Former JUDAS PRIEST guitarist K.K. Downing has defended the band's controversial symphonic heavy metal concept double album about Nostradamus, saying that it "a great musical work" which might have been ahead of its time.
Released in 2008, the two-CD, 23-track journey through the life of the controversial, 16th-century prophet was criticized by fans for not sounding like classic PRIEST and for consisting almost entirely of slow, doomy, operatic, keyboard-heavy anthems, apart from a token couple of mid-tempo songs.
Speaking to "Rock Talk With Mitch Lafon", Downing said about "Nostradamus" (hear audio below): "To me, it's a great album; it's a great musical work. It was not really what the fans were wanting or expecting, and I completely take that on board. But as a musical work, it was very rewarding to do. I hope people don't consider it that it was such a selfish thing to do, that musical work.
"I could probably talk about that album all day long and the reasons for doing that album," he continued. "Nobody can deny we were able to showcase Rob [Halford, vocals] — as great as he is, he even hit new dimensions on that record. It was a great opportunity to showcase Rob's vocal ability even more so than we've ever done before. Same with, hopefully, our musical ability — that we are able to do something like that. But as a concept was, it was meant to go out into theaters and establishments around the world, and it would have been a great show. To see great theatrics and illusions, with Rob playing the part of Nostradamus and us doing the music and everything, it would have been quite something to see — I think very entertaining to people of all ages. And so it was very much being geared into something that was gonna be very dramatic, emotional — just like any great opera."
Downing went on to describe "Nostradamus" as "our chance to create something different in the music place that we don't always go to. We have lots of great musicals, and we go into great, prestigious venues, like the Royal Albert Hall or Carnegie Hall — great theaters around the place," he said. "To create something and not let everyone else have all of the spoils — 'Phantom Of The Opera' and 'Cats' and all of these musicals and stuff like that. Why can't we, JUDAS PRIEST, put something that's rock and metal into that musical and entertainment place?
"Okay, we might have been going off on a tangent, getting on the wrong track as far as everybody wanting a [classic-sounding] JUDAS PRIEST record, but looking at the bigger picture of broadening the scope and the horizons of what a rock and metal band can do, it's an opportunity kind of missed through no fault of anyone's except our own record company and management, or whatever, decisions," he said. "It wasn't to be, and probably it was a good decision. But it's a dream — it's a dream for me. I often think about it."
K.K. remains hopeful that "Nostradamus" will "have its day" at some point in the future. "I'm always saying, in JUDAS PRIEST, we released some records too early, some records a bit too late; a lot of it's about timing," he said. "So, hopefully, that record, one day… And it might be next week, it might be next year, it might be 50 years from now, when we're all long gone, that something might happen with that musical. Who knows? They might do a remake of 'Top Gun' and use some of the songs… I will see what the future holds."
"Nostradamus" shifted 42,000 copies in the United States in its first week of release to debut at No. 11. At the time, this was the band's highest-ever chart position in the U.S. In Canada, the CD opened at position No. 9 after moving close to 4,000 units.
Downing's autobiography, "Heavy Duty: Days And Nights In Judas Priest", was released on September 18 via Da Capo Press.