When Judas Priest announced last year that Nostradamus would be a concept album of epic proportions, the news was met with equal parts groans, cheers and raised eyebrows. While 2005’s Angel of Retribution—the first album since vocalist Rob Halford re-joined the band—was exalted by some as a glorious return to original form, it ended up a spotty affair. The high expectations for a second album made it a magnitudinal undertaking with a risk of losing loyalties.
The results are hit and miss. Nostradamus incorporates styles from throughout Priest’s career, both grandiose and punishing, but mostly it lumbers along at midtempo. When it works, it blisters. But there’s just too much to digest: 23 songs, at over 90 minutes in all. And clearly, the concept would have failed without Halford leading the way. Epic-ness is well-suited to his voice, and while he may have lost some upper register, his delivery is powerful and emotive, whether raging away in a straight-up metal gallop or lamenting in Latin over an orchestral piece.
Fans hoping for ’80s-era Priest will be disappointed; those with patience will find the record grows on them. While most classic bands have become self-parodies, Priest has attempted grander heights, and largely succeeded. (Chris La Tray)