REVIEW: Judas Priest – Nostradamus (deluxe edition)

NOSTRADAMUS_0001JUDAS PRIEST – Nostradamus (2008 Sony deluxe edition)

I was really worried about this album. I started reading some of the early bad reviews and was a little shocked as to how much some people hated Nostradamus. Even more worrisome were the mixed reviews, often coming from long-time Priest fans. Many liked it, but they were far from blown away.

I’m strongly in the “like” category with this CD. I get completely why some fans don’t like it. Most of the terrible bad reviews I read came from dyed-in-the-wool metal fans, and yeah, you’re not going to love it if all you eat, breathe, and sleep is metal. I’m not meaning to be condescending here. People who don’t love just metal, but also progressive rock, classical, and even opera, are more likely to love Nostradamus.

The production is OK (self produced this one is), but the drums are oddly buried in the mix. Maybe Scott Travis isn’t even the right drummer to be playing these kind of grooves (plods?), I don’t know. He sure does wail on “Persecution” though, among others. Still, it’s like a weird 80’s drum sound from a Leatherwolf album or something.

KK Downing and Glenn Tipton — awesome as ever.  At least KK went out of Priest on a high note.  He got to stretch his wings out a bit on this, as did Glenn.  There is everything a guitar lover could want on Nostradamus. Lots of natural guitar tones, distortion, crazy riffs and spastic solos, even a bloody flamenco! Mental solos – unbelievable.

Halford — awesome. On some songs he’s really reaching back to his love of opera, no doubt of that. Buddy sings in Italian on one song! Kind of jarring, but it suits the whole epic nature of the music. Yes, there are screams. He’s learned to make the screams more effective by using them sparingly, more strategically. At the same time a lot of fans want to hear him scream at the top of his lungs again, like he did on Painkiller, and I can understand that. Fact is, maybe the guy can’t do it like that anymore. Is that his fault? Of course not. His singing is very much like it was on Angel Of Retribution. Mature’s a good word. I miss the screaming too, but if he can’t do it like he used to, it can’t be helped. It is what it is.

Regarding bassist Ian Hill, I can’t hear the bass guitar, most of the time. I guess that’s kind of expected in Priest, right?  They’re not really known for bass.  Don Airey of Deep Purple played keyboards, and he’s great. As always. Lots of dramatic piano, circa vintage Sad Wings era Priest.  Very different from what he does currently in Deep Purple.

There are also real strings, so don’t fret. Lots of guitar synths as well, but not on a “Turbo Lover” sort of scale. I didn’t find the synth too intrusive for the most part. In a lot of cases the string and synths combined make it sound like a massive Michael Kamen score. You’ll know what I mean when you hear it.  It’s very big and bombastic and some don’t find that kind of string arrangement to their tastes.  Some find it very one-dimensional.  Personally I think it had to be this way on Nostradamus, since the strings need to be heard among the guitars.

This “Deluxe Edition” comes in a nice hardcover book. It’s roughly DVD sized. Very nice package even if you have to slide the CD out of a cardboard sleeve (again!). Worth the extra cash to you? Well, that’s up to you. I’m not sure it’s worth it to me or not, but I bought it, so there you go.

I wonder if Nostradamus will go down as the most controverial Priest album ever?  Even more so than Turbo, Point Of Entry, or Jugulator?  Certainly some of the initial reaction on the usual sites was pretty harsh.  Priest have always been a diverse metal band, and if you love Priest’s entire history including all the nooks and crannies, you’ll love Nostradamus. If you only like British Steel, you are probably going to hate Nostradamus!

4/5 stars

33 comments

  1. Nothing says The Week Of Christmas like LeBrain reviewing/revisiting “Nostradamus”!!! Once again, you have sent me scurrying back to the library of CD’s to unearth this forgotten disc…I can honestly say the early reviews (which, as you know, ranged from confused to disappointed to horrific), really put me off on this disc upon release. The rather hefty weight and preposterousness of the concept and the reviews tainted me and this CD has languished somewhere deep in one of the Banker’s Boxes. I will dig it out and report back here by sundown…

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    1. Well dude, fear not, I do have some Christmas content coming tomorrow. But I had to keep it heavy until then!

      I’m curious what you think once you dig it out of the banker’s boxes. As poor as some of those reviews were, let’s not forget that fan who listened to the album once a day for like two years straight. (Sometimes on CD, but he chose vinyl when he could.)

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  2. I share your positive vibes toward Nostradamus. You are right that it is not British Steel or Screaming for Vengeance, but I already have those and so am cool with a little change. I will say that this one is more enjoyable to me if I am able to put it on and play it through straight rather than hearing the occasional song on a shuffle. The less Priest-like bits benefit from handing oneself over to the concept/story rather than trying to listen to them as isolated tracks.

    As it turns out, this is my son’s favorite Judas Priest. He’s a latecomer to Priest by fact of age and so maybe doesn’t bring unnecessary “expectations” into it.

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    1. Fantastic. I wonder if that is because Nostradamus sounds very contemporary? Especially in comparison with a lot of the Euro-metal bands out there today. The symphonic ones. Priest’s album could rival many of those.

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        1. You should ask him! Perhaps there’s a blog entry in it. Generational perspectives on Judas Priest. Or something.

          When I was at the record store I always tried to draw kids into new bands by playing them the contemporary sounding albums. Kids would say, “Who’s this?” Oh, this is the new Motley Crue with the new singer, check it out.

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        2. Ah, that’s all good. I know some of the guys in Therion so I’m always happy to read about people liking them.

