Released: 2008, Epic Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com Staff
EvilG / Rating: 3/5
When I first heard that Judas Priest was doing a concept album, I was stoked. When I heard it was about the life and prophecies of Michel de Nostredame (Nostradamus) I wasn’t so thrilled. Predicting the future with vagraties that are interpreted to suit recent world events is nothing new as the credulous have been doing this with his works for years. Storyline aside, I figured, ‘this is Priest, their music will crush, Halford will unleash some Painkiller-esque screams and all will be well.’ I couldn’t have been more wrong!
The problem is, I’ve never been a big fan of ballads and slow plodding songs and this album has WAY too much of it. I wouldn’t mind if even ½ the album was mid-paced but there are so very few fast or even rockin’ songs. Disc one is clearly the better of the 2CD set, but is almost as torturous to listen to as this review is to write for this Priest/Halford fanboy. The closing two songs of CD2 are excellent, but too little too late. Glenn and K.K. still show they have plenty of chops and their solos are inspired. But what happened to Scott Travis? We’ve heard his amazing drumming particularly on PAINKILLER and with RacerX but on a lot of places here he sounds about as inspired as a drum machine. Was he forced to play things so tame and boring? Also, what happened to Rob’s “freewheel burning” wail? Sure he’s still a god and his normal voice is better than most, but his scream is his signature! Can he not hit the highs so much anymore? According to reviews from the last Priest tour he was able to so I’m puzzled. Another of the big changes is the inclusion of a lot of keys and orchestration. This is something I have no problem with and was actually looking forward to since so many other metal bands have been doing this for years with stellar results. However with Priest, the orchestration didn’t really add to the heaviness nor do they prominently accompany the very few heavier songs on here.
For a band that is the definition of heavy metal, Nostradamus is a letdown. I plan on making my own mix of the 2 CD’s with all the pap, intros, and ballads removed. That way I’ll have a CD with a handful of godly tunes on it and I won’t be reaching for the skip track button. It’s either that, or the album will be shelved and collect dust for all eternity.
WASPMAN / Rating: 4/5
Well, here we are after an agonizing three year wait, and the new ambitious Judas Priest album is upon us. Given that ANGEL OF RETRIBUTION was, aside from a couple of song, basically a solid return to form for the band, all of their talk of a large-scale concept double album was a bit worrying. Now that NOSTRADAMUS has dropped, how does it fit in? I have already seen wildly divergent reviews, ranging from “Godly!” to “This shit is worse than TURBO!”. Well, after listening to the album constantly since I got it, it’s safe to say that NOSTRADAMUS is NOT what anyone was expecting, or even wanting, from the mighty Priest. Then again – it’s also impossible for me to say it’s a bad album.
Right up front I’ll say that yes, the album is a bit lacking in the pure Priestly metal department. There are arguably only two songs that truly let it rip: “Persecution” and the title track. The rest of the 21 tracks are a mixture of slow to mid-paced metal, ballads, and interludes. As you might expect, this kind of brooding metal, laced with keyboards, orchestral parts, and a huge dash of pomposity has led many to claim that Priest have lost it. Oh contraire, says I. To these ears, NOSTRADAMUS, for all its pretentiousness, is perhaps the freshest Priest album in years. Our man Halford is absolutely on fire, and while he doesn’t let fly with as many ear-piercing screams as he once did, he uses is amazing vocals to full effect. The songs themselves, despite being different, are incredibly catchy, and the interludes, while perhaps too numerous, actually enhance the album...as opposed to Manowar’s GODS OF WAR nonsense.
Basically, this album is a grower that will take time to fully absorb. Take a step back, accept that it’s not as immediate as ANGEL OF RETRIBUTION, DEFENDERS OF THE FAITH, or STAINED CLASS, and listen. In the final sum of things, NOSTRADAMUS stands proudly as an excellent addition to the Judas Priest canon.
Lord of the Wasteland / RATING: 2.5/5
At this point in their career, really, what does Judas Priest have to lose? They’ve made their fortunes, can rest easily on the residuals of past classics and their reputation as one of the pioneers of heavy metal is forever forged in steel. Following 2005’s ANGEL OF RETRIBUTION, the competent, if not completely predictable and formulaic return of the classic lineup, Judas Priest could have easily gone back to the drawing board and churned out another paint-by-numbers Priest platter that would have satisfied its hordes of fans.
