With all due respect to Iron Maiden, the Metal Masters package show, scheduled to pillage the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion Saturday, August 23, has got to be the metal tour of the year. Ye Gods, it's Judas Priest, Sabbath-come-latelies Heaven and Hell, Motor-freakin’-head and Testament, whose new LP The Formation of Damnation just won some huge metal award in Europe.
It also may be the cheapest tour of the year, because if you buy – not download, mind - a copy of Priest’s new double album, Nostradamus, an insert included in the package contains a code good for one free general-admission lawn ticket to the show. To whet your appetite, go here for 1:30 of the video for Nostradamus’ first single, “War.” Scary!
This cellphone video, a double shot of Nostradamus’ “Prophecy” and 1991’s “Painkiller,” comes to you from from Priest’s recent show in Bergen, Norway.
Linda Leseman runs Nostradamus, released Tuesday, through the wringer after the jump. – Chris Gray
Judas Priest Nostradamus www.judaspriest.com
Nostradamus is one of the most anticipated albums of the year. Judas Priest has circulated rumors of its emergence since 2006, and promises of an epic concept album with orchestrations, choral vocals, and two discs of music have abounded for years.
At last, the prophecy has come true. Sort of.
The album, inspired by the life of controversial sixteenth-century alchemist/seer Michel de Nostredame, lives up to the hype: it's lengthy, conceptual and full of string- and choral-like scoring. No orchestra is mentioned in the liner notes; rather, Roland (maker of synthesizer keyboards) is credited, as is Pete Whitfield, responsible for “real strings”.
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Shame. Instead of attaining or surpassing the legitimacy of Metallica’s S&M collaboration with the San Francisco Symphony, Nostradamus sounds like mid-'90s Savatage. Priest stumbles by performing grand opera with a chamber orchestra - or worse, with a Roland.
That said, the album is peppered with moments that remind listeners why Priest are the proverbial Metal Gods. “Pestilence and Plague” begins with a quiet, beautiful introduction, then rips open with guitarists Glen Tipton and K.K. Downing waging a two-pronged attack. This prog-metal style defines each track and the record as a whole, sometimes to the advantage of individual songs; “Visions,” the second single, is stronger within the context of the album.
Per usual, Rob Halford’s vocals are impressive, even more so considering he’s now 56 years old. His natural range was at one time unparalleled; his expressiveness is still. Halford is a fascinating singer for his raw commitment to each phrase. Although the lyric “I am Nostradamus, do you believe, I am Nostradamus, that I conceive” is weak, when delivered by Halford it at least sounds formidable.
The title track showcases Halford’s chilling falsetto, speed licks by Downing and Tipton, and the rapid-fire drumming by Scott Travis that elevated 1991’s Painkiller to classic status. For a minute or so, Priest are at their best - except for the heavy-handed lyrics, which never equal the music's complexity. Unfortunately, these climactic, spine-tingling moments scattered throughout “Nostradamus” and other songs fail to produce a whole greater than its parts. - Linda Leseman