by Martin Popoff

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Fresh Metal

Nostradamus (Sony/BMG)

I've read so many comments about this album now that a consensus is forming, a right answer falling out of the math. But wait, it's actually more so that the descriptions are correct, but the emotional response is still oscillation wildly, between those immersing and losing themselves in the record, and those just bored with it - bored to repulsed, actually. And the description? There's an objective answer to that one: there's lots of mellow interludes, layers of orchestration (old school and just... school), guitar synths, and most of the thing is dramatic (OK, realming into the abstract there), and mostly mid-paced or, on the slow side, "plodding." O'er to the concept for a minute. Concept albums can be great (Lamb Lies Down, The Wall), but rarely are metal concept albums anything but a failure. And Nostradamus as an idea - it's workable to a point. Two things I want to say - I did a book report on Nostradamus in Grade 7 and sorta got over him. One can look at it this way. Quorthon - may he rest in Valhalla - once chuckled to me something to the effect of, "the black metal shit I used to do... it was pretty scary stuff, until you realize that it's all bullshit." Well, one can discard like old gum Nostradamus that way. If you don't believe in divining the future through the ethers, he's a con man or child at play, or, everybody is fooled in one big superstitious lot, the alchemist himself included. But then again, one can view this as a concept album about a highly interesting life in interesting times. But then, do we need all this drama? Man, drama is everywhere here. OK, back to the album, if you have no patience, and skip through the thing, it'll never catch on; it's way too long and elaborate. "Seer"-iously, just as I'm about to give up hither and thither, a really novel bit of layered ear candy happens, where I think, 'Good on ya,' meaning as a general note, you'd have to applaud the effort to make something this ambitious and left field and focused on one thing. And I don't mean Nostradamus as theme, but rather an album with this weird turgid drum sound and other distinct viscous tones (mostly those synth guitars and synths) oscillating back and forth for 102 mind-addling minutes, as segues methodically (eventually?) gives way to heavy tracks that move within a pretty tight and conservative speed and style, namely, a weirdly doomy, relaxed power metal. Self-produced this is, which is interesting, and perhaps why I'm reminded of Glenn Tipton's solo albums. But more about the lulling surge of the music. I'm actually finding the construction of the mellow tracks more impressive than that of the heavy ones, the actual songs. But yet, like everyone else, I wonder what an all-songs version of this would sit like, The Chemical Wedding, of course, being the yardstick. Frankly, it's driving me nuts trying to jump around this thing, what with the tracks not numbered, and the confusing caps vs. upper/lower demarcations. I don't really care that Rob isn't yelping upon high - fans are complaining about that one - but yes, I think Scott sounds strangely restrained, and I agree with posts that have said this could be all machine and we'd be none the wiser. I also believe the artwork is a little too digital - this launch deserved a real painting. OK, I've really had it... I'm trying to point something out, and I just won't put the effort into combing all the lyrics to figure out what song is track #8 on the first disc of this damn thing - the track listing is maddening, especially given that there's no set rule on a mellow bit versus a thundering Manowar-meets-Rhapsody bit. I'm throwing in the towel on that idea, certainly of going through the whole thing, backing up my little counter to see if something is a segue or not, so I can say that bit's too long or too short. I'll say this: of the mellow and of the heavy, there's more of it that impresses than comes off as terrible, that is, IF you intellectually frame this in the light of its consistency of style, and of some sort of audio test, of an exercise in the challenge of mixing, and the successful execution thereof. And I'll reiterate again that is it all extremely either dramatic or melodramatic (underwhelming if you can't accept the idea of magic), again the hidden enjoyment shifting to sonics and mechanics, the construction of a bunch of these mellow parts, which comes as a surprise to me.

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