Pageant Archive: Judas Priest

Album: Nostradamus
Artist: Judas Priest /
Label: Sony/Epic, 2008
Reviewer: Shauna Brock

Track List:
Act 1
Dawn of Creation
The Four Horsemen
Sands of Time
Pestilence and Plague
Lost Love

Act 2
Shadows in the Flame
New Beginnings
Calm Before the Storm
Future of Mankind

If Judas Priest was hoping to bring back the punch of the all-powerful metal concept album with their recent release, Nostradamus, they failed. The solid effort is peppered with everything from fantastic lyrical quality to operatic harmony, and yet there is something that falls flat when the album is taken as a whole. And, when you’re listening to a concept piece, it’s that sense of completion that matters.

Paling in comparison to great concepts such as The Who’s Tommy and Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime, it can safely be said that Nostradamus falls into the same category as the second in the Mindcrime saga – a good listen, but one that needs to grow on the listener and tries far too hard for what it offers. While stronger than Operation Mindcrime: II, Nostradamus lacks the punch of the stories of characters like Nikki and Dr. X. This is a hard disconnect to reconcile given the material Judas Priest was working with and the power of the legends of Nostradamus. Despite that, I was easily able to imagine how the concert would look live as an intriguing rock opera production. But, Priest was trying too hard to make it into an opera and therefore the album side of it fell short. As a result, it’s more about musical masturbation than high quality performance.

At times, the storyline was confusing and it was hard to tell exactly whose perspective Rob Halford was singing from. And, far be it from me to complain about a group growing and changing, but the classic-style Priest pieces really were the most comfortable stuff on the album – it’s as if they themselves weren’t ready to expand on their own style of music.

This isn’t to say that Nostradamus isn’t worth your time or attention. The album is full of so much more than typical metal riffs and screaming – although there are more than a few songs that remind us of why it is that Halford holds the metal throne above even those pioneers such as Tate, Osborne, and Dio. Pieces such as “Nostradamus,” “Pestilence and Plague,” “Death,” and “The Four Horsemen” kicked ass, took names, and did it while driving the plot of the story along. All of them are hard rocking moments in time where Halford’s voice just lets loose and the twin guitars battle it out for domination of heaven and hell. The ethereal moments in “Dawn of Creation,” “Persecution,” and Act II’s introduction, “Solitude,” are haunting and thought provoking and the shining examples of the different roads Priest succeed in traveling down with this album. The intricate guitars of “Peace” combined with simple but meaningful lyrics to remind us that sometimes, the best way to deliver a message is not with a bang, but a whisper.

In the end, Nostradamus proves that a concept album can try too hard. Individually, each song is well crafted and conveys a message with the music as well as the lyrics. But in the efforts made to tell this fascinating story, Priest is often verbose and disconnected from itself. It’s worth the money, and definitely worth multiple turns in your CD player, but I don’t think it’s going to end up in the concept album hall of fame.

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