Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should: Judas Priest’s ‘Nostradamus’

‘Nostradamus’ finds Judas Priest dabbling in the rock opera arena. It’s a 2 CD set based on the life of the titular 16th century supposed fortune teller, and the result is like a Broadway musical for headbangers. It’s still indisputably a Judas Priest album, but the band has modified their sound considerably. Priest has moved away from the speed metal sound they’ve cultivated since 1990’s ‘Painkiller’ in favor of a sound closer to power metal bands like Nightwish or Savatage by way of Andrew Lloyd Weber. The band probably uses keyboards and synthesizers more prominently here than they did on ‘Turbo’, and there’s also a good bit of orchestration and choral backing vocals. Despite that, ‘Nostradamus’ actually sounds more organic and less overproduced than most straight forward rock bands on the radio these days, so kudos to Priest guitarists Glen Tipton and K.K. Downing for an excellent production job. Disc one starts off strong with “Prophecy” and “Revelations”, a pair of theatrical rockers as good as anything the band has done. There’s also “Lost Love”, a nice ballad that lets Halford show his melodic side, and the hard charging “Persecution”. Disc two provides some decent numbers as well, including the catchy “Visions” and the title track. Between those highlights, however, the album gets bogged down with too many mediocre numbers that serve no purpose other than exposition. I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually listen to a heavy metal album for the plot. I’m not surprised that a lot of Priest fans have been less than thrilled with ‘Nostradamus’. 2005’s ‘Angel’s of Retribution’, which saw the return of vocalist Rob Halford after a 12 year absence, was very much in the “classic” Judas Priest mold. That’s definitely not what we have here. I actually like what Priest is going for with this album, but at almost 2 hours, bloated doesn’t even begin to describe it. Still, buried beneath the bloat there’s some worthy additions to the band’s oeuvre, and for open minded Priest fans I would give this a moderate recommendation. To get a taste for yourself, check out the video for the song "War" on Youtube.

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