Andy Bell/ Torsten The Bareback Saint

Torsten the Bareback Saint

Torsten The Bareback Saint is an episodic song-cycle written by Barney Ashton-Bullock and Christopher Frost for Andy Bell, the lead singer of the synthpop duo Erasure.

The song-cycle was first performed in the studio of the St. James Theatre, London on Thursday 24 July 2014 in front of an invited audience of family and friends. It was performed for a second time on Saturday 26 July 2014 for a small gathering of Erasure fans. These were try-out shows before a near two week run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where the show was performed at the Assembly Studio One venue daily from Tuesday 5 August 2014 to Saturday 16th August, 2014 inclusive.

The show purports to be ‘a set of musical postcards from the hotspots of memory’ of a semi-immortal polysexual.[1]

A soundtrack CD and download of the song-cycle was released on Monday 28 July 2014 on the SFE (Strike Force Entertainment) label of Cherry Red Records as Andy Bell is….. Torsten The Bareback Saint.

Andrew Ivan “Andy” Bell (born 25 April 1964) is the lead singer of the English synthpop duo Erasure. His solo career includes the albums Non-Stop and Electric Blue.

The Analysis—-

Freshly—-The content of this brief interlude is uncomfortable and decidedly gay [SURPRISE]…but it is always nice to hear Andy and his voice in a different context…this leads us to…

Teacher, Teacher—- this track as well…has underlying messages that remind me of experiences from my life somewhat uncomfortable…but Bell….allows his voice to take on that theatrical element…making me smile to myself. Minimalist and bare…the voice is all that is necessary…..

Free—-Quiet and full of underlying blips that are Erasure sounding o me, Bell is at his best here…unconstrained and comfortable…I don’t really understand the whole concept of this record…but anything new is welcome…I love this. The double tracked vocal is classic….filling me with a sense of joy.

Star For Life—-Full of camp and classic lines that Bell cold include on any Erasure single, this is almost brilliant to me. This man has a remarkable voice and the double entendres are classic gay life! There are some nice Erasure sounding keyboards….making me feel very happy…this is a stage play come to life.

Bingo Hall Baby—-With a slight blues lean, this only proves that Bell can deliver any kind of music that he prefers to do. This is full of camp and references to gay life…it is worth a huge listen if you are a fan and so inclined.So theatrical and gay!!!! Remarkable.

Fountain Of Youth—-Subtle and quiet piano ushers i this epic track [7 minutes]. The entire thing is a stage play come to life through music that is full of hints and clues that only those of the lifestyle can understand. Bell delivers such a strong vocal…making me sit here with a slight smile on my face as he seems to be so at home with the content and the message. This is entertaining if nothing else.

World Without End—-Brief and full of theater piano….this is stripped down and sounds like a Patti LuPone song…I’m just laughing…..I LOVE THIS!!!! Never thought I would hear Andy proclaim FUCK ME!!!!!

V For…..?—- Subtle violins….a pretty interlude that allows Bell to sing wonderfully campy and actually utter the word VAGINA…..oh my!!!!

I Don’t Like—-Quiet piano moves us forward and the gentle strains of the violin usher in Andy and his remarkable voice. It seems effortless for this man to tell a story with just his voice…this is remarkable and pretty. Powerful and subtle….the turning of the Shrew…lol!

Mobile—-Static and full of sarcastic vocals, Bell fits in with this story perfectly. This is not a CD you will listen to everyday…or ever…but it is a nice addition to the collection of the mans body of work. This is pretentious….unpretentious….sarcastic and biting….just about brilliant!

The Boy From The Sauna—-This is decidedly gay and unapologetic….only other gay people can understand all of the underlying references to the habits of closeted gay people in the search for sex. This is perhaps the most brilliant move Bell has made beyond singing with K.D. Lang!

Weston-Super-Mare—-Not understanding what this entire thing is all about, I can only appreciate the vocal and the over the top delivery…more over the top than usual…lol…this is a pleasant and interesting listen.

[We Waited For] The Circus—-Not to be confused with the classic Erasure track, this is fun and interesting. Full of a tuba and classic Circus noises…a Gay Mans adventure in the back tent. This is almost as magical as Wllie Wonka!!!

