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Judicator – Let There Be Nothing

Judicator
Let There Be Nothing
by Ian Yeara at 24 August 2020, 12:15 AM

To be upfront I have known and been friends with John Yelland and Tony Cørdisco for about 8 years now. This will not be an entirely unbiased review, however I'm ready to dig into this album and be as analytical as I can, so I can understand why I like this so much more than their last album.

"Let There Be Nothing" is a dark and gritty sort of Power Metal, but wait there's Prog too! My favorite album of theirs was "At the Expense of Humanity", it had elements of Prog and very unique riffs and song structures. It also had their best production quality. This sounds, by design like a 90s production standard and I love it.

I feel like the last album had me forgetting just how proggy JUDICATOR can be, I mean the combination of Speed Metal riffs combined with extended bridges and chorus structures. Longer instrumental introductions built into the song. I am a huge fan of all these moves, but what I'm an even bigger fan is of Roman history. I hope you like history too because this review is going to be fun for me.

It's hard to know where to start, but I guess I have to start with the bookend tracks "Let There Be Light" and "Let There Be Nothing", these are the pillars upon which this whole album is built and they are easily my favorite songs on the album. "Let There Be Light" isn't as immediately memorable as "Let There Be Nothing", but it's a fairly complex track with lots of interesting sections, melodies and harmonies. At seven minutes it makes a perfect opener for the album, we get the prelude, lots of build up the verses are solid and interesting and the chorus is built into the development section rather than being it's own thing. I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's much less of a power metal hook and more a progressive metal styled hook.

The next song "Tomorrow's Sun" is more of the speed metal vane, let me say at this point for anyone new to JUDICATOR, they LOVE 80s/90s speed metal BLIND GUARDIAN. This is the biggest love letter I have ever seen, not to an entire album, but to a specific style and I want Tony Cørdisco to know that he did it, he finally made a speed guardian album. Sorry about that, but Tony is one of the hardest working musicians I know, next to the vocalist John Yelland.

Over their last few albums they have realized that vocal harmony was the way to success, John has an amazing voice and the only thing better than one layer of John's voice, is more harmonies. The effects used on his voice in this album are perfect, this is the sound they should stick with. John comes the closest on this album he's come to replicating his "Disforia" performance on the "Age of Ether". It's almost unfair because I love that album so much I think sometimes I have held that album against JUDICATOR. With this album, I feel like I've dispersed all of that, not to say they hadn't found their sound before this, but I think the sound and production of this album are closer to what they've wanted to be the entire time.

Songs like "Strange to the World", "Amber Dusk" and "Way of a Pilgrim" are all over 8 minutes long and manage to blend this incredibly unique style of traditional Heavy Metal, Progressive Metal and BLIND GUARDIAN. "Strange to the World" stands out to me because of its variety. Variety of rhythms, tempos and lots of different time signatures. You've got a really nice, emotive intro, but then rather than feeling separated from the verse, it almost feels like the verse is built right out of the intro section. And it feels like the whole song is constructed around the incredible riff from the verse.

The big single from this album was "Gloria". I have to admit, at first I didn't really care for this song. I'm not sure what it was, maybe the chorus and the way it seems like the whole song stops and starts. Now that I've really dug into this album though I can both explain why I didn't like "Gloria" and explain why I love it now. It all comes down to the production, I said at the beginning of this I like the production and I do, but if I had one criticism it would be that this album sounds very dry, not a lot of reverb, or effects in general. This is both a great thing and a slight weakness, depending on your preferences. For me, I think I'm very used to a massive, wet sound that sounds like it was recorded in a cathedral, because let's be honest that's what most bands do nowadays, especially the more pretentious Prog and Power Metal bands. The choice to minimize usage of effects was a bold one and I think people who prefer that old school analog sound in their metal will adore this album.