Instead, we have NOSTRADAMUS, a sprawling two-hour exercise in bombast, over-indulgence and pomp that chronicles the life of the sixteenth-century French prognosticator. Nostradamus, who some believe predicted such future scourges on humanity as Hitler and the 9/11 tragedy, is a curious subject for the band to take on and they must be commended for such an ambitious work as NOSTRADAMUS is. The album is magnificently produced, packaged and performed by all involved. The problem is that, like many concept albums and even moreso, double-length ones, there is just too much filler here. NOSTRADAMUS could have easily been whittled down to a single-disc release that would have made it much stronger and certainly given it more chance to be sought after for repeated listens. I can’t imagine anyone poring over the Judas Priest catalogue and thinking to themselves, “BRITISH STEEL, DEFENDERS OF THE FAITH, HELL BENT FOR LEATHER….mmm, nope, I’ve gotta hear me some NOSTRADAMUS!” Hell, I’d go for the slick, over-produced and painfully dated RAM IT DOWN over this bloated mess (NOTE: as bad as NOSTRADAMUS is, POINT OF ENTRY remains the biggest skid mark on Priest‘s otherwise flawless career)!
What ultimately sinks NOSTRADAMUS is the fact that somewhere along the line, the band forgot to bring the metal. KK Downing and Glenn Tipton’s trademark licks and axe wizardry are all but forgotten here. In its place is keyboards, keyboards and more keyboards. Choirs, string sections and good old-fashioned cheeseball schmaltz are all given the keyboard sample treatment reducing most of the twenty-three tracks to limp Broadway fodder that would embarrass a hack like Andrew Lloyd Webber. In truth, there are only ten tracks here that any Priest fan would openly admit to even listening to. In fairness, when the band is on, it is on. Tracks like “War” with Scott Travis’ thunderous battle drums and the Candlemass/Sabbath-doom vibe on “Death” show adventurous sides of the band, while the trademark “Priest-isms” are everywhere on “Persecution,” “Prophecy,” “Nostradamus” and “Future of Mankind.” Even some of the more grand ballads like “Alone” and “Exiled” work as they did so long ago on “Victim of Changes.” The title track features a “Painkiller”-like riff and Halford’s sole blood-curdling scream giving many who first heard this “leaked” track months earlier a sad misrepresentation of the album as a whole. It is the other moments that are all too prevalent that bog things down. “Pestilence and Plague” and “Lost Love” are embarrassingly bad with overwrought choruses and Rob Halford’s once mighty screams reduced to over-emoting and bad theatrics. By the time “Hope” and “New Beginnings” start to show a light at the end of this very long tunnel, many will find themselves asking, “This is what all the hype was about?!”
With an average age of fifty-five, the members of Judas Priest may be preparing to ride off into the sunset and it would be a travesty to go out with NOSTRADAMUS as its coda. The sad thing is, the band most likely see this as the penultimate zenith of their artistic career and on one hand, one could put the details aside and just look at the breadth of NOSTRADAMUS and chalk it up as a jewel in their crown. On the other hand, certain expectations are in place. This would have been a great solo album from any of the members (okay, bassist Ian Hill is, as usual, nowhere to be heard) but under the moniker of Judas Priest, an experiment like NOSTRADAMUS has no place. It’s a wonder Nostradamus himself didn’t predict this mess because if he had, maybe Judas Priest would have seen the writing on the wall. Unfortunately, this album will go down as one the most colossal mistakes of 2008 and certainly the most disappointing album of Judas Priest‘s long and storied career.