Good Things—-Gentle and full of the changing life that many Gay people feel…when the youth begins to shift and people no longer wish to be involved because you cease to be one of the beautiful people…this is a journey…interesting to say the least.

People Come. People Go—-Sparse and with little fanfare, this track leans back o the familiar piano line that seems to run through this entire opus. This is sad…but enlightening. Bell double tracks his vocal…giving the entire thing a fuller sound!

Don’t Call Me Up—-With a scratchy record sound in the backdrop…this makes me think of Elsa on American Horror Story. The loneliness and the longing almost takes over my headphones…the doubt…the longing…the letting go and obtaining….such is the life we live. This is an incredible song!

Tell Me The Story—-Fucking hilarious as the lyrics are recited. This is a encapsulation of classic gay life that perhaps no straight person could ever understand. This has every cliche’ and innuendo possible shoved into 2 minutes or less…just brilliant!!!

This Gay Thing Isn’t Working—- We have been there if we have lived this life for any period of time…this thing just is not working. I feel the frustration and the loneliness….or I did….until I gave it time to work. The song becomes a huge romp all of the sudden….becoming a huge electro-disco affair…this is brilliant!

Aflame—-Sounding like a classic erasure track at the beginning, this dissolves into another piano laden Broadway inspired ode to the gay life and the cost of heartbreak and despair…lets hope this ends up with a happy ending….just don’t see that happening though!!!

Mr. Average—-Isn’t this is what happens when you become older in this lifestyle….sooner or later, you stop chasing the wonderful people and instead accept life and love as it is…we need love and people like ourselves…we can’t chase the wild dream any longer…we accept the love we are given….I love the line….’remember when the Pet Shop Boys were still new?’

Is It Not Enough?—-Brilliant…..Bell hits notes I have not heard in years!!!! Who even knew he could still do that? Brilliant….exuberant and sad at the same time….this will not end wonderfully well…..

As I Prepare To Take My Life—-Ending on a very sad note…the music betrays the sadness that is portrayed. But life does not end that way…I am living proof…y life is happier and more joyous than ever. Now at 51…I beg for 50 years more…..I Am not a saint…but I am happy.

***1/2 out of 5

Cradle Of Filth/Hammer Of The Witches [Deluxe Edition]

Hammer of the Witches

Cradle of Filth are an English extreme metal band that formed in Suffolk in 1991. The band’s musical style evolved from black metalto a cleaner and more “produced” amalgam of gothic metal, symphonic black metal and other extreme metal styles. Their lyrical themes and imagery are heavily influenced by gothic literature, poetry, mythology and horror films.

The band has broken free from its original niche by courting mainstream publicity (often to the chagrin of its early fanbase), giving the band a “commercial” image. This increased accessibility has brought coverage from the likes of Kerrang! and MTV, along with frequent main stage appearances at major festivals such as Ozzfest, Download and even the mainstream Sziget Festival. They have sometimes been perceived as satanic by casual observers, even though their outright lyrical references to Satanism are few and far between; their use of satanic imagery has arguably always been more for shock value rather than any seriously held beliefs.

Hammer of the Witches is the eleventh studio album by the English extreme metal band, Cradle of Filth. The album was released on July 10, 2015 under Nuclear Blast records. Hammer of the Witches is the first release with the band’s new line-up, which includes new guitarists Marek ‘Ashok’ Šmerda and Richard Shaw and new keyboardist & female vocalist Lindsay Schoolcraft. The first single and video for the track “Right Wing of the Garden Triptych” was released on Thursday the 14th of May.

The Analysis—-

Walpergis Eve—-The typical interlude instrumental that serves to set the tone before the mayhem ensues, this is almost predictable but also pleasant as hell…this leads us into….

Yours Immortally—-As predicted, it is not long before the shit hits the fan. Dani is in perfect voice…alternating between guttural growls and hell inspired screams. The guitars….sound way at the front of the mix….the playing is fast and powerful as hell. The band seems to have a new energy that is /was needed. This is classic stuff…the sound effects and the huge chorus is incredible….

