The Majesty Of Decay

rating icon 8.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. Euphoric Parasitism
02. The Majesty Of Decay
03. From The Belly Of The Whale
04. Daughter Of Swords
05. Ursa Minor
06. Ursa Major
07. The High Priestess
08. The Black Elk
09. Judgement
10. Metamorphosis

There is nothing quite like some rigorous independent thinking to make narrow-minded folk wet their beds. JUDICATOR have been one of power metal's most potent forces for some time, with a sound that owed plenty to BLIND GUARDIAN without ever borrowing directly from them, and that sounded neither overtly American nor slavishly European, preferring a holistic amalgam of the two, with added progressive trimmings. On "The Majesty Of Decay", the quartet's sixth studio effort, JUDICATOR deliver generous quantities of everything that diehard fans will be expecting, but the power metal purity boat definitely receives a robust and carefree rocking here. With a much stronger prog influence and a newfound disregard for power metal's melodic myopia, these songs amount to a gleeful sprint into the unknown, and to hell with the petulant, online consequences.

There were hints of this exhilarating forward leap on 2020's "Let There Be Nothing", particularly on rambling epics like "Amber Dusk" and "Strange to the World". But "The Majesty of Decay" feels less like a logical next step than a complete change of focus. From opener "Euphoric Parasitism" onwards, these songs are always unpredictable, with multiple, seamless shifts into a variety of theoretically incompatible styles. The result is an album full of intricate mini-symphonies, each one full of melodic highs and eccentric, art-metal depths, alongside several moments of tongue-in-cheek audacity. JUDICATOR are incredible musicians, with a rare chemistry that makes epic tales like "From The Belly Of The Whale" flow with the instinctive grace of the '70s prog rock greats, but with a very modern sense of prog metal eclecticism dictating tone and pace. Elsewhere, "The High Priestess" rolls in on a motoring funk bassline and flurries of gritty brass, ushering in a prolonged passage of willfully complex symphonic bluster that will have stoned metalheads the world over shrieking "Candlelight! And incense!" at their loved ones. Is it the brass section that upsets people? How funny.

The closing "Metamorphosis" is this album's mesmerizing pinnacle. Like YES jamming with SYMPHONY X, its blend of sublime vocal harmonies, spiraling keyboards, sonorous sax, razor-slash post-thrash riffs and grand cinematic sweep sounds entirely unlike standard power metal, and thrillingly so. Perhaps mindful of the fact that they had taken power metal as far as it deserved to go, JUDICATOR have evolved beyond their roots and created something that may prove a little challenging for the purists but will undoubtedly resonate with a much wider and weirder audience. "The Majesty of Decay" is both brilliant and fucking bonkers.

Author: Dom Lawson
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