The Metal Gods are back, United and still Hell Bent For Leather to Defend The Faith and if you think they’ve lost a touch or mellowed out at all, You’ve Got Another Thing Coming. Okay. I promise, that’s the last old Priest title that I’ll shoehorn into a lame sentence.
2005 saw the classic line-up of Priest return, after lead singer Rob Halford left the band in 1992, with the face-melting, senses-shattering scorcher, Angel Of Retribution. It was a solid metal album. Three years later, Priest has dropped the 23 megaton sonic explosion, Nostradamus, that redefines the band while never losing sight of what makes Priest, uh, Priest.
Nostradamus, for those that don’t want to bother Wikipediaing it:
Michel de Nostredame (14 December 1503 or 21 December 1503 – 2 July 1566), usually Latinized to Nostradamus, was a French apothecary and reputed seer who published collections of prophecies that have since become famous world-wide. He is best known for his book Les Propheties, the first edition of which appeared in 1555. Since the publication of this book, which has rarely been out of print since his death, Nostradamus has attracted an enthusiastic following who, along with the popular press, credit him with predicting many major world events.
In contrast, most academic sources maintain that the associations made between world events and Nostradamus’s quatrains are largely the result of misinterpretations or mistranslations (sometimes deliberate) or else are so tenuous as to render them useless as evidence of any genuine predictive power. Moreover, none of the sources listed offers any evidence that anyone has ever interpreted any of Nostradamus’s quatrains specifically enough to allow a clear identification of any event in advance.
Nevertheless, interest in the work of this prominent figure of the French Renaissance is still considerable, especially in the media and in popular culture, and the prophecies have in some cases been assimilated to the results of applying the alleged Bible Code, as well as to other purported prophetic works.
So this 102-minute, double CD (which can come in a Deluxe Edition packaged with a hardbound book) is apparently about the life and times of the infamous Nostradamus, of which I know practically nothing. This should be my most non-informative review yet. And that’s definitely saying something. Keep reading!
01 DAWN OF CREATION (2.33)
This is the mood setter. A dark, brooding, and mysterious instrumental piece featuring the first lush orchestration I can recall on a Priest record. 3 stars
02 PROPHECY (5.26)
This is a classic Priest rocker. Heavy, with an appropriate use of almost gothic keyboards. Halford is great on vocals, interchanging melodic shrieking and growling with each turn in the song. There’s also one of the better dual-guitar solos, with Downing and Tipton exchanging flurries of blistering notes cascading into a sonic tidal wave of ferocious intensity. 1/2 star subtracted, though, for the overly-cheesy chorus. 3.5 stars.
03 AWAKENING (0.53)
This one isn’t an instrumental, but it’s not really a full-on song either. This could have been combined with “Revelations”, I guess. But it would bring down how great that song is. 2 stars.
04 REVELATIONS (7.05)
One of the best songs on the album. Just a nice, heavy, rockin’ Priest song. Great vocals and great guitars add up to a great song. Definitely downloadable. 5 stars.
05 THE FOUR HORSEMEN (1.35)
Another little snippet of a song that could be combined with “War”. This one is slightly better than “Awakening”. 2.5 stars.
06 WAR (5.04)
Why is it that every rock song featuring the word “War” sounds remarkably similar? I’m looking at you, Pink Floyd (“Dogs Of War”) and Def Leppard (“Gods Of War”). This song doesn’t really grab me. The chorus is kind of annoying, and really, I’m just sick of these heavy military-drum-type war songs. Next. 1.5 stars
07 SANDS OF TIME (2.36)
Is it just me or do some of the lyrics and music in this short segue-song bring to mind Iron Maiden’s “Hallowed Be Thy Name” from Number Of The Beast? It’s not a bad song, but not great. 2.5 stars.
08 PESTILENCE AND PLAGUE (5.09)
The Latin sections are kind of lost on me, but I think I get the overall gist of the lyrics. Ahh. I just looked it up. “The Temptation to search for Glory; The thing to pay is the fall of man.” The song isn’t bad either. Very Italian-opera-like. 3 stars.
09 DEATH (7.33)
Man, this is what Priest fans love. A nice, dark song with some evil-sounding vocals, some wailing guitars, and some nice, heavy riffs. I think the chorus is probably the weakest part of the song, but it works. The guitar solo is great. 4 stars.
