06. Judas Priest – Nostradamus (2008)
If there was ever any album that was considered to be Judas Priest’s black sheep (aside from the two albums released with Ripper Owens, who don’t really deserve to be labelled as such either), then that album was Nostradamus. Released as a follow-up to the largely successful and critically acclaimed reunion album Angel of Retribution, Nostradamus took the band into a musical direction that was vastly different and, as it turned out, was not something that the majority of the fans enjoyed. Initially, I was the same opinion, but during I holiday where this was the only album that I had with me, this record grew on me like no other album has done, and I can now safely say that this is my favourite Judas Priest album.
Nostradamus is a 2-CD concept album, telling the story of the seer of the same name in the Middle Ages, who predicted the end of the world and was ridiculed and persecuted for it, only for the world to see his predictions come true after all. Not really a very creative or innovative concept, granted, but it is executed almost flawlessly on this album, so I don’t really mind.
The album generally consists of longer songs (from five minutes upward), with a shorter, more stripped-down interludes (around two minutes) being thrown in between ever other song, usually referencing melodies and themes of previous or upcoming songs, which ties the whole album together, giving it a very cohesive feel. The “real” songs are, unlike Priest’s earlier efforts, more mid-tempo instead of blisteringly fast, though there is a fair share of fast stuff as well, but on the whole, this album is a little slower, yet now less heavy and monumental than any other Priest record. Indeed, the whole album has a very grandiose feel to it, which is often created by many layered keyboards underneath the guitar riffs and vocals, yet it never becomes bombastic in an obnoxious way, though it is often treading the line to it.
The songs one here are very creative in terms of song writing, with every aspect of Judas Priests sound being present: ballads, slower and groovier songs, blisteringly fast riffs and solos – there are even tentative experiments with doom metal (Death) and orchestral work (Exiled, Nostradamus) present on this record, though it mainly focuses on the styles that have been a part of Judas Priest’s catalogue for quite some time and simply expands on them. There is also, if I recall correctly, the only Judas Priest song with no drumming on this album (Lost Love, though there are a few shorter interludes that don’t contain drumming as well), which, while scraping hard on the border of what is acceptable in terms of cheesiness, is a much-welcomed breather of the heaviness of this album.
Really, all tracks on this album are awesome, but Pestilence and Plague deserves a special mention. It is one of my favourite Priest songs and it encompasses the whole band perfectly: aggressive, fast and memorable riff, great verse and chorus melodies by Halford, and an instrumental trade-off between the guitar gods Tipton and Downing that is to die for. The Italian chorus takes a while to get used to, but it really adds another dimension to the song and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
If you’ve written this album off due to negative critics, then I strongly urge you to reconsider and to give this album a chance. This is Priest at their strongest and most diverse, and I couldn’t have wished for a more worthy album to conclude the discography of this amazing band.
Recommended tracks: Revelations, Pestilence and Plague, Death, Lost Love, Exiled, Nostradamus, Future of Mankind