“Nostradamus” by Judas Priest

Artist: Judas Priest
Title: “Nostradamus”
Label: Epic Records
Release Date: 6/17/2008
Genre: Heavy Metal
Rating: 4/5

For over thirty years Judas Priest has been delivering the goods for Metal fans around the world and with each album seems to find new and interesting ways to keep their music relevant for an ever changing genre and its listeners. Their last album found the official reunion with lead singer Rob Halford and thus “Angel Of Retribution” was presented to a very hungry audience that had longed for the sound and voice that had been missed together for a number of years. Heavy touring followed the release and it was some time before a new album would come to pass but when the band disclosed the information about it, the Metal realm stood a bit stunned. No, they would not do a cover album, or an acoustic one for that matter and this could have easily been the case since I have to admit that both of these options has been par for the course these days. Instead they would announce that a double disc effort was being planned and that it would be the bands first ever concept album. The subject of the concept would be the enigmatic prophet Michel de Nostredame who history refers to as “Nostradamus”. If you know anything about the historic individual then you will probably immediately realize that such a task in the musical sense would be nothing less than epic in scope and should you be among those who don’t have any idea about him then I suggest that you search a medium like Wikipedia to be brought up to speed before you continue on. The album would simply be titled “Nostradamus” and find Judas Priest presenting their music on a grandiose scale like never before. Holding strong on two complete CD’s of music the album is a tad daunting when it comes to reviewing its subject matter and the melodies that bring it to life because there is so much detail and a hell of a lot of story to absorb and read about. The journey into the past begins with lush orchestrations and Judas Priest has never really used this aspect before so it was interesting to find it being done here. The album also marks the return of the guitar synthesizers that so many of their fans loved on the “Turbo” album. Of course there is nothing “commercial” about “Nostradamus” and these elements are used to some positive effect in terms of setting up the performance and its dramatic mood about the man and the mythical nature of his gifts.

As you begin your listen, I suggest that you first give the album a spin with an open mind and without looking too deep into the lyric book because sometimes the best way to enjoy an album is to just kick back and listen to it before you over examine it. What we find in the story that is presented about Nostradamus, is that such a complex individual finds the band delivering an equally complex storyline for their fans. It begins with his early life as the man known as Michel de Nostredame discovers his gifts and starts to compose his quatrains of prophecy. One can imagine that being such a person of apparent mystical ability during Europe of the 1500’s would have come with more difficulty than good and this is indeed what he would experience. There are songs about some of the quatrains and how they related to catastrophe, war and plagues of the world and there are even moments where they speak of his innermost feelings of love and feeling alone despite the great gifts he possessed. Like I said, this was deep and well-thought out stuff. The feeling that one gets when the album starts off is that you are bearing witness to some big theater production or major motion picture as opposed to listening to a Heavy Metal band who is raising their own personal bar. There are moments of heaviness throughout the album but this is not really something along the lines of “Painkiller” or “Screaming For Vengeance”. There are no “hit singles” per se and to really appreciate what they have done the listener needs to understand that skipping around the album is not really going to allow them to get the picture or even understand what the band wanted to present. The effort is quite mature and will most likely annoy those fans that just wanted to find the band kicking ass with head banging numbers from beginning to end. If you are one of those types of fans then I fear that what is happening on “Nostradamus” might not be for you so maybe you should stick to the classic material until whatever the album after this comes to pass. However, should you be one of the bands hard core supporters who will give everything that they do a chance, then I suggest that you proceed because while I am always charged for a head banging track I was finding myself fascinated by the sweeping storyline and all of the roads it took me down. The musicality of the guys is as good as ever but the key standout element is just how incredible Rob Halford is on every single track. He sings with passion and fire and reminds us over and over why we refer to him as The Metal God. Some of my favorite tracks are “Prophecy”, “Visions”, “Lost Love” and the title track “Nostradamus”, and while everyone will find preferred tracks of their own, I must say that these only came to me after completing the release after two full listens.

The bottom line is that this is Judas Priest, and that with any new music from them we will always find someone who has a problem with this or with that. Let’s face it, there are probably people who loved “British Steel” so much that they felt “Screaming For Vengeance” was too over the top. Personally, I felt that the band not only did an incredible job but made a bold statement in tackling something like this when they very easily could have taken the quick formulaic road. Their plan is to take the entire album out on tour and then play hits which I don’t necessarily agree with. Some might recall Iron Maiden doing this for “A Matter Of Life And Death” in 2006 and finding their tour being met with mixed opinion and much disappointment. What I would like to see Priest do with “Nostradamus” is a limited tour of mid-sized theaters where they can set up a full production and record it for release on DVD. Perhaps Apocalyptica would be a perfect opener for that idea. Once done, they can return to touring the arenas with material we have loved and held close for decades as they continue to add new songs to their list of hallowed Metal numbers. The CD comes with some liner notes and all the lyrics for the songs in the standard edition, but there is also a deluxe version that comes in a mini-book which details more about the man called “Nostradamus”. The question remains as to whether or not his gifts were factual, or were these quatrains merely translated and interpreted to suit specific situations that happened in the world. Perhaps after a little research you can better decide for yourself.

Track Listing:
1. Dawn Of Creation
2. Prophecy
3. Awakening
4. Revelations
5. The Four Horsemen
6. War
7. Sands Of Time
8. Pestilence And Plague
9. Death
10. Peace
11. Conquest
12. Lost Love
13. Persecution
14. Solitude
15. Exiled
16. Alone
17. Shadows In The Flame
18. Visions
19. Hope
20. New Beginnings
21. Calm Before The Storm
22. Nostradamus
23. Future Of Mankind

Official Website: http://www.judaspriest.com
Official Website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nostradamus

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