I'll listen to, wait for it, a good one and for the ambitious conceptual stuff I'll also want, shock horror, a good one! The idea of the double CD album has proven itself a bad one, again and again, see Helloween's third installment of the Keeper series for another example (though that is perfect in comparison to this the ugliest of Judas' ducklings). Artists seem to be taking the same amount of good ideas they would have used for a single CD and are dragging them out, with all means of padding and fluff, into ungodly lengths of time (I figure this thing takes more time to listen to than it actually did to write, you know copy and paste on the old computer recording tool). Hopefully, this idea of the double CD album will prove itself a teething problem of the 2000s and be what goldfish in platforms were to the 70s, Flock of Seagulls hair was for the 80s and what Courtney Love was to the 90s. Also the packaging sucks, especially for the £10 I shelled out for this and more importantly, I want the old Priest logo back!
First of all, I'd like to start by saying I'm relatively new to Judas Priest's music. Of course, I've heard their stuff before, but I've never really listened. I heard about this new album "Nostradamus" coming out... a concept album. 2 CD's... being hailed as a "Masterpiece". Just like everyone else, I heard the promo track "Nostradamus" on the internet and was banging my head and thrusting my horns. On top of that, being somewhat fascinated by ancient prophecies and Nostradamus my interest really started to grow, and upon it's release I bought my first ever Judas Priest record - and what a record it is! If you take this at face value for what it is, then you can really appreciate the greatness of this album.
I'd like to start by mentioning that Rob Halford absolutely tears it up on this - for a 56 year old man you've got to give the guy some credit. His voice is truly powerful and epic. There are some truly emotional and epic moments on here that make this record one to be reckoned with.
The music is relatively simple throughout. There are very few scattered dual guitar riffs, but when they do happen it is a feast for the ears. However, most of the riffs here are BAD-ASS. The opening riff to "Prophecy" is killer - even though it's so simple my grandmother could probably play it. Of Course, "Nostradamus" is the fastest and heaviest track on the record, but that doesn't mean the rest is bad.
Yes, there are a lot of slow songs here. At first I wasn't too impressed with them, but after a few repeated listens they grew on me, and now I can't stop listening. The melodies are simple yet memorable. The keyboards are atmospheric. The album probably could have been a lot shorter, and only 1 disc long... but in reality, there really is no bad material on this disc. Every song has it's place and is solid. I'm sure Judas Priest knew this and hence decided on the double concept album format. If that's the best way to express their artistic intentions then so be it.
So if you're a fan of MUSIC then I'd recommend this album. If you want fast head-banging metal front-to-back about chicks & booze then skip over this. It has an old-school metal vibe to it, great artwork, solid lyrics, and of course the performances by Halford and Company are excellent. Although a bit late, I now consider myself a Judas Priest fan due to this album, and have already collected some of their past albums. "Nostradamus" is a must own for any metal fan.
Judas Priest is without hesitation, one of the most influential heavy metal bands of all time. Many bands these days tries to play as Judas Priest, but it never is “the same” as it is with the metal gods. After been rocking for more than 30 years, the guys now decided that it was time for their first concept album ever, and what a fatal step that was!
We all know what Judas Priest does best, if you do not know, listen to their albums “Painkiller” or “Defenders of the Faith” as good examples. Yes, the answer is heavy metal in the classic Priest-ish vain. Therefore I was sceptic already when they first spoke about a concept album and that they were going to do it “big sounding”, epic and use keyboards + orchestra. It isn’t Judas Priest’s “thing”, was what I immediately thought, and the proof are the two CD’s that lies in my stereo at the moment. The latest JP-album called Nostradamus.
An album that clicks in over 100 minutes is what this is, and that is absolutely something this band has never done. This is such an album that contains too many songs for it’s own good (I count all these short intros/interludes). The purpose of these shorter interludes like “The Four Horsemen”, “Sands of Time”, “Peace” and so on is to make a nice atmosphere to the concept of the album I guess. But what they do is just being annoying. Ok if it had been one or two, but on here there’s nine and that’s too much and very unnecessary. I only find two of them good which is the intro “Dawn of Creation” (leads perfectly into “Prophecy”) and “The Four Horsemen” (leads perfect into “War”).
How many are the actual songs then? It’s 14 of them. Do they impress more? Some of them yes, but awfully too many of them, no. What most of the songs - and this album in general – misses is the “real deal”. Which means Judas Priest playing their classic heavy metal, what they are best at. I mean where are THEE songs? I can only find 5 songs on here that I can say are great, but the rest? 5 songs out of 23 that are good, sadly it’s a very bad result, people. These five great ones are “Prophecy” (classic, heavy Priest, possibly best song of the album), “Death” (Priest goes doom metal. Heavy stuff! Maybe a bit too long, though), “Persecution” (could’ve been on Painkiller), “Nostradamus” (Another very Painkiller-ish, with those awesome leads that’s missed through almost the whole album) and finally the ender “Future Of Mankind” (a heavy one with nice chorus, and a heavy mystical ending). They are the proof that shows the true Judas Priest and what they does the best...but they’re too few as you can see. The general feeling of the remaining songs is that the guys has focused too much on the orchestra-stuff and try to make them “fit into the concept”, making them atmospherical and so, instead of making actual good songs. They are very melodic and positive sounding. The choruses of most of them are very lame and almost poppy, while some can have nice verses. “Visions” and “Revelations” are such, and it only helps them reaching OK.
