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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.