Reviews of "Nostradamus"

(Steamhammer/ SPV)

Nikolo Kotzev, who conceived, wrote, arranged, recorded and produced this story of the physician and legendary prophet 'Nostradamus', started learning to play violin at the age of five, began playing the guitar in his teens and joined his first band at fifteen. After time spent as a working musician he formed his own band, Brazen Abbot, and many of the musicians who appeared on the three BA albums ('Live and Learn' - '95, 'Eye of the Storm' -'96 and 'Bad Religion' - '97) also appear here. Kotzev has also produced and mixed albums for other bands such as Molly Hatchet and Rose Tattoo.

Nikolo plays guitars, synths, violin and percussion on this album. The rest of the band are made up of John Leven (bass), Ian Haugland (drums) and Mic Michaeli (organ) who were all in the band Europe - Levin being a founder member while the other two joined in 1986 for the band's more successful later phase. The trio were also members of Kotzev's own Brazen Abbot - Haughland and Micheli for all three albums, Leven for the last two. These three provide a strong supporting structure for the music which has, understandably, recognizable similarities to Europe's last, and best, 1991 album 'Prisoners in Paradise'.

NK has assembled an amazing cast of singers including Glenn Hughes, Göran Edman and Joe Lynne Turner who all appeared on Brazen Abbot albums. The "voice of rock" Glenn Hughes plays King Henri II of France; Swedish singer Göran Edman (Yngwie Malmsteen, Kharma) the Soldier/Ghost while Joe Lynne Turner is Nostradamus himself. Also involved are Alannah 'Black Velvet' Myles as Nostradamus' wife Anne Gemelle; Sass Jordan as the queen, Catherine; Jřrn Lande (Millennium, ARK, Jorn) is the Inquisitor; while the final character, the Storyteller is Doogie White - once of Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow.

Finally, to complete the lineup on 'Nostradamus' is a thirty five piece symphonic orchestra conducted by Nelko Kolarov.

This huge cast are all pictured alongside sketches of the characters in the forty page booklet that accompanies this double CD package. This also contains all of the lyrics and, between the songs, explanatory notes which give additional information on the events that are depicted in this rock opera.

The orchestra open 'Nostradamus' with the 'Overture', a piece that is both flowery and strong. Powerful guitar work mingles with the closing bars of this track leading into 'Pieces of a Dream'. This fabulous opening song - by Glenn Hughes (GH) plus choir - with its robust melody sets high expectations for the rest of the album ... expectations that will be well met.

'Desecration' tells of how the soldier becomes the ghost. I must admit that I've not come across the vocal talents of Göran Edman (GE) before - but I'm certainly impressed. In this catchy, sing along number, Joe Lynn Turner (JLT) provides a counterpoint to Edman's voice. 'Introduction' is a brief and very pretty orchestral interlude whereas the next track, 'Home Again', begins and continues as an upbeat rock song describing Nostradamus' early life. Doogie White (DW) puts in a fine performance supported by some great vocal harmony lines. This track also features, as do many of the tracks on this album, superb guitar work.

In 'Henriette' JLT puts in a dazzling performance. This is an incredible song: anthemic and balladic - a huge production number that is enhanced by Nikolo's lively violin solo that just lifts this into a higher realm!

'Caught Up In A Rush' has a great funky bassline that really gets the body moving. Add to this GH's wonderful vocals and you get a brilliant bluesy number. GE sings the vigourous 'The Eagle', another big number with excellent orchestration. 'Plague' is a more subdued, darker song which contrasts the voices of DW and Jřrn Lande (JL) effectively. JL is also a new name to me, and his is another great rock voice that I have been introduced to by this album. The next number, 'Inquisition', is another duet in which JLT and JL form an impressive and striking vocal pairing.

'The King Will Die' is an incredible piece. The main song, sung by DW with choir, is supported by a pounding rhythm and heavy music. Yet the middle section consists of delicate orchestration sitting beneath a spoken vocals - which again gives way to the heavy beat, some sumptuous guitar playing and a strong instrumental outro ... wow!

GH and JL perform the rocking 'I Don't Believe' with its quiet vocal sector midway through ... listen out for the splendid Hammond work in the background.

There's a complete change of pace with 'Try To Live Again'. JLT and Alannah Myles (AM) sing this slower paced love song with classical guitar and fragile orchestration which ends the first CD.

Disc two begins with 'War of Religion'. A strong Hammond sound sits behind GE's vocal on this number which merges into 'The Inquisitor's Rage', in which JL sings his heart out.

GH is in a more restrained mood on 'Chosen Man'. This is a truly soulful song which starts sublimely ... and just gets better. GH's voice is coupled with JLT's for the second part of the song and together they are totally awe inspiring.

The pair of songs, 'World War II' and 'World War III', are both sung by GE, the ghost who echoes Nostradamus' prophetic words. Of the two, the latter is particularly noteworthy with its strong melody and exciting instrumentation.

'Because of You' is a song which contrasts the deeper tones of JL against the warmer, lighter voice of JLT and introduces Sass Jordan. The vocals are set against a simple and charming piano and acoustic guitar backing track.

The pace picks up again for 'The End of the World, 3797' an atmospheric number sung by GE accompanied by the choir. The orchestration provides a feeling of tension, while the strings supply highlights which lift and emphasise the piece.

'Nostradamus' closes with 'I'll Remember You'. JLT and AM sing this heavily orchestrated song with the big finish...

This CD, with its depth and variety of moods, is now a fixture in my CD player as it sounds better and better each time I play it. Each of the songs are great on their own - put them together and you have an album that is an essential for all lovers of good rock music - buy it ... play it loud ... I give it eleven out of ten!

Marisa 2nd June, 2001

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