I’ve said it before in a post or two in the past, but I’m gonna say it again: the year of our Lord (Joey DeMaio) 2015 was – in my humble opinion – the best year Power Metal has ever had. It just seemed that every power metal album was of superb quality. One album at the top of that great list was Judicator’s critically acclaimed third offering At The Expense of Humanity. They steered away from the historical concepts from their first two albums and delivered a record very personal both lyrically and sonically. After a few bumps in the road they are finally releasing their fourth, The Last Emperor. The question I asked myself before I started listening was can they continue that passionate sound while going back to a historical theme? I hate to give it away right at the opener but the answer is a resounding HOLY CHRIST, YES!!!
Judicator wastes no time hitting you with some sweet, sexy melodies on the album’s title track. John Yelland belting out those Blind Guardian-esque double layered vocals will make every power metal fan feel just right. A little over a minute in, they bring on the speed. Tony Cordisco and Michael Sanchez throw down some of the heaviest riffs I’ve ever heard from Judicator while drummer Jordan Elcess pounds the skins with absolute power. It’s the perfect way to open the album. Next is the mid to fast paced “Take Up Your Cross” which contains my favorite chorus on this record. Its got that uplifting, anthemic feeling that drew me to power metal in the first place. John’s powerful voice makes the chorus even stronger. “Raining Gold” is the third track, and it is speed personified. No letting up from beginning to end, it’s definitely a neck-breaker. And Tony’s solo is just too delicious. To close the first half of the journey is the nine minute epic “The Queen Of All Cities.” For me, this is the highlight of the album. Starting off with that quietly melodic guitar intro that Judicator does so well, this song takes us on a sonic and emotional rollercoaster. It’s one of the best power metal songs I’ve ever heard.
The second half starts off with the first single from the album entitled “Spiritual Treason” and features the almighty Hansi Kürsch of Blind Guardian. As a lifelong power metal fan it’s music to my ears (pun intended) to hear these two powerhouse singers sharing the mic and just completely slaying! The guest vocalizing doesn’t stop there as the next track “Antioch” includes vocals from the awesome Dave Brown (Chaos Frame) and gives you a steady dose of speed while also slowing things down from time to time without ruining the flow of the song. The climax of The Last Emperor comes in the form of the seventh track “Nothing But Blood.” A fast-paced melodic song that features the entire band at their best. Strong riffs, great solos, excellent drumming and superb singing make this one of the stand-out tracks from an already tremendous record. The journey comes to an end with “It Falls To Jerusalem.” Starting off with a melancholy intro, it strengthens into a mid to fast paced, emotional song which is evident in the lyrics. Much like the title track was a perfect intro, “It Falls To Jerusalem” is the best way to end the album. Buy hey, if you buy the CD, you get the fan-favorite track “King of Rome” re-mastered and sounding even better than the original.
Ever since releasing King Of Rome back in 2012, Judicator have slowly become the leaders of the resurgent US Power Metal movement. Their mix of soaring European-style melodies and traditional-style speed and heaviness has put them near the top of the ever-growing Power Metal world. I have a strong feeling The Last Emperor will get them over the hump. What once started as a fun project for two guys who met at a Blind Guardian concert has now become a powerhouse metal band that gets better with every release. This is an amazing album that will definitely be high up on my end of year list. No matter what sub-genre of metal you like, you will enjoy The Last Emperor. Bravo, Judicator.
HAIL to you all!!!