JUDAS PRIEST – Nostradamus

JUDAS PRIEST - Nostradamus
  • 9.5/10
    JUDAS PRIEST - Nostradamus - 9.5/10


Release Date: June 16, 2008

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Michel de Nostredame (1503 – 1566), more commonly known as Nostradamus, was a French apothecary and reputed seer during the French Renaissance who published collections of prophecies that have since become famous world-wide. Nostradamus is best known for his book Les Propheties, and over the years has attracted an enthusiastic following who credit him with predicting many major world events. Les Propheties contains 1000 QUATRAINS, or predictions of undated future events. Back in his day, some thought Nostradamus was a servant of evil or perhaps insane, while segments of elite society thought his quatrains were spiritually inspired prophecies — influenced by post-Biblical sources, as Nostradamus himself was indeed prone to proclaim. During those times, the Catholic Church had been known to render extremely harsh punishments against “peculiar” thinking and actions, and Nostradamus lived with persistent concern of being accused of heresy by the Inquisition, but luckily neither prophecy nor astrology fell within the Inquisition’s wheelhouse, and being a pretty smart individual Nostradamus avoided the true “danger” of the time by not practicing “magic” to support his predictions.

Nope, not everything was shits and grins for Nostradamus. At that time in history THE PLAGUE seemed to run rampant and always seemed ready to strike when least expected. In fact, Nostradamus tragically lost his first wife and 2 children to this feared disease of unknown origin. Also, Nostradamus was briefly imprisoned a few years prior to his death because he had published his 1562 Almanac without the prior permission of the Bishop, which was contrary to a royal decree that he may have not fully understood. Overall, though, his actual relationship with the Catholic Church as a prophet and healer was surprisingly excellent, and Nostradamus’ position in society was of high esteem; he was respected by many — even by royalty.

Fast-forwarding to present times, Nostradamus and his QUATRAINS have received much attention in 2001 for allegedly predicting the New York City Twin Towers Terrorist Attacks. Intrigued by the mysteries behind this man, his profound works, and his impact on society over the centuries, Judas Priest found motivation in Nostradamus compelling enough to create a full-blown 2-CD concept album memorializing his life, strife, and accomplishments. Although always willing to delve into new and creative ways to convey and portray Metal, needless to say this Nostradamus release presented a truly monumental challenge for Tipton, Halford, and Downing … a challenge that they met head on.

Concept albums always sound like a “great idea” on paper, but present a plethora of challenges to songwriters … especially in the Metal genre. Somehow a story with continuity has to be sketched out and told … and somehow relevant music has to be meshed together and woven into that story. To boot, for a concept album to be truly enjoyable, certain aspects of each song, while telling that story, still have to display lyrical rhyme and the music has to still “feel good” and sound “catchy” to a listener’s ears. With so many moving parts and inherent barriers, a concept album is not an easy task to say the least, and even more difficult when dealing with a complex character such as Nostradamus!

But, as Metal fans throughout the world know so well, if any band could pull it off, it would be the Metal Gods themselves, Judas Priest! Always revered – always respected – Judas Priest have for years been considered one of the most intelligent bands in all of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Boiling it all down, the quick of it is Judas Priest have put together nothing short of a true Metal Masterpiece in Nostradamus – call it Metal Art, if you will.

