The Majesty Of Decay
Review by Brexaul on December 3, 2022.
Judicator has always been a very interesting case, with a nice origin story attached to the whole project. They started off as a bedroom project and evolved to a full-fledged band that offered multiple highlights and some much needed Blind Guardian-ish solace in an era that Blind Guardian were experimenting with orchestras and were steering away from their signature sound. Their last 2 albums were fantastic, driven by Alicia’s array of riffs and Yelland’s performances and while the commercial breakthrough was still pending, they cemented their name as one of the most promising power metal bands of the US scene. And then, Alicia, i.e. the main (read: sole) songwriter quits the band and dark clouds form over the horizon. A longstanding bet for Judicator, and to a certain degree to us (the fans) was whether they could move forward after Alicia’s departure. Happy to say this is a bet that they triumphantly won.
The Majesty Of Decay is varied, powerful, ambitious, FRESH but above all it’s Judicator. Taking a step further from the tried and tested Guardian clone formula, the band reinvents itself by offering a multitude of styles and mood changes, well-crafted and addictive. From the more power metal moments of the Ursas (which are ironically the “weakest” façade of the new Judi) and the aggressive 'Daughter Of The Swords', to the extreme experimentation of 'The High Priestess' and the avant garde magnum opus 'Metamorphosis' the album is highly enjoyable and inspired.
The technical prowess of everyone involved is undeniable, with special mention to the great rhythm section that offers a nice variety of rhythms (and great basslines!), while Balmore Lemus proves to be a very worthy replacement, offering some excellent solos and leads throughout the compositions. The mix helps of course being very room-y and natural, boasting a nice balance on the instruments and complimenting the odd keys and their various experimentations.
John Yelland’s signature voice will always have that Hansi spirit, but it is not deliberate or overused, apart from some standard harmonies that we can still find dwelling in their songs and man, his lyrics hit dead center. The wackiness in the 'The High Priestess' paired with the existential lyrics, make a very interesting contrast that just works and I’d really like them to explore that path further down the road. There are of course the more standardized power metal explosions to keep the fanbase happy, but I really think their transformation will be complete on their next album when their evolution will be more refined.
And this is exactly my reason for not giving a higher score to this otherwise fantastic album. The impressive variety is a double-edged sword and it feels they took it a little too far at times and they sound diverse just for the sake of subverting the expectations. Nothing major, but they do sound a bit pretentious at times forcing themselves to color outside the lines with no real value, other than “shock”.
Judicator managed to break their mold and emerge from a very uncertain cocoon, changed but stronger than ever. I can’t be 100% sure if The Majesty Of Decay is their best album, but it is without doubt their most interesting and ambitious one. Welcome back!
Rating: 9 out of 10338