But listen to songs like “Conquest”, “Alone” and “New Beginnings” and I know that you WILL think what the fuck is this? I remember I did, and still does after many listens...especially “New Beginnings”, how could it have sneaked in under the name of Judas Priest? Some of these songs could easily have been on “Point of Entry” which has two good rockers, and the rest is something I can’t put a name on. These weaker songs mentioned above are brothers with for example “Solar Angels” or “You Say Yes”.
What’s as good as usual though is the performances of all band members, in all departments. Rob has worked really well with the lyrical content, and his vocals sounds great. I think he could’ve put in more “Halford screams” in there, though. Guitar-players KK and Glenn obviously, the best guitar-‘brothers’ in the world. Though there’s less blistering solos than we’re used too. That’s a big minus because those guitar solos are important in this band’s music. Scott does a solid job with the drums, a tad more finesse than on last album. The production of the album is quite thin with a quite bluesy feeling over it. Drums sounds a bit farty and in general it feels like everything is a bit pushed back to highlight the orchestras. It’s in the vein of the “Angel Of Retribution”-sound, though a bit weaker because of the orchestra-stuff maybe. I wasn’t too happy with it anyway.
I have really tried to “get into” Priest’s world of Nostradamus but I can’t because it’s not good enough. It’s very atmospherical and with well made orchestrations and so, but the album misses songs. I mean good songs. Eventhough there are some highlights on this album, it’s just not enough. I am disappointed with it and I hope that the guys will steer the ship back on the right course. They have now tried - and they’ve done it as they planned probably - to do a concept album with (for them) a bit more unusual material on. It’s absolutely cool that the guys are trying out things, but it obviously stands clear that this development done on here was wrong for them. This is not what I want out of one of the best heavy metal bands of all time. To develop doesn’t always mean it’s positive, remember that.
I must say that “Angel Of Retribution” was much better. That was a “safe-play” from the band ok, but at least it was good. And isn’t that the meaning with music? I believe so. But sadly, Nostradamus isn’t that.
Before I continue, I just need to inform you of the real track list.
1. Dawn of Creation / Prophecy
2. Awakening / Revelations
3. Sands of Time / Pestilence and Plague
8. Calm Before the Storm / Nostradamus
9. Future of Mankind
The track list shown above is Nostradamus. I don't know what was printed on the CD, but please ignore it. Now that I've wheedled out the shit, I may go on.
Nostradamus is a very ambitious project. Priest, a relatively simply, dare I say, primitive heavy metal band, is attempting to create a flamboyant and extravagant album filled with synthesizers, orchestras, and classical influences. What the hell? I personally loved the idea, but many questioned it. Why? I couldn't quite comprehend it. Well, after listening to Nostradamus many (and I mean many) times, I can finally understand why people had concerns, but why they should now feel free to forget them.
The album, as printed, is an hour and forty minutes long. The real album is 70 minutes long, but either way you look at it, the damn thing is long . . . which kicks off the first part of our discussion: where the album fails in most peoples' eyes.
First and foremost: variation. At times, the album is just too slow, and for an album as long as this, that is a serious problem. This is no Painkiller. The band made the terrible decision of releasing the fastest track from the album as a first glimpse which got people excited for another speed metal album, of which this is not. The song "Nostradamus" is in no way representative of the album as whole. Personally, I was hoping for a nice mix of fast and slow, and that's what I got, though there were times when I sat there waiting for a song to end. The mid-paced gallop can become very tiresome, and even worse, the slow-paced crawl during the second disc can become downright brutal. I'm looking at you, New Beginnings. There's not enough change to keep someone interested for so long without it becoming a grueling challenge.
Number two: the guitars are too soft. This album is from the same people that brought us Beyond the Realms of Death, Victim of Changes, The Hellion, Savage, A Touch of Evil, Hell Bent For Leather . . . all songs that rely heavily on the guitar. Yet, for some reason or another, they decided to make the guitars almost inaudible at points. And the guitarists are the ones who produced the damn thing! You'd think that they would want to be on top, which I personally would have much preferred, but unfortunately, they relegated themselves to the bottom. They're still there, and their solos still rock, but even with their presence, there lingers the feeling that Glenn and K.K. were not utilized to their full potentials. Even with this issue, though, they are still incredible. Listen to Prophecy, Nostradamus, or Future of Mankind and try to convince me that they aren’t. It’s just a shame that the volume is so low.
Now that I've covered the basic faults, it's only fair that I speak of where this album succeeds, and let me tell you, this album succeeds a lot. The two faults mentioned before, in honesty, really don't detract from the experience as much as other people make it seem. The addition of synthesizers was a brilliant decision, enabling them to create a unique atmosphere unlike anything they’ve done before. It really makes you feel as if you're witnessing the story right as it unfolds. It's incredible. The intros and interludes (of the good tracks) link the songs perfectly and allow the story to feel like one entity instead of a bunch of separate stories thrown together. The first couple of times you HAVE to listen to the album in order, otherwise the magic just won't be the same. Now with my track list I did kill off some of his visions, his wife and children’s death, and his second marriage, but they only serve to drag the story on. Do we really need four separate songs for the Four Horsemen? How about another song dealing with his visions? No. Like I said, what you see above is the real track list. It works much better this way and truly invokes the Priest magic. Oh, and speaking of magic . . .
