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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.