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ARTIST: Judas Priest
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
LINEUP: Rob Halford - vocals * K.K Downing - guitars * Glenn Tipton - guitars * Ian Hill - bass * Scott Travis - drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Dawn Of Creation (sc) * 02 Prophecy * 03 Awakening (sc) * 04 Revelations * 05 The Four Horsemen (sc) * 06 War * 07 Sands Of Time (sc) * 08 Pestilence And Plague * 09 Death * 10 Peace (sc) * 11 Conquest * 12 Lost Love * 13 Persecution * 14 Solitude (sc) * 15 Exiled * 16 Alone * 17 Shadows In The Flame (sc) * 18 Visions * 19 Hope (sc) * 20 New Beginnings * 21 Calm Before The Storm (sc) * 22 Nosatradamus * 23 Future Of Mankind
At this stage of Priest's career, approaching forty years, attempting a two CD concept album about the life and times of the prophet Nostradamus could be seen as either self indulgent or brave. Add a running time of over 100 minutes and fans are looking at some time consuming listening. Being of the old school variety the concept of the album leaves me somewhat cold, it's the music which does the talking and that is the single critical factor in determining the success of Priest's 16th studio foray. In total there are 23 total tracks, 14 regular tracks and 9 short cuts (which we will refer to in the tracklisting as 'sc'.. Ed)
, many of which are lead-in instrumentals. The process of sitting through each of these is quite a task, and to be honest this epic stance is reminiscent of Iron Maiden
's overdrawn adventures, and one Priest haven't attempted to this degree in their career. The results are sometimes uneven, an abundance of mid paced tracks plundering the orchestral keyboard approach to maintain that 16th century atmosphere, but often steeped in the sound of early Priest, a treat for all Priest fans.
This will test the most ardent of Priest fanatics at the same time and I'm sure not many will appreciate the depth to the Nostradamus storyline, which admittedly fails to move me. Instead it's the heavy doom filled riffs of 'Death' which I'm more prone to picking up on, and those with a taste for 'Sad Wings Of Destiny' will enjoy this. Fast tracks in the traditional Priest style are few and far between, two examples being the rampaging title cut, Priest at their heaviest, and another take on the 'Painkiller' sound they've been wreaking havoc with since 1990. 'Persecution' moves at speed, mixing some 80's riffing with deft keyboard touches and the expected endless soloing from Downing and Tipton. An instant classic, especially with Halford screaming himself into oblivion. I thought I'd been transported back to 'Turbo' listening to 'Revelations', a high tech affair with more of the keyboards which run the show through the whole album. More of this can be heard on 'War', which pushes the orchestration into orbit. With slower tracks like 'Lost Love' and 'New Beginnings' reaching ballad levels, I assume more than a few metalheads will be screaming for more faster tracks. 'Pestilence and Plague' has a massive gallop in its steps, but it recalls Manowar
's recent operatic bumblings, and it's only the guitar solos which save some of these unnecessarily overlong compositions. Many of the numerous instrumentals are atmospheric, such as 'Solitude', which could be from the 1974 debut, but many are easily skipped at the same time due to being filler, despite the intentions of atmosphere. 'Conquest' is an anthem in the making musically, but the constant keyboards take away Priest's real power sorry to say. 'Visions' is a classic happily, vintage Priest chorus straight from any era, markedly 80's, the riffs chugging away nicely. Album closer 'Future Of Mankind' works because, surprise, the lack of keyboards initially, but they soon creep in, and this gives it the Maiden vibe of all their recent albums. The best instrumental is 'Calm Before The Storm', which takes the best of Priest's slower 70's work and combines them all into two minutes, Dream Deceiver' meets 'Beyond the Realms Of Death'. Too many tracks however are similar in structure, 'Alone' and 'Exile' both slow and building up as they go, but stifled by the keyboards and lack of real aggression, which clearly wasn't the blueprint for 'Nostradamus.'
A lot to digest and it took repeated listenings for me to form a proper opinion of this without being overly critical. A massive labour of love for the band obviously and years in the making, and a bold attempt to break new ground. Like Maiden however the lack of shorter 3-4 minute songs with metallic urgency detract from the concept here. Priest, as they did with 2005's 'Angel of Retribution', have welded a compendium of sounds spanning their whole career into this double album, but it veers too heavily into the bands softer side. The odd exception aside, the title track for one, is what most will want to hear, but is in short supply here. This is far from awful, I just don't know if it's what metal fans really want from Priest.
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