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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.