Enshrined In Crematoria—-Deeper guitars introduce this track, but soon familiar sounds abound. Giving off a musical Maiden vibe, the voice enters and reminds us where we are. The remarkable vocal is just incredible. How does this man sing like this…and how long can he continue to do it. This is brutally fast…Dani fits so many words in a single sentence I wonder how the hell he remembers it all. This is laden with a swirling keyboard sound in the backdrop….makes me feel comfortable and at home.

Deflowering The Maidenhead…..—-Sounding a bit familiar with the guitar line, this is none the less huge and stellar. The downshift of the guitar allows for the blood curdling scream that introduces this 7 minute opus. Dani sounds more possessed and driven than I have heard him sound in a very long time. it seems his musical output just gets larger and larger….where does he get the energy and imagination. The screams on this track are so pitched and incredible…the moods of the music moves quick from one realm to the other….this is a stellar composition. this gives us the first small snippet of the new backdrop female singer that this band always seems to have. There are guitar solos….frenzied drumming and an energy that is overwhelming.

Blackest Magick In Practice—-Beginning still and with a female vocal, the music enters with a bit of a deeper sound that seems to downshift continuously. This is remarkable…there is a darkness that last just a bit before the madness continues and takes us on another journey of darkness. Every song seems to be a separate but cohesive journey into darkness. The drums are just masterful on this recording…..hoping to catch this entire thing live again this go around.

The Monstrous Sabbat—-Again with the gentle introduction that we all know will never ever last. There is a beauty at times to this bands music and the recipe they have written works remarkably well for them. This interlude leads us to the title track…..

Hammer Of The Witches—-Muscular and full of traditional full on metal sounds. the underlying keyboards gives the song an orchestration that works with the bullet fast drumming and brutal guitars really well. This is remarkable…Dani never falters. The galloping guitars are classic Cradle…this is a brilliant song…one of my favorites from this release.The female vocalist enters…sounding exactly like that bitch that was on the last Dimmu record…ugh!

Right Wing Of The Garden Triptych—-Ah…the female keyboard vocalist…not nearly as strong as anyone they have had singing with them in the past. The music swirls around you in a wonderful manner though….then the maniacal guitars join in the fray. this is brutal…fast…lethal and delivered with a madness that makes you want to smash your forehead on the wall. This has many moods and shifts…just what the Dr. ordered. I love the marching sound of the music underneath at times. The growls are incredible…the screams classic. This is CRADLE!!!

The Vampyre At My Side—-Dark and beginning like a classic funeral march, my only complaint is that we have heard this all before…but that is why we keep coming back…right? The music picks up speed at a maniacal pace and you are transported down and almost musical tunnel that takes your eyesight. When Filth grunts…it is pretty incredible…this is brutal yet very accessible. I love the hell out of this band.

Onward Christian Soldiers—-Not to be confused with THAT song….lol. beginning with another gentle introduction, there is little rest for the wicked. The organ sounds that are emitted are soon overwhelmed by manic drumming and huge blistering guitars. The voice is perfect as always and the keyboards that run underneath give the whole thing an undeniable melody….I swear!!! At 7 minutes long, you get about every single thing that Cradle has to offer…all in one song. There is mayhem…orchestration…keyboards…a drummer on too much energy drink and a guitar delivery that is insane….not to mention Dani…out of control…but controlled at the same time. Just incredible!

Blooding The Hounds Of Hell—- ending the proper release as it began…with a gentleness that belies the power of the band…this has been an exquisite journey!

King Of The Woods [Bonus Track]—-Huge and noisy, this has a Dimmu styled orchestration that lies underneath all of the guitars and drums. This is a fantastic song…making me glad I spent a dollar more. The downshift of the guitar carries over into the vocal and the female backdrop voice is stellar. Bout time we heard it properly. The screams put me in a different place…this is just incredible…should have been on the CD!

Misericord [Bonus Track]—-Although there is little new here, the chance to have extra tracks will always be a wonderful thing. This is muscular and potent..the bass downshift gives the song an eerie evil sound….and Dani just adds to the affair. This has been an epic journey…..so happy to have this 11th release!

