Judicator – Sleepy Plessow
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
It’s bands like Judicator that make me (and, I’m sure, any other thoughtful metal fan) incredibly glad for the convenience and supreme flexibility of modern technology. In Judicator’s case, it’s the ability to bring a full-length release from an ambitious two-man US power metal outfit to listeners all over the world – for the second time no less. This western US-based duo (John Yelland of Disforia, and Tony Cordisco of various projects) is new to my ears, and I’m not feeling too bad about that, given the fairly underground release of last year’s debut, King Of Rome.
Unlike many power metal bands that are wearyingly fond of faux-historical lyricism, this particular project (which, as I understand, is fairly unique amongst both members’ catalogs) is occupied with providing relatively accurate and interesting biographical lyricism. This could quite easily have gone sour for a band with less attention to detail, but in my case at least, they seem to have delivered quite satisfactorily on this note – but I’m generally music-focused, and will leave the Prussian history to those better qualified to comment. I will say that, unlike Sabaton, the lyricism isn’t just barfed-up dregs of Wikipedia articles, and unlike all that “epic” power metal that Greece is becoming infamous for, the historian-pleasing wording isn’t either at a fourth-grade reading level, nor a terrific bore.
Other ups on this album include, primarily, the guitar playing, which is nothing but tight and impressive. Though most songs are quite predictably mid-tempo and not earth-shattering, I can’t deny that not only is the guitar easy to cling to as a listener, but sounds pretty darn fun to play. The pacing and variety of songs here is encouraging as well, and I feel that only the 12 minute epic, “Blut Vom Himmel” outstays its welcome in terms of length, but even here there’s some excellent riffing therein that’s well-worth the listen.
For the most part, detractors from Sleepy Plessow are fairly minor. Bass guitar is simplistic and all but inaudible in the mix (we all know I love a good power metal bassline), and while the programmed drums might trouble some, it’s really not the feature that I look to this music for.
This brings me to the one subject I have yet to explore thoroughly: John Yelland’s voice. Overall, I would say he’s a very capable singer, and I absolutely love his quick, twisting melismas. I think he’s at his finest when he’s swirling notes around and not holding them. I find his high range to be a little bit jarring and extremely bright – a timbre that can be a bit trying when there are a series of high held notes in a row. However, his tone is both meaty and confident enough for a convincing delivery of everything that Judicator attempts. On a side note: the harsh vocals throughout the album actively work to enhance the work, rather than interfering, and the black metal rasps on “Thirty Years Of Terror” and “Memory Of Shame” (which I’m told are guest vocals by Paul Black, a friend of the band).
I’d mark “The Elector”, “Thirty Years Of Terror”, and “Memory Of Shame”, as my standout favorites here – and would thus describe the album as being somewhat top-heavy in terms of better tracks. At the end of the day though, there’s not a whole lot of USPM that thoroughly entertains me over the course of an hour, and Judicator manages just that. Anyone into this style, especially the more accessible side, ought to explore this; as well as fans of good, engaging history that doesn’t get dull. Judicator is bringing the gavel down with a heavy arm, and I’m eagerly anticipating the band’s next entry.
3.5 // 5