Monday, July 14, 2008

Review: Judas Priest - Nostradamus

Label: Epic

Released: June 17, 2008

By basing their latest album on the life of the famous 16th Century French clairvoyant, Judas Priest opened themselves up to a wide variety of clever (and not-so-clever) quips. In anticipation of the release, I think I've gotten most of that out of my system over the last few months. Nonetheless, I will do something special for this review: I'll write two, one (in the spirit of Nostradamus' foretelling of disaster) will be a prediction before I listen and the other a reaction after I listen. In the end, I guess we'll see if I share any of Nostradamus' gifts. (Would that make me Nostrabobus?)

Prediction: While Judas Priest is surely one of the giants of heavy metal (in the shadow of perhaps only Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath), their recent history isn't that inspiring. When Rob Halford left, they replaced him with Ripper Owens, a guy who was making his money trying to sound like Halford in a cover band. That doesn't exactly show a desire to move on. The non-Halford albums apparently weren't anything to get excited about, but Halford's return on 2005's Angel of Retribution proved that Halford wasn't the only missing ingredient. So, Judas Priest is coming off of their sketchiest period since 1986's Turbo and what do they decide to do to rejuvenate themselves? They make a concept album (and a long one at that) about perhaps the silliest, most clichéd subject they could find. They may just as well have written a concept album about Sasquatch (of course at least that one would have the potential for humor). So, my prediction, whether calculated or clairvoyant, is that Nostradamus will be an overwrought, egotistical debacle. I believe that it will be long on pretentious attempts at high art so to speak and short on the concise, driving metal that made Judas Priest great. The lyrics will be silly, yet will also be taken way too seriously by the band, as if the story of Nostradamus is important to history and philosophy rather than just just a persistent pop culture fascination. Basically, the album is gonna suck.

Review: First of all, what's up with all the synth? More than once, I expected Judas Priest to break in "The Final Countdown." A Judas Priest album should never make me think of Europe. And where are the songs that the album is structured around? I understand that a concept album is a different animal and I won't begrudge a good one a few extra filler songs that can't stand on their own, but Nostradamus is over 100 minutes long, so it needs more than a few songs to be standouts. As it is, there are only a couple songs that actually have any focus. Aside from those, there are just so-so Priest moments adrift in an otherwise aimless album. Those two forgivable songs have Priest pretending to be their metal rivals from 25 years ago. It seems a shame that band who did so much to establish their own sound, and an oft-copied one at that, should release an album whose best songs wear their Maiden-envy on their sleeves. Rob Halford's voice is still among the best in metal, but if he wants to make an album like this, perhaps he should try opera instead.

All of that makes for a bad album, but their is a more fundamental problem. I'd be glad to see Judas Priest push past their established sound and stretch out into new territory, making a case for their continued existence. However, it isn't their music that they were trying to stretch here, it was their egos. I can't help but think that Priest wanted to prove that they weren't just a bunch of "dumb metalheads," but perhaps they should have consulted Iron Maiden about more than just their sound, because Maiden based songs on epic poems, history and the Book of Revelations. Judas Priest wants us to take Nostradamus, based on what amounts to a persistent pop culture icon, just as seriously. As much as the lackluster, unfocused music, the overly processed sound and the bow to their rivals are bad, their attempt to pass off the story of Nostradamus as a serious topic is just insulting. Maybe they are just "dumb metalheads."

So, am I Nostrabobus? Perhaps. My prediction was fairly accurate, but probably more due reason than any sixth sense, and like Nostradamus, being a little vague didn't hurt my cause. So, clairvoyant or not, there's one thing I know: Nostradamus is awful.

Satriani: 7/10
Zappa: 4/10
Dylan: 3/10
Aretha: 1/10
Overall: 2/10

If you're curious about my rating categories, read the description.

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Blogger The Mad Hatter said...

Nostrabobus? Hehe, that is a good one. Quick, tell me: what is the possibility that Led Zeppelin will not only reunite, but that Jimmy Page, sporting his new Johnny Cash look, will wank on stage for at least thirteen minutes of rock and roll meandering nonsense?

11:23 PM  
Blogger Hard Rock Hideout said...

Well said NostroBobus! Your new nickname! LOL!! =)

I was pretty diappointed with this release.

Judas Priest needs to go back to the basics for their next release.

11:25 PM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

Halford was better off with his other projects. This album was just rotten on so many different levels. So many people keep trying to make excuses for them by saying they are trying to do something different. Yet the synths just come across as time fillers that seem to be going nowhere. It's just bad idea after bad idea on this one.

12:43 AM  
Blogger Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Or maybe NostraBobafett since you put this one into the carbon freeze. Pretty good analysis at least and you at least gave good reasons for your dislike.

5:34 AM  
Blogger Rhodeislandrock said...

I like the Nostrabobus thing, definitely a new one!

I still haven't reviewed this one and I've already put the album aside because it's just too hard a listen. Way too long at an hour & 42 mins and I just can't get by all the instrumentals.

I'll admit to defending this album a lot but I think that the Priest should leave the epics to Maiden. Priest were more of a "go for the throat" type of band with punched up songs that turned to Metal classics with the occasional epic.

It's an ambitious project, a long project, and a sometimes boring project. There is some good material on the album but it gets lost. I'll need some more time with it.....

Heavy Metal Addiction

1:09 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

lol- I agree with you about this album...I kept listening and hoping, but, I didn't find one song that was worthy of the name Judas Priest!

1:26 PM  
Blogger The Mad Hatter said...

I vote in favor of unofficially nicknaming you Nostrabobus, Bob.

4:41 PM  
Blogger The RIpple Effect said...

Judas Priest should never be confused with Europe. Classic!

4:02 PM  

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