10 PEACE (2.21)
Another short, mellowish transition song. I guess we should count ourselves thankful that there wasn’t one between the previous two songs. And that there aren’t two transition songs strung together in a row. This is one of the better ones. A little mellow for Priest, though. Good transition into the next song though. is it wrong to say “transition” four times in eight sentences? I don’t think so. 2.5 stars.
11 CONQUEST (4.42)
This is a high-energy song. To tell the truth, it sort of reminds me of “The Final Countdown”, but it’s way, way, way better than that. I’m not even sure why it brings to mind “Countdown”. This one doesn’t really do much for me either way. Still, it’s technically a pretty good song. Reminds me of one of the lesser songs on Turbo. 3 stars (extra credit for a nice dueling-guitar solo and some impressive beating of the skins).
12 LOST LOVE (4.27)
This is a fairly mellow song as well. Is that a flute I hear? A flute in a Priest song? I think it is. Aside from the flute, this song isn’t bad. Just sort of slow, dull, and boring. The tune isn’t bad and the guitar work is nice and definitely unusual for Priest. Not really a big fan, though. 2 stars.
13 PERSECUTION (6.34)
The beginning of this song really reminds me of Goblin’s soundtrack to Dario Argento’s Suspiria. But then it kicks in and brings to mind Mindcrime-era Queensryche (I’m thinking “Spreading The Disease”). I haven’t really listened to this song much, but as I sit here listening to it now, I could definitely see it growing on me. 3.5 stars (for now).
14 SOLITUDE (1.22)
There’s some neat production work on this instrumental done, as far as I can tell, exclusively on the keyboard. Nice and short and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. That’s worth at lest 2.5 stars.
15 EXILED (6.32)
Again, not a bad song, but not a great song. As I listen to this, I’m thinking the Priest could have probably trimmed this down to one disc of ear-crushing awesomeness. 2.5 stars.
16 ALONE (7.50)
This song starts off kind of slow and mellow and you’re thinking, “What is this? A ballad?” Oh, no. It is not. This is one of the best songs on the record. Halford’s voice is a weapon of merciless vengeance as he screams, “We don’t want to belong. We said all along. We just want to be left alone.” That we do, Rob. That we do. 5 stars.
17 SHADOWS IN THE FLAME (1.10)
Another short song that I’m torn about. In one aspect, this is one that I wish were longer. Acoustic Priest? I had no idea that would sound so good. But on the other hand, it segues so nicely into the next track, I have to say that they made the right decision in keeping it short. This is a goodie. 3.5 stars.
18 VISIONS (5.24)
Yet another instant classic. I heard this one on the radio about a month before they released the album, which prompted me to head directly to my computer and download it. The version I downloaded was the “Radio Edit”, which is perfectly good, but the album version is better. 4 stars.
19 HOPE (2.09)
They lost me on this one. This song is incredibly lame. I wish they’d left it off the album all together. 1 star.
20 NEW BEGINNINGS (4.56)
You know, I do like this song for two reasons. 1) The weird background synthesizer effect reminds me of the end of Friday the 13th (you know, the part where Alice is in the boat, just before Jason jumps out of the water), and 2) the title reminds me of Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning. I keed. I keed. I really only like it for the first reason. 3 stars.
21 CALM BEFORE THE STORM (2.05)
This is more like it. Yeah, it’s another short transition song, but the guitars sound SO cool in this, I could probably listen to a thirty minute jam if it was exactly like this, only fifteen times longer. Then the singing starts and it kind of loses a step. 3 stars.
22 NOSTRADAMUS (6.43)
This is the first song I heard off the record, and I liked it immediately. This is a GREAT Priest song. Halford sounds great and the guitars are unrelenting. After the last few snoozers, this manic head-banger is a welcome relief. 5 stars.
23 FUTURE OF MANKIND (8.29)
The album ends on a high note, with a gritty rocker that somewhat recalls “Metal Gods”. 4 stars.
The album, when taken as a whole, certainly does tell a story of Nostradamus. I don’t know if I’d encourage the kids to base a twenty-page report on Nostradamus solely on this record, but what the hell. You should do it. And then let me know what your teacher says. Like I said, I’m too lazy to hit Wikipedia or, worse yet, actually read a book about him.
Rob Halford Vocals
KK Downing Guitars
Glenn Tipton Guitars
Ian Hill Bass
Scott Travis Drums
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