Rob Halford. Throughout the entire album the man is simply phenomenal. I don’t think I have ever heard him sound better. This is no hyperbole, either, Halford sounds fucking astonishing. From his sinister, ominous tone in Death to his shrieks and screams in Persecution, he sounds completely unstoppable. Even in the songs that suck, Halford sounds unbelievable. He is a force to be reckoned with, and this album only serves to confirm his status as one of the greatest metal singers out there. This could quite possibly be the greatest performance in the history of his career. Yes, it’s that good.
In closing, Nostradamus is a damn fine album and one that you should not miss out on. The pros FAR outweigh the cons. Have a listen for yourself and you, too, will understand.
Now, I must address a possible discrepancy with the score. I would easily rate the track list that I have given you a 90+. However, I cannot justify giving Nostradamus the same score when I had to remove half an hour of the music in order to truly enjoy it. As such, I deemed it necessary to lower the score a tad.
-Synthesizers and orchestras add new dimensions to Judas Priest
-Rob Halford is incredible
-An hour of ten minutes of truly remarkable music
-The solos rock
-The lyrics are actually good
-Guitars should be louder
-Half an hour of the album sucks
I've tried twice before to review this; obviously both times prior were failures. I really feel strong for this album that I am not going to give up on getting through.
The album itself is quite hit and miss, the full power the album holds can only be sought if you listen very hard. The album itself quite long but the length though is not something to take to solely judge an album by, though it is quite a long album clocking over 100 minutes compare to Iron Maiden's "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son", that was only 43 minutes long and still delivered a hell of performance from all band members. Judas Priest's "Nostradamus" is different to that though, the way it delivers the story is more diverse and deep than "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" a lot of the songs are sang in the persona of Nostradamus himself, even if they are spoken in third person, lyrically the man telling the stories of the visions he has seen and the prophecies he has predicted is Nostradamus while in "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" only several of the songs were sang in the persona of the Clairvoyant character of the story in that album.
Because its different and that there's obviously so much to say, to tell about Nostradamus who unlike the character in "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son" was at one point real. While not exactly on the point of the music itself, the story of the album is very important. When it comes to concept albums the story needs to be well though of and the songs need to tie in with one and other to create the atmosphere and that is what the intro songs are for, it adds to the length of the album sure, but I feel that they're essential to keep the album tight and focused.
The music itself is indeed Judas Priest; there are elements of "Sad Wings of Destiny" and "Sin after Sin" I can hear in the darker slower songs such as "Death" and "War" with the likes of "Angel of Retribution" in songs such as "Revelations" still prominent. It’s a long album and you need to listen carefully to appreciate it, its pretty much one of those albums that grows on you over time.
Though the album has its good points with the story telling and the performance, I feel like there's just something missing from it, something that could turn this album from a simply epic album into a masterpiece of music that should be worshipped for many years to come, maybes a fast paced song to contrast with the slow and mid paced songs, or a song depicting about how to this day, the name and prophecies of this prophet are talked about, just as he himself predicted in the opening song "Prophecy", either one would have made a perfect finisher to the album.
Apart from the fact I feel it lacks in some category, its still a fine album by a fine band, the eerie lower tone of Halford's voice in the likes of "War" and "Death" literally send shivers down my spine and more or less reminds me for some reason of early Black Sabbath, with the "doom" element in the riffs of those songs. There are though, still signs of the Judas Priest sound old and new in some of the songs, "Revelations" sounds an awful lot like "Hellrider" from "Angel of Retribution" in the singing style for example and "Visions" sounds like "Solar Angels" from "Point of Entry" with the roaring guitars working together, whilst vocally it sounds a lot like "When the Night Comes Down" from "Defenders of the Faith".
So, even for a lengthy album, even after almost 40 years, Judas Priest still have the ability to make some brilliant music and its not everyday you hear Nostradamus being brought back to life in these songs. Though the album lacks in some departments, I still salute it, I still love it. Though, if asked, I wouldn't dare choose a favourite, for there are too many songs to choose from, though if forced I’d choose Awakening/Revelations, or maybe The Four Horsemen/War, I could go on and backtrack my decision, but its just too difficult to choose from an album where there are so many songs I enjoy listening to, and that at the end of the day is all that matters, as long as you enjoy listening to, doesn’t matter who it’s by or what expectations one previously had, if it’s enjoyable, it’s worth it in the end.
I can appreciate what Priest tried to do with this release – after the reunion album Angel Of Retribution, which was the textbook definition of ‘playing it safe’ albeit a solid release overall, they wanted to experiment. This album, as you’ve no doubt inferred, is a concept album about the prophet Nostradamus, who for those not in the know, was a 16th century purported prophet who made predictions, or quatrains, about major events to come – and whether or not you believe he was the real deal, some of the quatrains are adequately creepy in their similarity to the events that they supposedly predicted – so it’s an interesting lyrical concept and I’m glad to see a band as able as Priest take on the job.
