Review Summary: A solid, if slightly tiredsome, euro-metal outing.
When they released their debut álbum, Words Of Nostradamus
, back in 2000, Nostradameus were little more than endowed students of the Swedish power metal school. And what is Swedish power metal, you ask? Well, take the Finnish power metal stylings of Sonata Arctica (minus the keyboards), mix them with the hard rock overtones of local heroes Hammerfall (minus most of the cheese), add a pinch of mid-period Helloween joyfulness and just a hint of Blind Guardian medievalism. Voilá
! Swedish power metal, as seen by Nostradameus. That was the prevailing sound in their debut – heavily aided by an endorsement, and cameo vocal performance, from big daddy Joacim Cans, of Hammerfall – and that is still the sound come their second album, 2001’s The Prophet Of Evil
However, a few important things have changed in the Swedish group. In the year and half between Words
and this one, the drummer changed, and more importantly, Nostradameus became a five-piece, with the inclusion of lead guitarist Michael Aberg and bassist Thomas Antonsson. And these inclusions were probably what made Prophet
such a good record, especially Aberg. Even though the group’s main musical composer is fellow axeman Jake Fréden, it is the new recruit that shines throughout this album, with his Malmsteenian solos and overtly melodic leads. Fredén has a somewhat edgier style to his melodies, making it easy to tell who is playing what when. If you’re in doubt, look in the booklet (they discriminate who does what), but here’s a hint: if you’re hearing a really good guitar solo on this album, then you’re probably listening to Aberg. Examples are too many to mention – the best practice is to listen to the actual album.
The other distinguishing factor in Nostradameus’ sound is singer Freddy Persson. Here is a singer that never pushes his vocal range, preferring to keep within the friendly confines of middle-range. A great voice, he is not, and like many Nordic vocalists he has a problem with his English accent – but after Kakko and Kotipelto and even Kiske or Cans, it is refreshing to hear a more subdued voice that merely adds to the songs without trying to steal the show. Not that Persson doesn’t climb that ladder at times – at the end of Hymn To These Lands
, for instance – but usually even his more passionate moments are sung in a lowish key. Requiem (I Will Honor Thy Name)
) is a good example of this, as it’s the requisite power ballad (with medieval overtones), but Persson manages to convey emotion without destroying our eardrums in the process. Definitely refreshing.
Drummer Jesse Lindskog and bassist Antonsson don’t really get much to do, apart from providing rhythmic consistency, but it is nice to notice that Antonsson has his moment at the beginning of Gathering Resistance
, incidentally, the best song on this album, as well as the rock-iest.
And then there’s the songwriting itself. In case you haven’t noticed, The Prophet of Evil
is a conceptual album. Its story tells of a young prince of a faraway kingdom whose Dad – the King, duh! – is murdered by the evil alchemist and counsellor, Hister, who then frames the murder on the prince, who is exiled – Hamlet, anyone? So yeah, I know what you’re thinking, and yes, it’s cheesy. However, the story – such as it is – is well told in the band’s lyrics, with Persson incarnating the different characters: the Hister in Murder
, the Prince in Gathering Resistance
, the people of the kingdom on Hymn To These Lands
and so on. In this context, it’s interesting to note the Europe cover, Scream of Anger
– it’s a great re-working of the track, but…exactly where does it fit in the story?
Musically, the album is also very varied. The basis of it all is of course melodic metal (or, if you will, power metal). But it ranges from the standard double-bass fare of Hymn To These Lands
, Evil Prophecies
and The Power’s In Your Hand
to the more melodic intricacies of Murder
, to the rocking beat of Gathering Resistance
, through the long, sweeping epic The Final Battle
and the standard cheesy ballad, as represented by Requiem
. Despite their diversity, most of these tracks manage to keep a consistently high level and a recognisable Nostradameus sound, halfway between Sonata and Hammerfall. But, as with almost every record, there wer bound to be some gripes.
The first of these gripes is, of course, the filler. There is not a great amount of it on this album, but the fact is that, for some reason, The Power’s In Your Hand
doesn’t work as well as the other tracks. That is the most glaring example of filler on this album, but you could also count In Prison
and the awfully narrated intro as somewhat weaker tracks (they never spoil the album, though). If you can override this small detail, another, less evident flaw will come within sight. This album is something of a twin to Helloween’s Keeper Of The Seven Keys II
. There’s the rocking track. There’s the long epic. There’s the fist pumping entrance track. There’s the melodic mid-tempo. And mostly, these songs are placed within the same position as those on Keepers
. The most blatant example is The Final Battle
, an 11-minute 10th track. What was the tenth track on Keepers
? It was the title track, that clocked in at thirteen and a half minutes. To a lesser extent, Gathering Resistance
, the eight track here, can be compared to I Want Out
, the ninth track on Keepers
and, to an even lesser extent, Murder
to Dr. Stein
. However, while this is puzzling, it never detracts from your enjoyment of the album.
The problem is, that enjoyment is short-lived. This album wears thin pretty quickly, and you will get sick to your stomach of it. But when you do, here’s some advice – put it aside, give it a rest. Then pick it up again. Guaranteed satisfaction or your money back.
Briefly, The Prophet of Evil
is a firmly above-average euro-power-metal album that will please any fan of the genre. Nostradameus would since build a respectable career in European metal, and this record shows why they deserved it.
Gathering Resistance’s intro
The Power’s In Your Hand
It wears out quickly
It’s not exceedingly original
Hymn To These Lands
Scream of Anger