The release is divided into 2 Acts, or 2 CDs, and the intro “Dawn Of Creation” sets the tone with slow, methodical power and mystery. As the volume builds, the sounds shift into an anticipatory off-kilter note pattern, which is not too dissimilar from the note pattern found in the movie The Exorcist. “Dawn Of Creation” gives way to the first full-length track: “Prophecy,” which is arguably the best track on Nostradamus. Halford essentially introduces Nostradamus through this track in the first person, sounding much like a Menacing Mysterious Master Wizard himself. Right out of the shoot, it’s easy to tell the direction the band is taking with this album … this isn’t “traditional” Judas Priest to say the least. “Prophecy” and most songs on Nostradamus are slow to mid-tempo, and the attitude and personality of this compilation froths with Ominously Dark Doom (coupled with a tad of reverence towards Nostradamus) … but the structure of the songs is so much more complex and well-rounded compared to Doom Metal Masters such as Black Sabbath or Candlemass. You’ll find orchestrations periodically, atmospheric keyboards (synthesized guitars?), and some piano work. The variable instrumentation is so incredibly well-thought out and seamlessly intertwined into each song – so many sounds and so many distinctive settings have been created by the band … yet all of them are meshed so perfectly into a Doom Metal framework. It’s pure genius … and unequivocally outstanding! Although miles away from “Livin’ After Midnight” or “Turbo Lover,” Tipton and Downing never forget their Metal roots in these musical compositions, or the fact that Metalheads are going to be the ones who will ultimately be buying this album … just be prepared to hear some of the most impressive guitar work ever created by this duo during the musical passages and solo interludes. There are so many great solos in this 2-CD set that it’s hard to single out “the best” of the lot, but for starters, check out “Revelations” from Act 1 and the title track “Nostradamus” from Act 2 – however, you’re sure to enjoy so many others in-between.

Even more impressive than the musical soundscapes of Nostradamus by Tipton and Downing is the lyrics-writing by Halford. In one sentence, Halford simply out-did himself on Nostradamus! The story line is complex, yet easy to understand, and Halford completely mastered the art of combining poetic meter in the rhythm of the album’s lyrics, while also finding ways to form catchy, rhyming couplets amid fairly complex and non-conventional language. Check out “Alone” and “Visions” from Act 2 to get a feel for Halford’s writing accomplishments. Nope, these songs don’t follow the path of say “Hot Rockin’” from Point Of Entry or “Eat Me Alive” from Defenders Of The Faith … instead they come across as completely inspired, creative, scholarly prose and poetry. Nostradamus took a ton of time to write and complete for Judas Priest, and in following along with the lyrics sheets, you’ll soon appreciate why. Again, simply outstanding!

Halford too isn’t afraid to show he still has full control of his vocal range and capacities. Many over time have wondered (perhaps wished) that Halford would take a crack at singing Opera … well, that wish comes true at certain junctures within Nostradamus (“Pestilence And Plague” and “Nostradamus” being prime examples), and fans will be pleased to find out that Halford can indeed stand toe-to-toe with the best in that genre as well! Yep, the lyrics are outstanding, and Halford sells them all with conviction, personality, and pure, unadulterated vocal talent.

Ian Hill’s bass fills sound great and full throughout Nostradamus too, as the production quality of this release is of the highest quality, but perhaps the only “surprise” when listening to this album is the work by Scott Travis, who by all standards may in fact be the most talented drummer in all of Metal. The slow to mid-tempo pace of each song tends to keep Travis a bit in the shadows this time around. He sounds great throughout each song, but he never truly flexes his muscles in the same way Tipton, Downing, and Halford do throughout this release. In the end, the decision to keep him a bit in check was probably the “right” move, as the personality of each track simply doesn’t call for barrier-breaking percussion work.

Overall, Nostradamus is not for the faint-of-heart Metal fan. This is a 2-CD set that needs full attention from the listener to completely absorb and appreciate – not exactly a perfect fit for those who simply want a casual Metal experience. Listen to Nostradamus with the lights out, at a time where you know you’ll have no interruptions, and preferably with a great set of headphones. What you’ll find is a true musical masterpiece … true Heavy Metal Art … an album conceptualized and written by true Metal Icons … performed in a way that truly has never been attempted, much less accomplished, by any band in the past. Buy it now … and ENJOY it for a lifetime!!!


  • Dan Skiba

    Dan is a former partner at Metal Express Radio, and also served as a reviewer, photographer and interviewer on occasions. Based out of Indianapolis, USA he was first turned on to Hard Rock music in the mid-1970s when he purchased Deep Purple's Machine Head as his first album. He was immediately enthralled with the powerful guitar sound and pronounced drumbeat, and had to get more! His collection quickly expanded to include as many of Heavy Rock bands of the time that he could get his hands on, such as Ted Nugent, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath, to name just a few.

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