What we have here is a massive album – it’s as long as a full-length movie and spans two discs, so you’re definitely getting your money’s worth in that regard – with a smorgasbord of mid-paced tracks and symphonic influences. So this could have worked out one of two ways: we could have here a sweeping, epic number that uses its symphonic elements in creative and moody ways, building up to majestic swells or brooding tones where the themes demand it, and a solid sense of dynamics between heavy and soft – or we could have an album that ultimately collapses under the weight of its own grandeur, unable to sustain such a lofty concept for its running time and songwriting style.
I’m sorry, Priest. But to me, this album is mostly the latter.
The biggest problem at work here is that the album, especially at the midsection, just drags on without the musical adventurism needed to sustain interest on repeated listens. Look at the song Alone, for example: it’s a number that gradually builds with some sweeping vocal work and tastefully-subdued guitar licks, and it could have worked in half its running time. There’s just not the diversity or freshness to sustain a seven-minute clock-in. Actually, many of these softer songs just aren’t up to par as stand-alone tunes. They’re the kind of thing that you’d see as filler on previous Priest albums, but here they’re placed at the forefront as the meat of the album. They’re formulaic in composition and performance, which gives me the impression that the band wanted to create something with an epic exterior whilst not putting forth as much effort to make it so on the interior.
Okay, so maybe that was a bit harsh; perhaps they really, really did try. Because there are a few points on this album where the whole mid-paced symphonic thing really hits home with exactly the atmosphere that an album like this deserves: take the excellent song Death (Title is about as subtle as a sledgehammer, but it’s lovable in its forwardness). Rob’s vocals in the first half go from a slightly regretful, but powerful and subtle rasp to the occasional high wail that hits on just the right emotional frequency. All the while, Priest’s beloved dual guitar attack is there in the background, pounding out doomy licks at just the right places, gradually building in intensity. You can almost feel the cold wind brushing through the nighttime cathedral cemetery, or the feel of the dark one’s scythe against the back of your neck. I typed that last sentence up just by closing my eyes and focusing on the music right now, so it’s very effective for me. The last parts of the song have this strong, sorrowful moaning illuminating the background under Halford’s increasingly-urgent vocal delivery – it’s a wonderful song, and something refreshingly different for Priest.
Unfortunately, Death speaks for the minority of the album. Many other mid-paced songs here suffer from being – I hate to use this term, but it’s honestly the best one I can think of – uninteresting at best, and not at all fitting with their supposed mood, at worst. Come on – far be it from me to tell a band as legendary as this how to write their music, but something like War would be far better served by being an aggressive, vicious thrasher, for example. Speaking of which…
I’m not ragging on Nostradamus for being a mostly mid-paced album. No, it just seems that Priest are out of their element, and it shows. Pestilence And Plague is a genuinely solid song, and guess what? It shows Priest in their more traditional element and rocks pretty hard. I’ll give the up-tempo title track a pass for pretty much borrowing the Painkiller riff in its verse, because the song is very good overall. Halford’s vocals take on a storyteller’s dynamic, shifting appropriately throughout the verses and chorus.
The band as a unit plays tightly. I was worried about Halford’s aging vocals after his performance on Rising In The East (Poor guy seemed like he was going to keel over during Painkiller), but he does very well here. His softer vocals have much more emotional depth here than on the band’s other albums, and his singing is the high point of the interludes – they do slow an already-dragging album down, but at least his vocals prevent me from writing them off as a total loss. The other band members don’t ever seem to go out of their way to really show what they’re made of, but their performance works.
The lyrical direction is something that I’d like to point out on personal preference. Ideally, an album about Nostradamus’s life would strike some kind of balance between his life, and the content of his prophecies. I can’t be the only one who felt that certain prophecies would make excellent stand-alone songs. Instead, we get a series of songs about war, conquest, pestilence and death, and otherwise only vague mentions of the fact that he has prophecies – otherwise it’s just a story about a man persecuted by the Catholic Church, which while interesting from a historical perspective, just can’t be the angle that the band hoped for. For what they are, though, the lyrics are eloquent and effective. So that’s just a personal point.
You almost had it, Priest. Much of the album suffers from not being interesting enough to keep one’s attention through a whole listen. Interestingly, Loch Ness from the last record was like a foreshadowing of this album: a unique and intriguing lyrical concept that nobody’s really dared to tackle before, albeit bloated more than Garfield the cat. But make no mistake, there are some gems to be had: the before-mentioned Death, Pestilence And Plague, the building Persecution, the well-plotted Revelations and the rousing title track, for example. This album definitely works better for me when the individual tracks are picked apart and listened to separately, rather than having to sit through much of the bloat. Die-hard Priest fans owe it to themselves to give Nostradamus a look. All told, I’m glad I bought this, because repeat listens – mainly, of individual tracks – have fallen in the album’s favour, so I amended my ranking of this album from a 65% to a 70% - to me, a low B and a commendable effort. If you’re just getting into the Metal Gods, avoid this album for now and pick up Sad Wings Of Destiny, Painkiller or Unleashed In The East. I went in with a reasonably open mind, but the problem isn’t with the direction – it’s the execution.
