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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.