KILLER KUTS: “Prophecy,” “War,” “Death,” “Conquest,” “Persecution,” “Exiled,” “Alone,” “Visions,” “Nostradamus,” “Future of Mankind”
Chaosankh / Rating: 2.5/5
You have to admire the ambition it must take for Judas Priest to produce an album at this point in their career that truly attempts to redefine who they are as artists. Unfortunately, what the metal community has been waiting for since Rob Halford rejoined the fold is a classic, fist-pumping, metal record in the vein of classics like SCREAMING FOR VENGEANCE, BRITISH STEEL, or PAINKILLER. Like ANGEL OF RETRIBUTION, NOSTRADAMUS is not that record. Instead of driving drum beats, fast riffs, blazing guitar solos, and Halford’s high pitched screaming, we get expansive, epic, orchestral, and drawn out compositions filling out a tiring two discs of material. The first thing you will notice as the mid-tempo track, “Prophecy” gets under way is that Halford’s voice is about gone, sounding more like Edith Bunker when he reaches for the high notes than the signature fire siren from years ago. You will also probably have to restrain some chuckles at the ridiculousness of the lyrics – “I am Nostradamus, do you believe.” Lyrics aside, although the album is not reminiscent of the Judas Priest we know as fans, it can be somewhat interesting at times, and it seems to be skillfully composed. “Revelations” is a great track musically, that features some of the best guitar work on the album, proving that Tipton and Downing still have the chops, even though they rarely flex their shredding muscles on this record. If not for the robotic, chord-following melody over the verses, this track could have been one of the only great moments on the entire album. Some of the dullest moments of the Judas Priest canon fill out the album, especially tracks like “War” and “Death,” that do little but drone on, save the last minute or so of “Death” which shows some life with a tempo change and some decent soloing. After a tired ballad, “Lost Love,” disc one wraps with a rare flash of the blade, “Persecution,” which actually gets the blood pumping, reminding the listener of the guts and glory of the old days. If one was non-plussed by the first disc, putting in the second disc may not be worth the time as it is very low key, and it is not until the second last track, “Nostradamus,” that things pick up with perhaps the album’s most signature Priest sounding music. Unfortunately, the song itself is ruined by the repetitive name chanting in the chorus. After over an hour and a half of mid-tempo drudgery and short, useless segue pieces, the end result of the album is one that is rather depressing. Clearly, they had lofty aspirations for the album, and it is well-produced, succeeding in capturing an epic feel. Ultimately, though, it fails to excite, and leaves you still waiting for the album worthy of Rob Halford’s return.
Luxi / Rating: 4/5
To make a long rant short about Priest´s much-talked new album NOSTRADAMUS, I simply found this concept album about Nostradamus a great listening experience for myself. And yes, no doubts - it´s a very different Priest album compared to the rest of their albums they have recorded thus far during their whole career. It reeks of epicness, tons of atmosphere, lotsa sheer power, yet it undoubtedly takes more time than those regular 2-3 spins to get into it completely, and feel comfortable with it (I admit, I´m still struggling with this part a little bit, too). I remember when I gave my first couple of listens to the album, I was still in a somewhat confused state on what to think about it all. However, as some sort of a reference point going back in time to the year 1986, it was not as a confused feeling as it was with Priest´s TURBO album when I first heard it. Even TURBO grew on me after letting myself fully get used to it within enough time. With NOSTRADAMUS, reaching the point of almost complete satisfaction happened easier and faster than with TURBO, believe it or not.
This is also the first time that Judas Priest have incorporated so heavily - and in such a large scale, all these symphonic elements into their songs. In my opinion that´s what you need to do in order to make a powerful and convincing enough concept album about one of the most talked persons of the whole history of mankind, Michel de Nostredame. I think Priest have done lots of justice to their concept album about Nostradamus, building up their sound toward whole new spheres where they have never been that determinedly yet so fully before. Of course, this is what may divide Priest fans to two different categories, but risks are made to be taken. In NOSTRADAMUS´ case, the risks the band has taken have well paid off for them on the album in my opinion - and Rob´s skills as one of the greatest voices in heavy metal, are still unquestionable. His voice also has much more drama than ever before on any other Priest albums. But yeah, to make a long rant short, a great fuckin´ Priest album. Love it more and more day after day...
My favorite cuts so far: "War" and the title "Nostradamus".
Celtic Bob / Rating: 3.5
For most, this release was highly anticipated but for the rest of us it gathered slight interest. Once I put it on it sounded very interesting and the Priest I knew and loved seemed to be back as albums like PAINKILLER and everything I heard after did absolutely nothing for me. The overall sound was similar to old 70’s and early 80’s era Priest, just updated without losing the feel. Halford is singing allot more now as compared the past few years where he did more of those insanely high screams which got old real quick.