First up, let me state that I have nothing against the use of keyboards and symphonic elements in metal. And neither was I too apprehensive when I first read that Priest are going to go symphonic with Nostradamus- bands like Primal Fear have shown that Halford-like vocals can fit in snugly in power metal scenarios too. If bands such as those can pull it off, why shouldn't JP be able to, is all I thought. But now, after half a dozen spins, I've decided that this is the worst move that Judas Priest have made in their long and illustrious career. Showing Halford the door, albeit temporarily, was a masterstroke in comparison.
The biggest problem with this album are the intro pieces that precede most songs. None of them are memorable (read 'Embryo' from Master of Reality), and most of them are not even the right kind of build-up to the song that follows. It really is not enough if all the intro does is segue right into the next song - anyone with a basic audio mixing software can achieve that. And no, random keyboard melodies do not do the trick either. Nor does verses sung at one third the usual tempo. In fact, if you remove all the intros, and edit the songs a little, you'd have had a very good single-CD release on our hands.
Even the main tracks sound very formulaic, and not very different from a lot of power metal one comes across. Rob Halford sounds a jaded man, especially when singing the slow-tempo parts. He comes into his own during most choruses though. The guitaring on most songs is almost hidden behind all the bombast of the keyboards, and if you are expecting a whole lot of Tipton-Downing fireworks, chances are that you are going to be sorely disappointed. Scott Travis keeps time competitively throughout and does not do much else. As for the 'concept' of this album, there is not much scope for innovative storytelling and has a constant 'I told you so' leitmotif to it. Of course, when the story is about Nostradamus, there are not too many other themes one can explore. And my last, and trivial, crib are the song titles - very, very unimaginative.
In spite of everything, there are still a few positives one can find on this album. One - Judas Priest still knows how to make catchy music (Prophecy being the best example). Halford can still scream for vengeance (the title track Nostradamus has a couple of good ones). And on the song 'War', the band nails the whole atmosphere-building stuff quite well.
To sum it up - the Gods of Metal experimented. Things went 'poof' instead of 'bang'. I'm sure they'll change the ingredients a little, and get it right the next time.
Ok, I'll start this review by saying that this album is NOT a typical Priest album... I mean, its very different from their other albums and that's the main reason why some people don't/won't like it.
Now, is the fact that it sounds different from Priest's other albums a bad thing? In my opinion, it isn't. I've always been a big fan of epic music and Nostradamus is one of the most epic albums I've ever heard. Yeah, the music on this album is very epic and its also very melodic, in fact, Nostradamus is probably Priest's most melodic album.
Anyway, lets talk about the songs now. I'll skip the interludes because they are pretty useless, I mean, they aren't bad at all, but I usually skip them unless I feel like listening to the album all the way through.
The first song, Prophecy, is one of the best songs on the album, it reminds a bit of Angel Of Retribution, it has a great main riff that is used during the verses and the chorus, the pre-chorus is quite dark and I like it and the chorus is good, but its not one of the best choruses on the album. The next song, Revelations, is even better, the verses are very epic and I love them, the song is very epic and symphonic overall (but so is most of the album). War sounds more like an interlude than a real song, but its a great one, it does sound like a war song, the chorus is very dark, but its not very original, I mean, the riff during it is the typical dark metal riff (you'll understand what I mean when you'll listen to it). After that, we have Pestillence And Plague which is a favorite of mine, a lot of people don't like the chorus because its in italian, they think its cheesy, but personally, I think that its one of the best choruses on the album, its very epic and Rob Halford's vocals during it are great. Next is Death, its quite forgettable, but it has a few great parts, the riff at 2:12 really reminds me of Death (the band), I mean, in terms of harmonies (I'm sure that Death fans will get what I mean)... The part at 5:12 is the best part for me, the synth sounds great. Conquest starts with a pretty catchy riff and like Pestillence And Plague it has a very epic chorus. The next song, Lost Love, is the first ballad on the album and its definitely a great ballad! Its very soft, but its simply beautiful. I'm not a big fan of ballads, but this one is very good. The first CD ends with Persecution which is the heaviest song on the CD, its good, but to me its one of the weakest songs on the first CD... Its one of the songs that sound the most like typical Priest, but you know what? I prefer the epic sound of the other songs.
In my opinion, the second CD is nowhere as good as the first one. Actually, it mostly consists of ballads. The first song, Exiled, is good, but its nothing special really... The next song, Alone, is MUCH better! Actually, its one of the best songs on the album, its a ballad, but like Lost Love from the first CD, its a great one and it has a really memorable chorus (one of the best on the album). Visions is one of the first songs that we all got to hear, when I first heard it, I thought that it was average and I still think that its average... Like Persecution from the first CD, it sounds quite a bit like a typical Priest song, but its simply nothing special, the chorus is very generic... Next, we have, in my opinion, the weakest song on the album, New Beginnings. It isn't bad, but its very forgettable, its just a very average ballad. The title track starts in a very epic way, a lot of people don't like the intro, but personally, I love it! Anyway, its one of the heaviest songs on the album, the riff under the verses really remind of the main riff from Painkiller (which can be a good thing or a bad thing) and the chorus is quite catchy. The last song, Future Of Mankind, is one of the best songs on the second CD, its very epic and the chorus is not overly original, but I love it!
