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Judas Priest - “Nostradamus” Album Advance Listening Session

Date: 05/08/08
Venue: Sony/Epic Records New York, NY
Reviewed By: Rich Catino

This has been a very memorable couple days for me. First, I am asked (thanks Chip from Chipster PR) if I would like to listen to the entire “Nostradamus” album at Epic Records a month before its release and do a special report for Metal Asylum. Of course I immediately made the time. Then, at the Vintage Vinyl in store signing I meet my childhood Heavy Metal heroes Rob Halford, KK Downing, and Glenn Tipton, take a picture with them (see my photos), and have all three sign my copies of “Screaming for Vengeance” and “Defenders of the Faith” on LP before the actual event began. Yes I am very lucky I know. And I must say also feel very rewarded that all the hard work put into the website has been recognized at this level. Even when I said hello to the guys and told KK I heard the record he said “O yeah.. you are one of the lucky few” “What did you think?”

On the last day of the pre album release listening sessions at Sony/Epic Records I was the last of the journalists in the offices. Now I am not going to do a track by track review because this body of work really needs to be assessed after a few listens, but I will still provide a thorough summary of what I heard.

As I sat listening to “Nostradamus” in its entirety (about 1 hour and 43 minutes), I immediately noticed with the opening track “Dawn of Creation” that Priest were clearly broadening their musical horizons breaking out of their comfort zone. The stage was set for a new chapter in the Judas Priest story.

While still very much a Judas priest record, “Nostradamus” sees the band incorporating orchestrated and classical sounds into their music. Not over done or over blown, the added instruments serve as a guiding light for the guitars, bass, and drums with Mr. Rob Halford telling the story. Throughout the two discs, interludes often string together each track making for a seamless listening experience. While listening, I was immediately hurled into Nostradamus’ world. In this more theatrical realm, Priest have effortlessly crafted something that will surely please their die hard fans without abandoning their past as well as offering some surprises. Minus the interludes, in arrangement and delivery these songs are still very much heavy metal. At any given time I heard moments from “Sad Wings of Destiny”, to “British Steel”, “Defenders of the Faith”, to “Painkiller” in the title track.

Now, for long time Priest aficionados, these balladesque moments and classical elements heard in Glenn Tipton and KK Downing’s acoustic guitars will be of no surprise knowing songs like ‘Last Rose of Summer” from “Sin After Sin”, “Beyond the Realms of Death” from “Stained Class”, to “Night Comes Down” from “Defenders of the Faith” and “Blood Red Skies” from “Ram it Down”.

On “Nostradamus”, the axemen are accompanied and complimented by keys, piano and a variety of instruments and sounds to bring these arrangements to life. I think they have really taken their talents to the next level challenging themselves as both writers and players. Both the electric and acoustic guitar parts are inspired. Halford’s vocals have gone the distance as well and to places Priest fans, and probably Rob as well, have never heard before. This time around, Rob has pulled back on the screams working nicely in his mid range yet dabbling in some operatic and softer tones. He also sings in another language (I think Italian).

From start to finish I was engaged. I don’t think there was a moment when I felt a song was dragging. If anything, the music always held my interest not only because I knew that this was something different, but just because the songs are that good. Priest did not play it safe with “Nostradamus” and have delivered their most accomplished work thus far.

Thank you very much Chip from Chipster PR (www.chipsterpr.com ) for setting all this up and the opportunity.

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