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First up, let me state that I have nothing against the use of keyboards and symphonic elements in metal. And neither was I too apprehensive when I first read that Priest are going to go symphonic with Nostradamus- bands like Primal Fear have shown that Halford-like vocals can fit in snugly in power metal scenarios too. If bands such as those can pull it off, why shouldn't JP be able to, is all I thought. But now, after half a dozen spins, I've decided that this is the worst move that Judas Priest have made in their long and illustrious career. Showing Halford the door, albeit temporarily, was a masterstroke in comparison.
The biggest problem with this album are the intro pieces that precede most songs. None of them are memorable (read 'Embryo' from Master of Reality), and most of them are not even the right kind of build-up to the song that follows. It really is not enough if all the intro does is segue right into the next song - anyone with a basic audio mixing software can achieve that. And no, random keyboard melodies do not do the trick either. Nor does verses sung at one third the usual tempo. In fact, if you remove all the intros, and edit the songs a little, you'd have had a very good single-CD release on our hands.
Even the main tracks sound very formulaic, and not very different from a lot of power metal one comes across. Rob Halford sounds a jaded man, especially when singing the slow-tempo parts. He comes into his own during most choruses though. The guitaring on most songs is almost hidden behind all the bombast of the keyboards, and if you are expecting a whole lot of Tipton-Downing fireworks, chances are that you are going to be sorely disappointed. Scott Travis keeps time competitively throughout and does not do much else. As for the 'concept' of this album, there is not much scope for innovative storytelling and has a constant 'I told you so' leitmotif to it. Of course, when the story is about Nostradamus, there are not too many other themes one can explore. And my last, and trivial, crib are the song titles - very, very unimaginative.
In spite of everything, there are still a few positives one can find on this album. One - Judas Priest still knows how to make catchy music (Prophecy being the best example). Halford can still scream for vengeance (the title track Nostradamus has a couple of good ones). And on the song 'War', the band nails the whole atmosphere-building stuff quite well.
To sum it up - the Gods of Metal experimented. Things went 'poof' instead of 'bang'. I'm sure they'll change the ingredients a little, and get it right the next time.