Now lets talk about the musicians. I've never really cared about Rob Halford's voice except when it goes very high, but I have to admit that I like his voice on this album a lot, he doesn't sing very high as much as on the other albums, but his voice is very poweful! We all know that Tipton and Downing are great guitarists, I've always loved their solos, but I must say that I'm quite disappointed with their playing on this album... Tipton's solos have always been very memorable, but his solos on this album are not very memorable. A lot of the riffs aren't really incredible either... I mean, the album has a few great riffs, but the riffs are not what make the album good (the melodies are)... Oh well, to add some positive, a couple of the songs have very cool melodic (melodies, harmonies, ...) sections. Scott Travis is a great drummer and I guess that he's great on this album, but I don't know much about drumming... Ian Hill, well, he's Ian Hill. Last, but not least, the orchestration/keyboard/synth on this album is one of the best things about it! A lot of people think that Judas Priest and orchestration don't go together and maybe they're right, but without the orchestration/keyboard/synth, this album wouldn't be anywere near as good as it is. Its an epic album, it needs orchestration. Seriously, do you really expect an epic album to consist of guitar, bass and drums only?
What about the lyrics? Well, honestly, they aren't bad, but they aren't great either, they're quite cheesy, but lyrics have never been Priest's strong point. Personally, I don't really care about them... Yeah, I realize that the album is a concept album, but the music is great, so I don't really mind the lyrics.
So, overall, Nostradamus is a great album. Its obviously not Priest's best album, but, for me, its better than Rocka Rolla, the overrated British Steel, Point Of Entry, Turbo, Ram It Down, Jugulator, Demolition and Angel Of Retribution. Like I said earlier, its not a typical Priest album, its more epic than heavy, but who cares? Just accept that Priest tried something different. Listen to it with an open mind like I did, don't expect a second Painkiller.
Best songs (in no specific order): Prophecy, Revelations, Pestilence and Plague, Conquest and Alone.
Weakest songs: Visions and New Beginnings.
Honestly, when this pompousness series took off, I never ever would've guessed that Judas Priest, the metal gods themselves, would ever release an album that would qualify to be covered. I mean really, what made the band special? Heavy fucking metal, speed, power, Halford's inimitable wails, Tipton and Downing's dual guitar attack, this was THE band right after Sabbath in the 70s. Sure, I understand they can never release Sad Wings of Destiny or Painkiller again, but they don't have to release garbage instead. Like most metalheads with an internet connection, I anxiously awaited the day the title track was streamed. Upon hearing it, I was completely stoked, it was a bit of a Painkiller rehash, but it was really fucking good. What's not to like? Judas Priest sped up again, nothing bad could happen. I resisted downloading the full leak and instead rushed out immediately after work on the day it came out to buy it. The last time I blindly bought an album, I wound up with Iced Earth's Framing Armageddon (the second installment of this particular series, actually), so you figure I'd've learned my lesson. Long story short, I haven't learned, and I probably never will.
Nearly everything that made the band special is gone. The solos are still there, but that's really about all that managed to sneak into the record. The majority of this album is midpaced and symphonic. While epic string sections aren't normally a part of Priest's repertoire, it isn't grounds for immediate hatred; but the fact that all but three tracks aren't even ear catching in the slightest, is actually offensive. Take note of these tracks, Prophecy, Persecution, and Nostradamus. Those three are the only three worth listening to, and Prophecy is more comical than balls out metal madness (seriously, I actually burst out laughing when I first heard that chorus). But again, just because a band that has been around longer than my parents tries something new, it doesn't make it terrible. There are very few riffs that even sound like they were written by Tipton and/or Downing. We all know what they are capable of, but it seems like they decided a project and concept as ambitious as this was above solid riffs, and instead needed a bunch of pointless string sections, piano, and synth guitars. What in the living dick were they thinking?
Let me take a small detour here and tell y'all a story. Back when I was about 12, I had some friends, two brothers of Vietnamese descent. The older was my age, and the younger was about 9 or 10. One day, the young one came running up to me, laughing his ass off. He explains that he just caught his brother in his room making his dick look longer by molding Play-Doh on the end of it. In essence, he was making a penis extension out of clay. I shared that with you because I believe that there is no better way to describe all of the goddamn pointless interlude tracks. They do nothing except make the album longer. They're pointless, they're impractical, they don't function, they're ugly, they are nothing but penises made out of Play-Doh. This is one of the exact reasons I disliked Nightfall in Middle-Earth, and yet Judas Priest apparently decided to emulate the album in both physical and spiritual form.
I say this because not only is it just a handful of mediocre and half assed songs mixed with a couple classics broken up by pointless interludes, but the story is completely convoluted and difficult to follow without prior knowledge of the concept. Nostradamus fares a little better here considering I knew the story beforehand, but it doesn't help that the album is arranged in a way that makes no sense at all. Why are there five tracks alloted to the segment about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? Was that even a big part in the life of Nostradamus? Why the hell is that section happening before he began making his quatrains? The story, while interesting, seems to be thrown together haphazardly and nearly ruins the album.
