August 22, 2008

Priest Goes to the Opera in ‘Nostradamus’

By Nathalie Baret

For the Journal

Coming up with an interesting subject matter for a new album is one thing, but when mulling the idea of producing a concept record - - well, the stakes just got higher. Now a collection of tunes have to be written, arranged and sequenced so each track bleeds into the next, smooth as butter.

Sounds like a lot on one plate.

"Not this time around," said Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford, calling from his hotel room in Dsseldorf, Germany. "More than anything, you need to have a very strong foundation on which to create a concept piece, but it was almost like 'Nostradamus' was waiting to appear after all these years. It was uncanny, really."

The band's newest opus and 16th studio offering, "Nostradamus," a doubledisc set delivered as a rock opera with momentous intros and musical interludes connecting one song with the next, is quite different from the Birmingham, England, metal band's past records.

"Since those early days of making our metal in the 1970s, we'd always pondered the possibility of some kind of concept release. I think we delved off into this wonderful metal journey for the last three-plus decades, but it was time to hit a new plateau," said Halford.

Marking its first-ever concept project, Priest lyrically tailors the life of the mysterious 16th-century French prophet, Michel de Nostredame (also known as Nostradamus).

"When people hear the Latin name Nostradamus, the first thing they usually say is, 'Hey, wait a minute, that's the guy who is known for his prophecies,' " bassist and co-founder Ian Hill said in a phone interview. True, Michel de Nostredame was well-known for his ability to look into the future -- in fact, he was commissioned by the Queen Consort to King Henri II of France to make horoscopes for the royal family. His famous work "Les Propheties," usually referred to as end-of-the-world prophecies, was published in 1555 and foresaw natural disasters, wars and battles; some even say that Nostradamus predicted the terrorist attacks of 9/11. But the most enigmatic prophecy suggests that the world will end in 2012.

"It's strange because we all knew about this Nostradamus character. And yet, it never entered our minds to cover this extraordinary man until our manager Bill, who looks over (The Who's) Pete (Townshend) and Roger (Daltrey), suggested it," Halford said. "Sure, Roger and Pete wrote all the 'Tommy' rock opera, but Bill was very much involved in that success."

Once the suggestion was firmly locked in place, Priest began the research and writing sessions in England.

The Nostradamus installment, which Hill and his bandmates consider "one of Priest's greatest achievements from a writing, musical and performance point of view," is beautifully laid out. The sonic landscape is built from the ground up with a heavy string accompaniment, spurts of choir, melodic keyboards and intricate Priest trademark dual guitars by Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing. All of this is augmented by Halford exercising his four-and-ahalf octave vocal range.

Metal Masters Tour

Featuring Judas Priest with special guests Heaven & Hell, Motrhead and Testament

WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27

WHERE: Journal Pavilion. Take Rio Bravo exit off I-25, west on Rio Bravo to Broadway, south on Broadway to Bobby Foster Road

HOW MUCH: $26-$48, $81-$131 and four-pack lawn special is $75. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster outlets (883-7800), at www. and www.

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