****3/4 out of 5

Billy Idol/Kings & Queens Of The Underground {Deluxe Edition]

Kings & Queens of the Underground

William Michael Albert Broad[1] (born 30 November 1955), known professionally by his stage name Billy Idol, is an English rock musician, songwriter and actor. Born in Stanmore, Middlesex, Idol first achieved fame in the punk rock era as a member of the band Generation X. Unlike other British punk rock artists of his era, Idol was inspired by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.[2]

Idol then embarked on a successful solo career, and was a member of the MTV-driven “Second British Invasion” of the United States.[3] A series of music videos for songs such as “Dancing With Myself“, “White Wedding“, “Rebel Yell” and “Eyes Without a Face” made him one of the first MTV stars. Idol continues to tour with guitarist Steve Stevens.

The Analysis—-

Bitter Pill—-Having been an Idol fan for a very long tome, I was really geek-ed for this release. The guitars that open the first track are as strong as anything Stevens has done…the voice though seems a bit thin and weak. The melody that plays throughout this track is very nice…the content and the mood seems to show the age of this artist. I don’t hate it…but was hoping for something stronger. Even the scream is a bit too forced.

Can’t Break Me Down—-This track begins with a bt more electricity but becomes a rather mellow track.The band seems to compensate for a weaker vocal with more melodies and background harmonies. Idol barely sounds like himself on this track…the voice seems so different and weak. The song…lyrics and music, are damn catchy though….it will pass.

Save Me Now—-There are snippets of the old days on this track. When Idol delivers a deeper singing voice, he is at his strongest. This is just so laid back and rather quiet though. Where is that energy and that anger? I guess we all become older and more mellow. There are bolstering background vocals giving the song a fuller sound. Great drums also.

One Breath Away—-Another bit of a disappointment for me once again. The saving grace for this entire bunch of tracks are huge choruses and fantastic guitar melody lines. This song is so quiet…when Idol proclaims he is ‘so angry’, I just don’t buy the sentiment.

Postcards From The Past—-Some really nice intro sounds to begin this track, but it quickly dissolves into the sound alike recipe that this entire release is comprised of. There is little in the sound to remind us of the past. This was produced by Trevor Horn…perhaps that is the problem. The chorus does open up nicely with some rather nice guitar from Stevens…saves it from the bargain bin.

Kings & Queens Of The Underground—-Another odd introduction to a track that I hoped would blow my face off…this is not like the Gen X days…instead a simple forlorn ode to the glory days that no longer exists. I would hardly consider Idol a king of anything…let alone the underground. This is just an ode to the way things used to be…..days gone by.

Eyes Wide Shut—God…it is incredibly hard to get through this release. Every song sounds like the track that preceded it. The content is all the same…the melodies become boring and the recipe does not even need writing down..its not that wonderful. The balls have been replaced by an old man mentality.

Ghosts In My Guitar—-Do you recognize a pattern here? Even in the song titles!. This is another syrup laden track that lacks substance and meaning for me. This seems to be a tribute to Tony James from his past band. The sentiment is nice enough, but any one who has followed Idol knows of the existing acrimony between those two.

Nothing To Fear—-With a slight echo running through the vocal, this track appears a bit larger than it actually is. This is yet another lackluster attempt at remembering the old days and wishing that yo were not 60 years old…you are and the old days are exactly that…move on Billy.

Love And Glory—-A rather subtle, acoustic intro ushers in this track. It is hard to think of Idol singing songs to girls these days…but he sure tries. This is the same…the same…the same. This CD is just one long, long song.

Whiskey And Pills—-Finally a track that comes close to kicking my ass. The guitars and the bass line are incredible. The vocal is so familiar and welcome at this point. I feel like some one gave me fresh air to breath at this point. This is a stellar track….it rocks out and romps through the landscape like a wild horse. This is fantastic….really…it took this long?

Hollywood Promises [Bonus Track]—-One bonus track on this so-called Deluxe Editon…that sounds exactly like the rest of the release. This has been a disappointing release to say the least. I tink my obsessive following of this man and his band may have reached its conclusion.

** out of 5 

Iron Maiden/ From Fear To Eternity 1990-2010

From Fear to Eternity: The Best of 1990-2010

Iron Maiden are an English heavy metal band formed in Leyton, east London, in 1975 by bassist and primary songwriter Steve Harris. The band’s discography has grown to thirty-seven albums, including sixteen studio albums, eleven live albums, four EPs, and seven compilations.