And what the shoddy storytelling doesn't kill, the uninspired and/or boring music definitely does. There is absolutely no reason for Death or Alone to be nearly eight minutes long, especially when they are as stupidly boring as they are. It seems like they never got the song lengths right, and it severely hinders a lot of the enjoyment. For example, War is only five minutes long, but you start begging for it to end after about two minutes, the track would've actually worked better as one of those fucking interludes I hate so much. And what's even more annoying is when they actually meld the interlude into part of the main song. This would usually be something I'd enjoy, as it'd eliminate most of the pointless bullshit tracks, but the only fucking song they do that on is one of the only good ones (Persecution), therefore delaying anything good from coming out of your speakers. Also, don't believe any of the hype about Halford's voice still being in top form, it's not. He sounds like he's either straining to hit some of the higher notes in his lower octaves, or he's trying way to hard to convey emotion. Listen to Exiled, Revelations, Lost Love, New Beginnings, or pretty much any of the songs I didn't mention as being good, you'll see what I mean. Alone stands as one of the few hard rock songs on the album, and while it's enjoyable to a point (the chorus is catchy, that's about it), it drags on for far too long. Most of the tracks tend to plod along and never really drive the point home.
What this means is that the highlights of the album are obviously the heavy metal monsters. The title track is a great song, and is definitely worthy of the Judas Priest moniker. Unlike twenty other tracks, Nostradamus doesn't meander about with boring riffs and sorrowful strings backing Halford's aging croons about whatever adversity he had to endure and whatnot. The title track actually starts off with a string melody and a really non-convincing emotional verse (you know, just like nearly every other song on the record), but after that it just fucking explodes. Rob Halford nails one of his trademark falsetto wails (the first time since Persecution nearly an hour beforehand) and the song just takes off. When you really break it down, it's just a watered down Painkiller, but that song is so damn awesome even watered down versions of it smoke most of anything else written nowadays. Even the synth guitar part about four minutes in that sounds like the boss battles from Final Fantasy VII is nothing but pure unadulterated asskickery. But again, this boot-to-ass mentality really only shines through here, Persecution, and the chorus to Prophecy, everything else is boring and just meanders about with no real purpose.
Honestly, only pick this up if you have the Judas Priest logo tattooed on your ass. If nothing else, check out the title track and the outro to Persecution, as they are the only parts of the album good enough to bear the name of Priest. I think it's about time for the guys to hang up their robes and call it a career. I have a bad feeling that they'll pull some stunt like play this album in it's entirety on tour or something, as they seem extremely proud of their newest creation. Maybe I just don't want to accept this new direction and will constantly pray for another Hell Bent for Leather, but I find it hard to enjoy anything besides a couple tracks here, and three out of twenty three is a really bad percentage.
Judas Priest- a name known by all metalheads. Releasing quality work like Stained Class and Sad Wings of Destiny, they helped define the image of metal. 3 years after releasing the ho-hum album Angel of Retribution, they have completely wiped the slate cleaned, using a new formula and releasing the concept double album Nostradamus. The music is something completely new for Judas Priest, and some hardcore fans may groan in nostalgia for the old Judas Priest.
However, they have nothing to worry about. The music is still powerful, as usual. They used an orchestra and keyboards for some of their songs, which is something definitely out of the ordinary. There are 23 tracks total, with most of them having short, 1-2 minute introductions. Of the 14 tracks that are not interludes, most are straight up heavy metal, while some constitute as ballads.
Now, onto the music itself. The first album starts out with a short symphonic introduction, then it goes into Prophecy, which is straight up metal. It’s got heavy riffs, and Halford show’s he’s still got that vocal range. It doesn’t feel like a traditional Judas Priest song- it’s got more of an epic and mysterious vibe. Solos are present, and then an acoustic, calm interlude comes up. The next song, Revelations, is full of energy. This is the first symphonic heavy metal song that pops up on the album.
The rest of the album continues in a similar fashion. An interlude with Halford doing his thing, following a kick ass song (in most cases). I have a problem with Pestilence and Plague though- the chorus gets repetitive and in my case, gets on my nerves. The first ballad on this album is Lost Love, which is a pretty slow, beautiful (if not cheesy) song. Overall, the first Act was pretty damn good, especially for a band as old as Judas Priest. Some favorites include Persecution, Prophecy, and Death.
The second album picks up where the first album left off. In this point of the story, Nostradamus has been tried at court, and is exiled. The album starts off with an ambient introduction, flows into Exiled, a slow, yet heavy, song. I personally found this unmemorable, but still decent. The next song starts off slow, then it starts to pick up the beat. It sounds like a traditional heavy metal song, but it doesn’t go with the flow in this album. Nevertheless, it’s still a fine song.
At first I thought to myself “WTF? The first part was awesome, what happened to the second part of the album?” But then the action starts kicking in, with Visions. It’s upbeat, full of power, and it’s very catchy. To me, this is when the second Act starts to pick up its act. The next few song follow the same, powerful formula, especially the title song and Future of Mankind.
