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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.