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JUDAS PRIEST Nostradamus Sony/BMG 88697315592 (2008)

Judas Priest

The metal gods return with their latest opus, the second featuring the returned Rob Halford. And many traditionalists will be in for a little bit of a shock, for this is Priest's most ambitious album by a long way.

Back in the late 70s and early 80s, no-one on earth could rival Judas Priest for the 3 minute catchy classic metal hit single; this 2CD (running at around 100 minutes), however, is a concept album based around the life and works of the title character. Musically and lyrically it moves on from 'Angel Of Retribution', in depth and intelligence, and features as much power metal and prog metal as their trade-mark trad metal. Never have Judas Priest been so consistent from one album to the next, or throughout one whole album.

The concept itself is fascinating when you go into it in depth, with the man often struggling for personal and professional acceptance as a practitioner of medicine and as foreseer. Losing his first wife and children to the plague all add to a turbulent life.

The band are particularly proud of this, and rightly so. With no promo or advance copies available, I was allowed to listen to this at the Sony offices in Putney, London; just me, the 2 discs and a set of very loud speakers (wouldn't want it any other way really).

There are many intros, with short almost poetic lyrics and soft, acoustic and building guitars. Darker than most is the opening "Dawn Of Creation", which thunderously leads into "Prophecy". Lyrically this is an intro to the whole concept. The guitars nod at late 70s and early 80s Priest, with some mainstream Halford vocals. And what is clear from the start is the emphasis on power over range. While Halford's wide range is utilised, there are not the extremes, so no "Exciter" or "Painkiller" here. Think power and clarity.

"Revelations" is the next main track, a more melodic feel circa 'Ram It Down'. This stands out with the superb guitar solo, and some nicely layered keyboards too. Again, these are provided by Don Airey, with both Tipton and Downing working in some guitar synths as well as their duelling guitar work.

"War", for which there will be a video, is a more thunderous, and by their standards a little slower, a solid marching pace.

The next intro, "Sands Of Time", nods at "Victim Of Changes" before we get the more operatic "Pestilence And Plague", the strings and keys working better than you could ever imagine just by describing it here. Similarly the piano in "Lost Love", as close to a metal ballad as Priest have ever achieved.

Of the 13 tracks on Disc 1, the closer "Persecution", is the kind of Priest a lot of fans will recognise. Fast, furious and an instant classic. Certainly a track I am looking forward to seeing the band play live.

Judas Priest

Disc 2 opens with "Solitude", which leads into "Exiled"; another melodic yet heavy number that sees Rob Halford excel in both range and power. It also shows the rhythm section of bassist Ian Hill and drummer Scott Travis providing some excellent work. If anything, this album shows how Travis has really developed, fitting in with the Priest sound completely.

"Visions" and "New Beginnings" are again excellent tracks , the former featuring some chunky riffs, the latter a real lyrical story.

The title track "Nostradamus" highlights the big sound, the big production, and the strength of the song writing. Along with "Persecution", very likely to quickly become a live favourite.

Finally is the 8 minute "Future Of Mankind" which closes the album and concept well.

Throughout the one and only run through, I have to admit to being taking in by it all, almost numbed, it wasn't until afterwards that I realised just how good an album it is.

The band, as a five piece, have come up with 23 fantastic songs with performances and concept to match.

Some may argue it's all rather too ambitious, too dark, a development, but for me a definite success.


Review by Joe Geesin

Best of 2008

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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