And now to the lyrics. All I can say is WOW. I’ve never known that Judas Priest can write lyrics and intelligent as these. Not that they don’t make good lyrics, it’s just that these are…amazing. I give my kudos to them. Just read them over, and they revolve around an interesting concept- Nostradamus’s life, his life after he was exiled, his death and how the world realizes how right he was; these people had to do some research on his life.
Get this album. It’s a great album made by the legends of metal. It has great music and lyrics. Other old and legendary bands have made some pretty good albums in their later years (Iron Maiden, A Matter of Life and Death; Celtic Frost; Monotheist), but you’d never believe that after over 40 years, Judas Priest still have it, and they still deliver.
Pros- new formula (maybe not a pro for some) which feels powerful, Prophecy, Revelations, Visions, Nostradamus, Future of Mankind, first Judas Priest concept album, Halford still has it.
Cons- Too many fucking interludes, more solos here and there wouldn't hurt.
First of all I want to say that Iron Maiden and Judas Priest are my all time favourite bands. I just begin with this statement to make clear that it’s really hard for me to be so critic with a Judas Priest album. Believe me, I don’t like to say this, but “Nostradamus” goes directly to the bench where my least favourite Judas Priest albums lie (“Rocka Rolla”, “Point of Entry”, “Jugulator” and “Demolition”). Is this new album “that” bad? In my opinion it is. Nothing should be working well if, since the first listen, I considered “Nostradamus” as one of the worst five albums in the historic career of this British institution.
I really adore Judas Priest, and I received Rob Halford’s reunion as a great happening, as I’ve been listening to them since 15 years ago and I never saw the “classic” line-up back in the day (now I’ve solved this problem, with the exception of Dave Holland). “Angel of Retribution” was a really solid album, offering some of the elements that we expected from Priest: fast cuts, some great Heavy Metal riffing, catchy choruses, the typical ballad… and after all it was a really good Heavy Metal album in the Priest tradition.
What happens with “Nostradamus”? As something has to happen with it, as my first moment of joy came with the last song of CD 1, “Persecution”, after almost 50 minutes of music (and don’t think that I’m referring to this song as an outstanding tune, no, it can only be considered an acceptable track).
My first thought goes directly to this fact fact: Judas Priest never did a concept album. And it’s even worse if we realise that this is a double album. This fact should obey to a good reason: they don’t know how to do concept albums. They’re one of the best bands in the world writing Heavy Metal hits, but this task seems to be far from their possibilities.
Second fact: A concept album can work if you also include good songs on it. Will someone say that “The Clairvoyant”, “Can I play With Madness”, “The Family Ghost”, “Sleepless Nights”, “I Want Out”, "Eagle Fly Free", “Chainsaw Charlie (Murders in the New Morgue)”… (just to name a few) can not stand by themselves? “Nostradamus” has not one single song to be considered as an outstanding track, worthy of being included in a set list with hymns as “Painkiller”, “The Sentinel”, “Electric Eye”, “Breaking the Law”… (I can go on for hours).
Third fact: The album ends being boring. Most of the songs have a mid paced rhythm that makes the structures really monotonous. The best Priest albums usually were a good combination of fast Power Metal songs, Heavy Metal anthems and some melodic mid tempos and ballads. “Nostradamus” lacks of this “variation” offered in previous albums presenting a really boring dynamic for most of the songs.
Fourth fact: If the songs are boring, what can I say about the interludes? They slow down the album dynamic even more. Really slow melodic pieces guided by Rob’s vocals, quite beautiful, but they insist in the global softness of the whole album.
Fifth fact: The keyboards. Their presence is predominant during the 23 songs, sometimes even bringing the band close to Symphonic Metal. This is another element that contributes to make me think in “Nostradamus” as a bland, boring and uninspired album that won’t be well accepted by most of the traditional Priest fans.
Rob’s performance during the whole album is excellent. We have to take notice that his voice does not sound as 20 years ago, but he perfectly knows how far he can go, showing a really professional and consistent work in all the songs. Rob’s vocals are probably the highlight of the album. What about the rest of the guys? Unfortunately I have to say that “Nostradamus” won’t trascend as one of the best performances given by Glenn, K.K. and Scott. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with them, they are really skilled musicians, but the album lacks of brilliant moments in the instrumental aspect, we won't find killer guitar solos, thundering drumming... I’m not forgetting Ian Hill but, as everyone familiar with Priest should know, he has always remained in a second level in the instrumental weight of the band.
Even the production sounds a bit lifeless this time. I’ve compared this album with “Angel of Retribution”, listening to both in a row, and their previous effort roars like a thunder compared with “Nostradamus”.
After all, in my opinion, “Nostradamus” can only be considered as an album for the Judas Priest completists, all the rest won’t find anything particularly interesting here. Those braves who want to listen to the whole album in a row, will have a hard time arriving to the end, but that will be a mistake as the best songs can be found in CD 2.
Believe me, it’s really hard for me to write a hard review about Judas Priest but, after giving some opportunities to the whole album, I don’t think that I’ll change my mind on “Nostradamus”.
And one more thing, what the hell have they done with their logo? The cover art is so terrific…
Highlights: Persecution, Alone, Visions, Nostradamus, Future of Mankind.
Low points: all the rest.