Judas Priest are an English heavy metal band formed in Birmingham, England in 1970. The band has sold over 45 million albums to date. MTV ranked them the second “Greatest Metal Band” of all time.
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.
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. Their 1980 album, British Steel, has been referred to as the “record that, more than any other, codified what we mean by “heavy metal”. 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. It is a double album. The band’s first concept album, it was originally intended to be released in late 2006 before being pushed back to a 2007 release, 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.
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.
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 [!!!!!]