Pioneers of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Iron Maiden achieved initial success during the early 1980s. After several line-up changes, the band went on to release a series of US and UK platinum and gold albums, including 1982’s The Number of the Beast, 1983’s Piece of Mind, 1984’s Powerslave, 1985’s live release Live After Death, 1986’s Somewhere in Time and 1988’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Since the return of lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith in 1999, the band have undergone a resurgence in popularity,[1] with their 2010 studio offering, The Final Frontier, peaking at No. 1 in 28 different countries and receiving widespread critical acclaim.

Despite little radio or television support,[2] Iron Maiden are considered one of the most successful heavy metal bands in history, with The New York Times reporting in 2010 that the band have sold over 85 million records worldwide.[3][N 1] The band won the Ivor Novello Award for international achievement in 2002. As of October 2013, the band have played over 2000 live shows throughout their career. For the past 35 years, the band have been supported by their famous mascot, “Eddie“, who has appeared on almost all of their album and single covers, as well as in their live shows.

From Fear to Eternity: The Best of 1990 – 2010 is a compilation album by British heavy metal band Iron Maiden, containing a selection of songs originally released on their last eight studio efforts to date. The title is lifted from the 1992 single, “From Here to Eternity“, although it is not featured in this release.

The Analysis—-

The Wicker Man—-Heralding the return of Dickinson back into the Maiden fold, this was classic Maiden. The voice was incredible and the guitar orchestrations of the expanded band were huge. the content was as you expected…a bit futuristic…mysterious and relying on the material Dickinson sang about during his solo career. This has all the elements of a classic Maiden composition.

Holy Smoke—-Although the music is very familiar and accessible, I never cared so much for the vocal on this track. The evil tones that Bruce displayed were much different than things on previous tracks from the band. The sound is so familiar…but I think in the back of my mind that this is the sound of a band slowly imploding and needing a break. I like the song…just not stellar…for me at least.

El Dorado—-Even the beginning of this track seems to be a bit off….I was not happy with the sound….although you know Harris was very much in charge when you hear that familiar galloping bass line that permeates every Maiden track. I don’t care for this track…the vocal seems flat and uninspired…like the commitment was not fully in vogue with the recording…but some Maiden is better than no Maiden.

Paschendale—-Now…for me…this is the almighty powerful Maiden machine. The moods shift back and forth…the bass line smacks your forehead…and the aggressive drums are incredible. Bruce delivers a stellar vocal…reminding you of how this man can STILL sing…this is a stellar track…I still turn to it often. The vivid word imagery makes it even better.Make no mistake….McBain is a hell of a drummer!!!1

Different World—-Familiar and comforting, everything about this track is damn near perfect. The music is huge…layered and aggressive. The vocal soars…Bruce finding room for words that you thought were impossible to include in one sentence. There are vocal harmonies that take me back to the Seventh Son release…this is just about as perfect as I could ask for.

Man On The Edge—-This live track subtlety allows Bruce to take over the vocal from Bayley without seeming rather pompous. This track is so much better live…the pace is 100 miles an hour faster and the vocal fits in as well as Blaze…guess I’m the only guy who kind of liked him. This is huge,,,,fast and classic Maiden…Harris is a genius!

Reincarnation—-Gentle at the onset, the guitar is understated….but still augmented by a strong bass line Ala Harris….the voice is so quiet and understated…until all hell breaks loose and everything kicks into high gear. Bruce comes alive with the music…delivering a vocal that is almost better than anything I have heard since then. He still has the register,,,but compensates rather well as he strains…this is brilliant. Aggressive, noisy and classic.

Blood Brothers—-Also from the ‘reunion’ CD, this is one of my favorite tracks….besides Flight Of The Navigator…..it finds Bruce back at home…sounding comfortable and at ease. The music is full and written for his voice it would seem. This is wonderfully constructed…..although the bass line is apparent…the rest of the band kicks ass as well…giving this band a new fresh sound….FANTASTIC!!!!

Rainmaker—-With a higher bass register, you can’t mistake this band for any other…but the sound seems a bit different…almost crowded with all of the sound that is going on. I love the vocal…it sounds fresh and like the very old days. Bruce never seems to get old! This is a classic track…the pace is so fast…I can only imagine how it must travel live!!!1 This is incredible.

Sign Of The Cross—-Another live track……the Harris bass line spurs the audience to scream with appreciation.I find fault with the band…how can you pretend the Blaze period never happened but still play songs from that era. I personally much prefer the Bayley rendition of this song. I think he sang it brilliant. Bruce does fine…perhaps it was written for him to begin with…but there should be some recognition. I love this song…am I the only one? The drums on this song….FUCKIN HUGE!!!!

Brave New World—-A huge triumphant comeback for me as a personal fan…this was brilliant. The vocal was like the old days…the band was tighter than ever…the feel of the song was a big huge party…making all the elements fall into place exactly as things should have been from the very onset. The hiatus was over and we all celebrated the return of the ‘Siren’ back to the band…still sounds awesome!

Fear Of The Dark—-This live version plays much better than the studio recording. I feel like the release of this entire CD was uninspired and reeked of internal conflicts with the band. This amped up version plays better…the audience embraces things…as the Rio audiences do…making this much livelier than it was actually was.

Be Quick Or Be Dead—-this sounds still, to me today, like it could have come off the Powerslave record. The mood is light…the tempo is incredibly fast and the vocal is stellar. This is a good history of the band in the last era before the split…this was a great recording. I love how maniacal Bruce sounds!

Tailgunner—-another track that seems less than inspired to me, the bass line falters a bit for me and the vocal seems like it is only half there. I am not a huge fan of the band during this era of recording…but it is history.

No More Lies—-Although this track does have high points, I think the overwhelming feel of the song is still uninspired. I like the speed of the song and the mood shifts of the music…but it feels like two different bands recording to me…like Bruce was not really present. Overall…a good track…but an album I really prefer to skip over.

Coming Home—-Lackluster and seemingly not a true Maiden track to me, I am not sure why the band even continued to struggle with compositions like this when things were so tense. You can almost feel the polar pull of the entities…sad…but the return was worth the break.

The Clansman—-I never cared for the original version of this song, I don’t care for this version either. The connotation was a mis-step and was not appreciated by me…..I do not like this track!

For The Greater Good Of God—-I’m not sure why this song is even a song…for a band who embraced less than religious doctrine in the past…this was like a slap in the face for me…I don’t understand it…nor do I care for it.

These Colors Don’t Run—-These are nice aggressive guitar chords…the tale is somewhat appropriate with the Confederate Flag controversy these days. The vocal is classic Bruce…the man can fucking sing. The Harris machine never seems to tire…this is fantastic…I do love this track!

Bring Your Daughter To The Slaughter—-Ugh….a complete failure…a sell-out and a hated track for me!!!!

Afraid To Shoot Strangers—-I love the strained vocal sound on this track after it finally kicks in. The live version of this song is so much better…it seems like the audiences love this track. The jangly bass line is very nice…I like the swirling sound. But all in all….most of the songs from the 10 years beore the split were uninspired and fake…at least for me.

Dance Of Death—-Returning to a deeper and more melodic sound, this is a pretty stellar track…I like the talk through vocal of the intro of the song. Bruce strains so hard…nothing ike Halford can do these days…but the guy can still sing. The guitar mastery is pretty fucking incredible. The noise and the wiry guitars are incredible….are Maiden still pertinent though?

When The Wild Wind Blows—-this entire compilation….as I see it…was a way for the band to cash in on the obsession that die hard fans have with the band. This is all redux…poorly selected and makes me lose respect for the Maiden machine. This is not a single, a fan favorite or even a great track!

*** out of 5

Judas Priest/Nostradamus

Nostradamus

Judas Priest are an English heavy metal band formed in Birmingham, England in 1970.[1] The band has sold over 45 million albums to date.[2][3][4] MTV ranked them the second “Greatest Metal Band” of all time.[5]

Despite an innovative and pioneering body of work in the latter half of the 1970s, the band struggled with indifferently-produced records, repeated changes of drummer and a lack of major commercial success or attention until 1980 when they adopted a more simplified sound on the album British Steel, which helped shoot them to rock superstar status. In 1989, they were named as defendants in an unsuccessful lawsuit alleging that subliminal messages on their albums had caused the suicide attempts of two young men.[6]

The band’s membership has seen much turnover, including a revolving cast of drummers in the 1970s, and the temporary departure of singer Rob Halford in the early 1990s. The current line-up consists of lead vocalist Rob Halford, guitarists Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner, bassist Ian Hill, and drummer Scott Travis. The band’s best-selling album is 1982’s Screaming for Vengeance featuring their most commercially successful line-up, featuring Halford, Tipton, Hill, K. K. Downing (guitar), and Dave Holland (drums).

Their influence, while mainly Rob Halford’s operatic vocal style (widely considered as one of the most unique vocalists in the genre) and the twin guitar sound of K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton, has been adopted by many bands. Their image of leather, spikes, and other taboo articles of clothing were widely influential during the glam metal era of the 1980s.[7] Their 1980 album, British Steel, has been referred to as the “record that, more than any other, codified what we mean by “heavy metal”.[8] Despite a decline in exposure during the mid 1990s, the band has once again seen a resurgence, including worldwide tours, being inaugural inductees into the VH1 Rock Honors in 2005, receiving a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 2010, and their songs featured in video games such as Guitar Hero and the Rock Band series.

Nostradamus is the sixteenth studio album by English heavy metal band Judas Priest, focusing on the 16th-century writer Nostradamus.[6] It is a double album. The band’s first concept album,[7] it was originally intended to be released in late 2006 before being pushed back to a 2007 release,[8] and was finally released in June 2008 on Epic Records. It is the band’s final album to feature K. K. Downing, before his retirement.

The Analysis—-

Disc One

Dawn Of Creation—-This grand opus, one not readily embraced by most Priest fans [but a huge personal favorite], begins with a note of atmosphere and gentle swirls of quasi-orchestration. The build-up to the first ‘proper’ track o this release is almost maddening as it all swells and becomes continuously larger and more urgent…finally dumping us at the door of….

Prophecy—-Almost immediately you are able to recognize that trademark Priest guitar sound. Halford waste little time in showcasing the inhuman voice he has been blessed with. The story line is familiar and I have never paid much attention to plots of concept records…relying on each independent song to stand on its own. This track is huge…muscular and vocally aggressive…classic!

Awakening—-Another slight interlude that serves primarily to introduce….[it does have a sweet sense of beauty and sadness in the brief vocal].

Revelations—-Returning us to the twin guitar attack of Downing and Tipton, the track is aggressive and full. There are snips that follow the entire theme of the release…strands of music that repeat themselves over and over throughout the songs. Halford is double tracked on this song…giving the vocal a deeper and beefier sound. The jaunty vocal delivery is delivered with an underlying melody that makes it contagious as hell. One of the tracks I return to rather often.

The Four Horsemen—-Haunting and sparse, Halford has an echo to his vocal that smells of desperation and loneliness…dread and forbearance….leading us to….

War—-This track is huge from the onset…the drums are at the front of the mix…giving everything a larger than life sound. Halford relies on his baritone vocal to set the tone…but soars familiarly as the song continues. All the double tracking on the vocal sounds as if a 100 people are singing at once. This is a huge orchestrated affair….making me wish I could see this entire CD live!

Sands Of Time—-Ushered in with a gentle acoustic guitar and a strained sad vocal from Halford, this slight interlude is yet another segue as the band introduces one of my personal favorite tracks from this entire affair…..

Pestilence And Plague—-The music crashes into the side of your head and brings you right back into the fold of Heavy Metal. Rob sounds so angry and aggressive as he tells the tale of a man who usher society warning after warning. The Italian chorus still gives me goosebumps all this time later. Although the guitar delivery is classic, there is a sense of orchestration underlying through the entire thing. This is a grand, huge affair…just brilliant.The band literally make the guitars sing as this progresses. DAMN!!!

Death—-This track, aptly titled, is dark and leaves you with a literal sense of forbearance Here we find Halford really delivering his vocal histrionics like the old days. He moves from growl to high pitched scream in a matter of seconds The music is dark and sparse…leaving you with an eerie feeling of loneliness Halford is in such great form here…simply for his ability to move from note to note so quickly. . . . midway through the track, you are greeted with an underlying harmony that sucks you in and keeps you coming back for more.

