Judicator – Let There Be Nothing Review

Thanks entirely to Eldritch Elitist‘s coverage of Judicator’s last album, The Last Emperor, I discovered one of my favorite new-to-me bands in recent memory. After an initial good impression, The Last Emperor eventually completely won me over, and it landed in my top 10 of 2018. There’s something so pure and magical about the way Judicator combines the influences of Blind Guardian and Iced Earth into a prog/power beast that stands on its own. It reminds me of what Demons & Wizards might sound like if their music was actually good. There. I said it — again. Go on, throw your tomatoes! The vitamin C and potassium will only make me stronger!1 Needless to say, The Last Emperor’s follow up, Let There Be Nothing, has been one of my most anticipated releases on tap for 2020, and thanks to Eldritch‘s busy real life, the review has fallen to little old me. I know we’re well into August, but better late than TYMHM never!

Let There Be Nothing sees Judicator continuing what they began on The Last Emperor. The album treats us to more history by way of power metal, this time winding back the clock to the 6th century A.D. Following the story of Byzantine general Flavius Belisarius as he reconquers territory that once belonged to the former Western Roman Empire, Let There Be Nothing mixes history and individual personal drama to deliver a product that mirrors the 90’s Blind Guardian power/speed of its predecessor while simultaneously embracing a far moodier vibe. No matter how many times I listen to singer John Yelland’s voice, I can never get over just how much he sounds like Hansi Kürsch. It’s seriously uncanny, and the genuine emotion he displays generally covers over the few overly-cheesy lyrical moments that occur from time to time on Let There Be Nothing — the sappy slow portions of “Strange to the World” being the worst offenders. But if we didn’t like a little cheese with our metal, we probably wouldn’t be power metal fans now, would we?

Musically, Judicator has really hit their stride. After Yelland’s beautiful harmonized intro to first track “Let There Be Light,” the rest of the band comes in with a triumphant Blind Guardian gallop to set the historical stage, painting a picture of a world overrun by barbarians and in need of saving. “Tomorrow’s Sun” follows as the album’s shortest track with an Iced Earth power/thrash battering ram, the aforementioned “Strange to the World” brings our first real dose of melodrama as part of an 8-minute epic, and the embedded “Gloria” enters the arena to fight for the honor and glory (ah) that could only come from winning Power Metal Song o’ the Year. The latter is one of those songs that will replay in your mind for days after hearing it just once, its rumbling bass backing the musical and lyrical gallop as Yelland and a female voice deliver an incredibly infectious vocal performance. The album finishes with a trio of epic tracks that clock in together at nearly a half hour. “Amber Dusk” begins slowly before launching into a Symphony X-style shredfest thanks in part to a guest solo from Christian Münzner (Obscura, Alkaloid, Eternity’s End), and the penultimate track “The Way of a Pilgrim” and the closing title track combine as an epic journey through melancholy and fear into anger and resolve.

There is so much great stuff on Let There Be Nothing. Too much. The album clocks in at a hefty 57 minutes across eight tracks, and while each song is very good or better, there’s probably enough fat to be trimmed here that the runtime could easily be pared down to a tight 50. It reminds me of last year’s Tanagra release, another album that probably would have been auto-top 10 material with some editing. The production is spectacular and Alicia Cordisco’s riffs sound absolutely sublime. Bassist Jordan Elcess gives a phenomenal performance that can be heard throughout, and both he and Cordisco share lead guitar duties, their harmonies and solos making the album reek of classic metal glory (ah). This is probably best enjoyed as a whole, but my favorite tracks are “Tomorrow’s Sun,” “Gloria,” “Amber Dusk,” and “Let There Be Nothing.”

It was always going to be hard for Judicator to top The Last Emperor in my mind, but Let There Be Nothing comes pretty damn close. Shedding light on a fascinating character from history all while delivering top-notch power metal, this is the album you should listen to if, like me, you’re still mourning the latest snoozefest from Demons & Wizards. Over the course of two albums (three if you count the excellent At the Expense of Humanity), Judicator have cemented themselves as one of the best modern power metal acts running.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Prosthetic Records
Websites: judicatormetal.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/judicatormetal
Releases Worldwide: July 24th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. Tis trve, we tried it and now he’s twice the size. – Steel
« »