Published on May 14th, 2018 | by Justin G.
Judicator: The Last Emperor (self-released)
US power metal band Judicator has a new album out, and given just how jaw-dropping their last album (2015’s At The Expense of Humanity) was, expectations were understandably high for their fourth offering. The new album is called The Last Emperor, and between the title and the cover art, you know something epic is in store.
Judicator has always has a strong Blind Guardian influence, and that hasn’t changed here. In fact, Blind Guardian vocalist Hansi Kursch even lends his talents on one track here. The other hallmarks of those classic Blind Guardian albums are here as well – thrash-worthy riffs and rhythms, epic subject matter, huge choirs and sheer power, and come together brilliantly. The album has a historical basis – “The Last Emperor” and his glorious crusade – which puts a rousing, epic storyline to music, and those themes match the power metal framework quite well. