Judicator - Let There Be Nothing
Prosthetic Records
Power Metal
8 songs (57:445)
Release year: 2020
Official Bandcamp, Prosthetic Records
Reviewed by Goat

Formed by John Yelland (also of Dire Peril) and Tony Cordisco after meeting at a Blind Guardian concert, it's perhaps no surprise that US power metal squad Judicator sound quite like the Germans, but it really takes a listen of fifth full-length Let There Be Nothing for it to sink in properly. Having had an Iced Earth-esque edge on previous releases down to the historical subject matter, Yelland's clean singing here sounds more than ever like Hansi Kürsch, a slightly younger and less raspy tone the only real difference even to experienced ears. Sure, the marriage of Iced Earth and Blind Guardian hasn't enthralled every ear out there with the Demons & Wizards project, yet Judicator have a solid heavy metal base and a skilled songwriting gene that makes Let There Be Nothing something of a gem. And who wouldn't be interested in a project that sought to resurrect Blind Guardian's earlier, more speed-metal focused sound?

Everything is set up for Judicator to succeed, then, and accordingly there's much to like about Let There Be Nothing. Lyrically based around Byzantine era-military commander Belisarius, a reconqueror of former Roman territory while dealing with an unfortunate love triangle with his wife and adopted son, there's plenty to get your teeth into if you care about lyrics and the instrumental side of the band are not far behind if you don't. The more aggressive, thrashy side of power metal and the slower, more melodic and grandiose side are both on display here, the former being more than adequately dispatched with opener Let There Be Light, containing some of the album's best lead guitar, and especially the following Tomorrow's Sun, bringing in the Iced Earth-esque chug without becoming simplistic, utilising blastbeats well and allowing a little proggy sun in through the window to great effect.

It may be harsh yet if there is a fault here it's not the raw production which makes this sound like a mid-90s album (obviously, depending on your tastes this may be a positive point!) but the general song length of 5 to 9 minutes meaning that this is music that you really have to focus on and take in in full, with no chance of a short, three-minute necksnapper to rule the airwaves and ruin your neck. The closest to that is the four-minute-plus stomper Autumn of Souls, beginning with a melodic speed metal flurry and broadening out into a perfectly solid widdly Maiden-esque type of track. And otherwise, the most compelling negative that can be summoned to cast aspersions upon Judicator's name? Songs end a little abruptly; and as one who has railed against the extended outro before this may be a blessing, but when engrossed in an eight-minute power metal epic you do notice a sudden exit. Added to this minor infraction is that catchy choruses are less common than you'd think, the most obvious example being Gloria's triumphant singalong motif making it an obvious highlight even without guest vocalist Mercedes Victoria (Soulmass).

And although on initial listens it can be hard to distinguish between epic-lengthed pieces, particularly towards the end of the album where the band gift/curse you with three eight-minute-plus pieces in a row, it soon becomes apparent that Judicator's songwriting skills are equal to the task, making each not only inviting and memorable but diverse and distinct, from speed metal gallops to slower, downright reverentially-sung prog-tinged sections like that which finishes off Amber Dusk. The almost acapella (backed only by an acoustic guitar) midsection of The Way of a Pilgrim and the greater vocal dominance of the closing title track help them stand out, and the latter especially works its way into your brain with one of the rare examples of a single vocalist playing multiple characters that actually works. As elsewhere on the album, it's notable that Judicator have that it factor, that feeling of heart and excitement poured into their music that makes it that bit extra enjoyable to listen to. This truly is made by guys who love power metal, for those who love power metal, and power metal fans of all shapes and sizes, not just the Blind Guardian fanatics, should put this on their to-hear list.

Killing Songs :
Let There Be Light, Tomorrow's Sun, Gloria, Let There Be Nothing
Goat quoted 87 / 100
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