It’s always going to be a tough’n for any band to overcome the departure of a creator and major songwriter. Many have failed and as a result been forgotten. But there are those who overcome this obstacle, as if it were a mere annoyance at best. American power metal giants Judicator grew to some recognition whilst guitarist Alicia Cordisco helmed the songwriting department; she amicably quit the band after the stellar Let There Be Nothing (2020) to focus on Project Roenwolfe (whose 2021 album was also great by the way). Judicator since regrouped and amassed for something that surely would prove different to their earlier work; The Majesty of Decay. It was heralded by lead single The High Priestess, which is divisive to say the least. With it, the guys show they’re not afraid to step out of the comfort zone, but also that they’re real comfy while doing it.
The Majesty of Decay will be a polarizing experience, because it isn’t what Judicator used to be and arguably not what they should be. I’d argue it’s exactly what they needed; to step into a new era, not defined by their own past. They pull it off. It’s that simple. So what makes The Majesty of Decay so polarizing? Atypical opener Euphoric Parasitism? With its slow cooking melodic approach that your regular power metal band would relegate to a late album filler spot - but which Judi uses to set things in motion and set things crawling under your skin… or is it the ode to Tom Jones that is lead single The High Priestess? With its jazz like quirks and hooks, catchy as you please. Or maybe it’s the unpredictable nature and saxophone parts of closer Metamorphosis? With its layer upon layer of taste; those flawless riffs and sweet ass soloing from Balmore Lemus and then you have John Dolan’s epic mustache phenomenal bass lines that just bring everything together. And I haven’t even gotten into how John Yelland is better than ever on this album, more versatile, pushing the limits and coming out on top. No. It’s all of these things, and the fact that Judi still make it hella powerful and still match their own classic, thoughtful sound, while also adding those crunchy power metal bangers (Daughter of Swords - shit those melodic riffs got me sporting a hard on (not really, it’s not that kind of site) - will have any power metal fan coming back for more).
There’s honestly a lot to unpack in this album, and I really can’t do it justice in a simple review. There’s just a little bit of everything for everyone. Obviously, all the old Judi-isms are there; the marvelous Blind Guardian influences and magic harmonies, riffs and delicious layers Yelland put into his vocals and the songwriting. But it’s incorporated in a whole new package. As was mentioned in my look back at 2022, penultimate track Judgment is a personal favorite; an emotional, melodic - even cheesy at times - punch that still has all the talent behind it to pull it off like nobody’s goddam business. Since the release and before writing (finishing) this review, Balmore Lemus and Jordan Elcess have both left Judi, replaced by Chad Anderson and Dalton Jolley respectively. So, with the Yelland-Anderson team back together again, I think we can expect more greatness from Judi soon. It probably won’t be like The Majesty of Decay, and it shouldn’t. That doesn’t mean The Majesty of Decay wasn’t exactly what Judi needed - it was - and they pulled it off like they eat this shit for breakfast; the future is theirs for the goddam taking. Total Notebook ending.
Standout tracks: Euphoric Parasitism, The High Priestess, The Black Elk, Judgment, Metamorphosis