USPM has always been one of my favorite genres, from legendary Omen, Vicious Rumors and Helstar to less-known acts like Talisphere, Pharaoh, and Twisted Tower Dire. Judicator drinks from this beautiful fountain of metallic goodies and have been around for almost a decade now, chugging out killer albums. ‘Let There Be Nothing’ succeeds the cool ‘The Last Emperor’ (2018) and is filled with historical concepts, much like the band is used to.
As with past releases, this is a concept album, steeped in historical references and tales of the past. The songs follow Belisarius, a renowned Byzantine general, on his campaigns to reconquer former Roman territories. While Belisarius is a master on the battlefield, his greatest struggle will be within. Political forces continually undermine his authority, and his wife’s infidelity will put both his faith and morals to the test.
Fittingly, the instrumental accompanies the songwriting and lyrics in an offering of an epic, tasteful slab of power metal, much in the vein of mid-era Blind Guardian and Iced Earth. Opener “Let There Be Light” illustrates this with competent performance à la Hansi Kürsch by John Yelland and awesome riffs by Tony Cordisco and Michael Sanchez, who has since left the band.
Twin guitar riffs and a galloping arrangement dictate the tone throughout the course of the album, ranging from faster, almost speed-like tunes to mid-tempo epics. Songs like “Gloria”, “The Way of a Pilgrim” and the title-track are constructed to be emotional and cruel at the same time, all to follow the several ups and downs faced by the protagonist.
Judicator did a great job portraying morality, matters of the human heart, and personal suffering here. Tracks like “Strange to the World” grasp this and manage to successfully tell a tale and entertain at the same time. Often times conceptual albums can be overwhelming, condescending and prepotent, but Cordisco, Yelland, and band were able to keep things light (in terms of continuity and music density), fresh and, most importantly, METAL while telling their story – and believe me when I say that the latter affirmation is the most important because hundreds of bands abandon every ounce of metal they can on conceptual albums for the sake of being epic and “intelligent”.
There are some issues with production and mixing. There are times that the instruments sound muffled, the vocals blend together with the choirs and the dynamic range is not as spaced as it would be ideal for a power metal album. This is not a dealbreaker in any way, and it’s actually charming at times, but a record as epic as this needed a better production.
‘Let There Be Nothing’ is yet another good entry in Judicator’s discography. Powerful, memorable, and fun, it should definitely please USPM fans in general and especially widowers of Blind Guardian’s heydays. So gather your sword and shield, saddle your horse and join Belisarius on his quest to reunite Rome; it’s worth it.