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Judas Priest - Nostradamus review Bob Mulhouse , June 27th, 2008 16:14

Bob Mulhouse bows down before the mighty Judas Priest’s new concept album

Judas Priest

Judas Priest Nostradamus SonyBMG

Who would have thought it? Thirty-four years down the line, Judas Priest have turned in an album which is as good, or better, than anything they’ve done before. Now, I’m aware that the rock press has been ejaculating a frankly nauseating amount of hyperbole onto the printed page about this album for some weeks. The correct reaction is to this level of fawning is to instinctively disbelieve the reviews and wish they’d have the nuts to print something original, of course " but Nostradamus is really, genuinely, honestly, very good indeed.

Judas Priest - Nostradamus

There’s a simple reason for this. Priest, which is to say songwriters Glenn Tipton and KK Downing, have always excelled when they haven’t tried to compete with younger, hotter metal bands. To me, the concept of five 50-something blokes dressed in leather and studs only works if they retain some dignity: in heavy metal terms, that means going for epic soundscapes rather than frantic biker riffage " and that’s what Nostradamus, the amusingly pretentious tale of the titular philosopher and seer, is all about. In fact, the album doesn’t really sound like classic Priest at all: it’s almost all slow, doomy, operatic, keyboard-heavy anthems, apart from a token couple of mid-tempo songs (’Nostradamus’ itself is a standout).

’Exiled’, a vast, multilayered composition loaded with gloopy keys from sessioneer Don Airey, is one of the most effective tunes Priest have recorded in years. ’Future Of Mankind’ is another behemoth, eight minutes and more: you can imagine Priest’s older fans scratching their heads in bemusement. ’Revelations’, ’Conquest’, ’New Beginnings’| the other songs reveal a new, relaxed, full-fat Priest who seem not to care what, say, Lamb Of God are up to. If there are too many lush instrumental keyboard passages for you, you’re not getting it: go and listen to Meshuggah.

In stepping away from their past, Judas Priest have surpassed it, even if it’s impossible to imagine them doing it again next time around. If Nostradamus is the band’s last album (and perhaps it should be), it’s a suitable epitaph.