Peace—-Another slight and ‘pretty’ interlude that serves more as a break in mood and songs, Halford delivers a sad and forlorn vocal that reminds us of the depth of his voice…this all again leads us into the next track….

Conquest—-Huge and delivered with crashing drums and a shrill guitar lead….Halford sings in his familiar yet accessible voice that shows an almost operatic ability. The guitar melodies are incredible. When Rob hits that note on the word ‘more’, you just sit back and say Holy Shit. This is classic….still fresh and untouchable.

Lost Love—-Bringing back the familiar melody line that runs through many of the interludes on this release, this is probably the closet thing to a love song this band has ever produced. It has a haunting and sad quality to it that is easy to embrace. This is a strong little track…showing talent and diversity. This band, if nothing else, is multi-faceted.

Persecution—-We are greeted with the same opening music as this first part of the opus winds down. The familiar high guitar delivery is almost identical to the opening strains of the release. There are odd wispy vocals before the drums set forth a firestorm of heavy metal on your brain. This track travels at 100 miles an hour….bringing out a vehemence that is felt through the entire song. The vocal is just incredible…with Halford laying a deeper vocal line over his higher scream…giving everything this gargantuan feel. This is extra-ordinary.

Disc Two

Solitude—-The familiar piano line begins the second disc of this release…setting the tone once again as the story picks up more steam…this brief introduction leads us into…

Exiled—-The drums and a quasi-orchestrated sound kicks off the track….Halford delivers another of those sad yet magnificent vocals that fits the mood of the story and the music. The melody and double tracked vocal is the perfect showcase for the man who has never lost his inspiration for the art of Metal and all things HEAVY…this is exquisite!

Alone—-Perhaps my very favorite track from this huge, never-ending release, this showcases an aggressive Halford vocal that will almost make your ears bleed with the intensity. The track begins rather quietly….familiar acoustic strains usher in the opus as it introduces a subtle voice before the entire thing opens up and becomes huge and aggressive. This is just fantastic…Halford is a master…Priest in an unstoppable force. Brilliant!!!

Shadows In The Flame—-Yet another interlude….it all helps to meld the release together], the quiet guitar is much more upfront in the mix….there is even a gentle piano line. Halford….strong and double tracked…sounds full of emotion and you truly believe him as he speaks in the first person. Truly fantastic!

Visions—-returning to a full frontal Priest guitar assault, the driving power of the music spurs the urgency of the song and the coming end of life of the Prophet. This is essential to the story I suppose…and you can feel the importance. The harmonies are incredible…the song is big and full of familiar Priest sounds….incredible.

Hope—-Gentle, quiet and serving as an almost funeral song for the exiled Prophet, the emotion is palatable…..the vocal is sad and lonely…..the coming end is near…and you feel sad…..

New Beginnings—-The intro to this song sounds more Prog than Priest…but that is acceptable. Once Halford opens his mouth you know exactly where you are. There is little doubt. The journey begins a new chapter as the Prophet picks up new followers and welcomes death as well. This is magnanimous and huge…I can’t get enough of this CD!!!

Calm Before The Storm—-Again, that Pink Floyd sounding guitar makes me smile as the track unfolds…so progressive!!!! The gentle strains must have seemed pretty foreign for the die hard guitarists of the Priest. This did seem to be a Halford driven project. Not a favorite track…feels like filler.

Nostradamus—-Perhaps the pinnacle of the entire damn thing, this is huge….vocally…instrumentally and orchestrated wise. Halford delivers a vocal that will shake you to the core…with a death scream from hell…you wonder how the fuck this guy can sing like this year after year. This track is perhaps the largest and most instrumentally complete on the entire release…leaving me so thirsty for more…this was epic!!!

Future Of Mankind—- Ending the epic release with huge drums and a classic and familiar Priest guitar sound, the od is still slight and sullen….it brings both familiar sounds from the earlier interludes as well as classic sounds the band is associated with. This is pure and guitar driven…leaving us feeling that throughout this hard battle…somehow Nostradamus came out on the better end as his life ended but the belief in him grew…..this is an epic…fantastic…brilliant and never tiring release…..Bravo Gang!!!!

***** out of 5 [!!!!!]