Back to "Gloria", the chorus is somewhat repetitive, but because it's so dry, it almost sounds like there's a slight pause after the word "Gloria", and it just sounded awkward to me at first. Now that I have the full album for context and I've spent more time, I get why people like "Gloria" so much. It's one of the speedier numbers, and it's closer to the straight forward power metal style they played on "The Last Emperor". With the chorus though I love the vocal harmony and I realized the second time around that the chorus has an extended form and in the second half the tempo picks up. This is one of those songs that definitely revolves around the hook and fortunately it's an incredible hook.

I haven't even mentioned the historical context! I'm not a hundred percent sure, but I'd bet a lot of money that this is a concept album outlining the Byzantine Empire's efforts to retake the western Roman Empire and eventual reuniting of eastern and western Rome. The Iberian war, including Belisarius' capture of Rome, followed by holding out against a siege of the great city. It covers Belisarius' defeat at Calinicum, the phyrric victory for the Sassanians. The last two tracks seem to detail the life and torture of Photius son of Antonina, wife of Belisarius' (though technically Photius was her child from a previous marriage).  This is a rather delicate subject, but I know John Yelland is a staunch Christian and this album could be interpreted as a Christian album, but JUDICATOR did it the right way! This is a history album first and foremost, this isn't just Christian fan fiction or a retelling of biblical events, this is a story of the reuniting of Rome and Constantinople from a Christian/historical perspective and as a huge fan of both history and mythology I love how they manage to walk that tight rope of history and religion. Also I know Tony is a history teacher so these lyrics were most definitely written by well written, knowledgeable people and I appreciate their perspectives.

I really could gush about this album for hours, there's so much to like here and even though the sound isn't always what I'm used to or prefer, I can get over that because the songwriting is excellent and the hooks are memorable. I want to dedicate the end of this review to discussing my favorite song, "Let There Be Nothing".

Let there be light, let there be nothing, "I am the Alpha and Omega", what wonderful symmetry, what prose. I love good poetry and one of the things JUDICATOR is best at, is lyricism. "Let There Be Nothing" is the culmination of everything on this album (as it should be), it takes all the dramatic, emotional weight the album has been building up and let's it all out. The story of Belisarius, Antonina and Photios is a story of sin and morality and coming to grips with humanity and faith in God. It's a very complex and nuanced story that JUDICATOR manages to tell and there's a lot of detail here that I have barely scratched the surface on. The chorus of Let There Be Nothing feels like a massively cathartic moment, it really feels like this is the moment the whole album has been building up to. Songs like "Gloria" and "Autumn of Souls" have excellent hooks, but this goes beyond a hook. This chorus is the point around which the entire album is built. Or at least that's my interpretation.

Probably my favorite part of the album overall though is the very ending of "Let There Be Nothing", "Still we're marching on, I feel"; what an incredibly well done call back to The Dark Passage from Nightfall in Middle Earth. That was the moment I knew Tony wanted to go for broke on this album and really emulate some BLIND GUARDIAN. Kudos Tony, you did an awesome job and I appreciate all the little details in this album.

Hats off to the whole band, I feel like JUDICATOR has ready established their place in the Power Metal genre, and I hope this album really grabs the attention of important people within the metal industry. I've seen bands like AMARANTHE gain thousands of fans and exposure by abandoning complexity and trying to appeal to the mainstream, same with the last 3 SABATON albums and bands like DELAIN and BATTLE BEAST. In the metal it's different, you don't gain attention by abandoning complexity, you do it by pushing boundaries and finding a unique identity and that is something that Judicator has always been doing. This is a band that should be playing ProgPower in Atlanta, they should be invited to metal festivals across the country, not just ones they helped set up. I can't wait to see what they do next.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 8
Production: 7

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Let There Be Light
2. Tomorrow's Sun
3. Strange to the World
4. Autumn of Souls
5. Gloria
6. Amber Dusk
7. The Way of a Pilgrim
8. Let There Be Nothing
Lineup:
Tony Cørdisco – Guitars, Songwriting
John Yelland – Vocals, Lyrics
Jordan Elcess – Drums
Michael Sanchez – Bass, Lead Guitar
Record Label: Prosthetic Records
     


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