"Angel of Retribution", one would think that Judas Priest would continue on the same tracks, a modern sound that still has the influence of that golden age of the band during the late 80's and early 90's, but nope, the Priest fooled us real good with the release of their 16th album. Instead of going the conventional route, the band hits us with a full blown concept album about the famous French astronomer Nostradamus, undoubtedly the meatiest project in the history of the band. This leads to a lot of questions. 1. Why are they doing a concept album at this stage of their career? 2. Why is it about Nostradamus? And 3. WHY THE HELL IS IT SO GOD DAMN LONG?! JESUS!
Let us clear up the first two questions. "Nostradamus" is, not surprisingly, about Nostradamus. There is not really a story throughout this album, but more of a history lesson about the life of Nostradamus, and all of the different predictions he made, including the end of the Earth. The idea is intriguing, but I would have personally loved it more if the band actually made a full fledged story concept, because it just feels more natural with the whole idea of making a concept album. Funnily enough, none of the band members came up with this idea first, it was the manager Bill Curbishley whom proposed it to the band in 2005, so if you are looking for someone to blame that this album exists, Bill is your man.
As for the third question... well... let us just say that the band was unwilling to follow one of the most basic techniques in writing a concept, kill your darlings. In other words, the band was so happy with the overall result that they did not have the heart to cut any of the existing songs, which leaves us with a double album (or triple LP) that spans over 1 hour and 40 minutes and contains 23 songs. 23 FREAKING SONGS!!! This is flat out ridiculous, not even the best band out there can make 23 amazing songs in one go, corners must have been cut, and there was, because several "songs" are just intros or interludes that tries to fulfill the mood of the album. It is so god damn unnecessary, there is no purpose for including these fetuses, just abort!
The length is without a shadow of a doubt the biggest problem with "Nostradamus", because almost all of the songs in this record are slow, symphonic, almost progressive at times, making this album a long and boring ride. It is really easy to fall asleep to this record, and I do not care that Rob creates a hell of a mood with his voice, and that the band tags along quite nicely, it is still boring as hell, especially since this album have the length of a movie. Despite all of this historic sci-fi, I feel like I am listening to a political speech, it is so hollow and tiresome.
Another thing that pisses me off is that this does not feel like a Judas Priest album. Sure, "Jugulator" was laughable, and "Demolition" was, at times, offensive, but they at least sounded like something Judas Priest would do, and I know, the band is known for expanding its horizons and not settling for one iconic sound, but this is taking it way beyond anything that I recognize as something Judas Priest can do. Not even the cover resembles the band, with the different logo and the overall astrology feel. It looks more like a Therion cover to me.
There are some songs in this album that are, believe it or not, actually enjoyable, and most of them can be found on the first disc. From the first disc, we have the following goodies. "Prophecy", whom works as a good intro to the album, introducing the main character and what he does, accompanied with some basic heavy riffing. "Pestilence And Plague" is also pretty cool, with a chorus in which Rob sings in Italian, so in other words, a fancy hook to a fancy song. "Conquest" has a really neat old school vibe to it that works well, even in this album. And finally, we have "Persecution", a ripper that leaves no sinners untouched. Seriously, Rob brings out his best vocal performance on this track, and he sounds like he is orchestrating the apocalypse. A great way to end disc one.
Disc two is not as good, but it has a couple of sweet songs too, like the emotional ballad "Alone", the only slow song in the album that stands out and feels genuinely personal, even if it is about Nostradamus, and not the band members. I also enjoy "Visions" and its smooth flow that mesmerizes. I can guarantee that if all of the songs followed this sound, then "Nostradamus" would have been much more interesting.
Taking the cake though, by a massive landslide, is the title track, which is a straight up speed metal tune that is as Judas Priest as it can get. Killer riffs? Check. Kick ass solo? Check. Metal God screams? Double check. Unintentional reference to Gloria Gaynor? Oddly enough, yes. This is 6 minutes and 43 seconds of pure force being unleashed, and it could not have been more welcome. I would even say that it is one of the strongest Judas Priest songs out there, and I am sure that it would be a stand out in any other Priest album as well (well, maybe not "Painkiller"). The only problem with this song? It is the second to last one in the album, so you have to endure 21 other songs to even get to it. Oh well, good things come to those who wait.
"Nostradamus" has its good share of great music, but for every good song on the album, there is 3 songs that makes you mad. There are a ton of problems with this album that could have easily been removed, making the album listenable. First off, it is too long. Secondly, there are too many slow songs. Third, the concept is just mind boggling. And finally, THE ALBUM IS TOO FUCKING LONG!!! 1 hour and 40 minutes of Judas Priest is fine, if you are at a concert with them and they play their best songs, not if they play this. I can see that the band had a vision of making a compelling concept record that would take the band to a whole new territory, but something went horribly wrong in the writing process, turning this interesting idea into a hideous and out of control monster. So please take my advice, avoid listening to this entire album in one big sitting. Instead, take 2 or 3 breaks in between to avoid falling asleep, and you might have a chance to endure "Nostradamus", and find the songs that could be your personal favourites. I should probably stop writing, this review is almost as long as the album now (sorry, not sorry).
Songs worthy of recognition: Nostradamus, Prophecy, Persecution, Alone
Rating: 3/10 Visions
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