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  3. I do love that you purchased the Deluxe Edition…I can remember thinking “Should I…?”, but, as discussed, thought the disc might not be even worth purchasing at the Standard Edition pricing. The Deluxe Edition fittingly does reflect the hugeness of the project.

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  4. Well I guess I better put on the bulletproof vest here….
    Nostradamus is change for sure. I give em that but not my kind of change.
    For me I guess Priest is Unleashed thru Defenders. Sure I still bought Turbo(kinda like it)
    Ram It Down(don’t like it) . Painkiller is good but than once the early 90s vocalist quitting carousel began ie…Priest,Maiden,Crue…they lost my momentum.
    Angel Of Retribution is a good comeback so when I read the previews I was optimistic. I don’t mind it but as a good Priest album…who knows maybe I need to go and revisit this.
    But I guess for me Priest is about the basics so I guess u could say I’m narrow minded to this.
    Hahaha…
    Call me old school!

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    1. It’s OK Deke, Although I’m surprised Priest has lost you for such a long time. I agree with you on Ram It Down, but I still like Turbo and Painkiller today. Wild Nights! Hot & Crazy Days! LOL

      Anyway it’s all good, perhaps Jon will get his chainsaw out too.

      I think Angel was a very good comeback record. Aside from Loch Ness…uuueeeeegh what were they thinking…I think it’s pretty strong. I love tunes like Demonizer.

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    1. Dude, you know me — I am a bit obsessive about my music. That extends to USUALLY wanting to listen to an entire album start to finish. No skipping.

      Can’t do it with Angel of Retribution. Loch Ness is such a stinky stinky messy piece of poo. If I had produced that album, I would have said, “Guys…no.” Or at least got them to shorten it down from THIRTEEN fucking minutes!

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  5. For u to drop the F bomb..haha u must really hate it!
    Ha…
    Good conversation for this review that’s for sure..I guess that’s why KK bolted as Priest is rehashing old albums (by the way the British Steel 30 yr reissue is awesome) and not progressing forward,plus I guess he could not take Halford anymore…..
    Too bad….
    Gotta toss on Point Of Entry at some point today!

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    1. Great minds buddy — I spun Point of Entry on Friday, last day of work. Heading Out to the Highway! Still like it even if it’s a British Steel Jr.

      I have that 30th British Steel, Deke, and I will be reviewing it in 2014. (Spoiler – I love it)

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  6. Cool look forward to it…..Point Of Entry is the lost Priest album ..kinda like AcDc with the Flick of The Switch album….
    Kinda ironic how both those albums are just back to basics in raw production but I remember bring home Screaming for Vengeance and putting on and hearing The Metallion opening and going whoooooah this is sounding heavy already and the second thing was I gotta see this live!

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    1. Yeah and it was all still Tom Allom, but the production had a drastic change at that point. And they did Screaming and Defenders and then suddenly Turbo. I heard Turbo Lover and I thought it was great. I was just a kid.

      Ram It Down could have been a lot better. Should have. Dave Holland should have gone after Priest Live. Got a new drummer and Ram It Down would have been better.

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      1. No, it wouldn’t. Because Holland didn’t write the songs and the songs on Ram It Down sucks for the most. See, I found the chainsaw for Ram It Down instead. :)

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        1. I kinda had a hard time with the Ripper albums as well. Not his fault, they would have sucked even if Halford was still with them. I love Turbo, though. The production might leave a lot to be desired, but there are some really great stuff on that record.Speaking of RID (really? the initials for Ram It Down spells RID… Whadda u know….), I wouldn’t be surprised if Blood Red Skies, the best song on that album, is a leftover from Turbo. I get an Out In The Cold kinda vibe from it.

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        2. Blood Red Skies is a leftover from Turbo. I read confirmation of that somewhere. Perhaps Martin Popoff’s book. One that that surprised me is that the song Ram It Down is also a leftover from Turbo. But the band always said Turbo had a heavier side that they ended up removing and using for the next album.

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  7. I just found the Ram It Down production stale and The Johhny Be Good cover made me puke in my mouth. Ha. The only thing I liked,was the cover was deadly.
    Turbo was good but I found that I liked half the record and they were chasing after the elusive hit single. Actually Turbo is like the bastard child of Triumph Sport Of Kings except Turbo had a few more better tracks and both came out in 86….thank god Maiden,Roth and Halen saved the day for me as if there was a yr of letdown in music that would be the yr in which Boston put out Third Stage and as a 19 yr old at the time u do not lead off your album with a ballad?????!
    WTF was Schloz thinking???
    Now leading off a abum in 86 with Good Enough or Somewhere In Time as the opening track was the way to go!

    Ok Mikey I gotta split for a bit but I will be back later today!

    Good chatting with ya!

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    1. Right on Deke, talk to you soon. Merry Christmas if I don’t talk to you before! But definitely I’m looking forward to your Top 5’s of the year.

      Re: Ram It Down cover. Do you mean the album cover? I always thought it was pretty weird…a fist, pounding the Earth? I got the British Steel reference (“Pounding the world, like a battering RAM…”) but I never liked the cover.

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  8. I think this is a great album. Overblown? Sure. Pretentious? Maybe so. But do I care? Not one bit. Priest got their deal of a shit lunch for this album and then some, but I really can’t subscribe to that. I don’t get it. I believe they have managed to change things around, but still maintain the Priest sound – and they managed to write a damn double album worth of songs that are almost all at least good. Ah, well, the world would be such a boring place if we all had the same taste. That would mean that I had to agree with neue regel…

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