“Nostradamus” by Judas Priest

Album: Nostradamus
Artist: Judas Priest

The wait is over, the Metal Gods are back in 2008 with a monster of an album. Nostradamus is a concept album that tells the story of the prophet Nostradamus and then life without him after his exile and death. The album is a massive 2 CD set that runs about 1 hour and 42 minutes. The album has been kept under wraps for a while now, with two tracks (Visions and Nostradamus, both from the second disc) being released to the public but other information being kept quiet. But how does the album as a whole stack up compared to other monumental Judas Priest albums like Screaming for Vengeance and Painkiller? Does it wear out it’s welcome by the time the second CD stops spinning? Does Judas Priest still have it in them after being together since the 70s?

The first thing of note will be the totally different instrumentation on the album. Rather than pounding drums, crunching guitars and vocals that are screamed like they are from the depths of hell itself, the album starts off rather mellow and it takes a few songs to really kick off. The blistering solos, powerful percussion and ominous voice you have come to know and love from Judas Priest are still there, but the album spends a lot of time with a kind of cheesy fake orchestra of sorts. A few moments stand out, such as the haunting organ during “The Four Horsemen” but you can tell that the orchestra is the product of synth and electronics rather than very old instruments. It feels like something that would come out of the 80s.

Whether this is a good thing or not is for you to decide. The main driving point of the album is the story and the audio theatrics to tell the story, rather than every song being a speed demon. Some of the songs could stand out on their own but for the most part this is an album you’ll probably want to listen to all the way through, or not at all. This isn’t an album for the iPod generation. For me this is kind of a good thing because I like it when artists don’t compromise their vision to make an album for people with ADHD. For those who don’t really have almost 2 hours to spend listening to the album, then take it one disc at a time.

To put it in a comparison, let’s take the album Stadium Arcadium by The Red Hot Chili Peppers and compare the two in terms of length and what works. At only 1 hour and 22 minutes, it is shorter than Nostradamus but it feels as if it goes on for much longer. Before you even reach the second disc it already feels as if Stadium Arcadium has worn out its welcome, mostly because the songs aren’t being driven by a story of any kind and it just feels bloated. Nostradamus on the other hand is narrative driven and has some place to go, and it doesn’t feel like it is stretching out too long because of this. So again, the length will only be a problem if you really aren’t into the narrative.

One thing many Priest fans will notice is how singer Rob Halford’s voice does not take too many extreme turns from low to high as it used to. This is no doubt partially his voice wearing down with age. His voice still maintains a heavy presence throughout and on a few songs he really gives it his all. K.K. Downing’s and Glenn Tipton’s guitarwork tends to be up front in the mix, and displays a mixture of drone chords, melodic Odes and fierce solos. Bassist Ian Hill provides a solid if not sometimes scattered texture. Drummer Scott Travis has a rather chilled out role in this album, some songs lacking drums for minutes at a time. Put together the band is still the same group you know and love, but a bit slower.

Your enjoyment of Nostradamus will come from several factors. Are you willing to sit and listen to the whole thing at once or do you only want a few songs out of your purchase? Are you willing to accept that this is not as fast and drilling as other Judas Priest albums are? If you can find the time to enjoy this monster of an album and are welcome to something a little different from an old favorite band, then you are in for a treat. For those of you who are new to Judas Priest, this album is a much different one than their usual sound and I encourage you to check out British Steel, Screaming for Vengeance, and Painkiller. Those three albums should give you a good idea of where they have come from and why this album is so different from their earlier works. Nostradamus is a solid album that, while long is a ride worth taking.

Nostradamus is available in the US and Canada now.

Published in: on June 17, 2008 at 5:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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