JUDAS PRIEST - Nostradamus
Release date June 16, 2008 (Columbia)
Review originally published in Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles Magazine, Issue #112
The dreaded concept album. Many a band have been drawn to its scholastic lure, only to disappoint, or worse, embarrass themselves (Manowar's latest anyone?). Which brings us to Judas Priest. Will one of the originators of heavy metal be able to buck the odds and issue a credible album of epic proportions? Well, the answer depends on one's frame of reference. I know, I know, that is a grey answer to be sure, but true nonetheless.
As a pure heavy metal album this is an abject failure, for this is simply not a heavy metal album. Yes, there are pockets of British steel running through this sprawling two CD set, but when it rears its head the metal conjured is plodding and unremarkable. No, in reality this is an atmospheric rock album. Check out the preponderance of keyboard and acoustic guitar driven connecting suites, operatic choruses and wordy drama that makes up the core here. This is more Broadway than Birmingham to be sure.
That said, Halford's performance is remarkable and the lead salvos from the Tipton/Downing team are nothing short of mesmerizing. But, it is telling that the two strongest tracks herein are pseudo ballads ("Pestilence and Plague" and "Exile"), heavy of emotion relying on powerful Halford phrasings and delivery. So, overall, much respect must be given to Priest for the creation of such an epic undertaking ... just not that much love.
Update: Dammit - I was being too nice! The bottom line is that this is not a heavy metal album ... and everybody expects a metal album from the Priest. Overwrought, boring and overlong, this is/was an unmitigated disaster. (3)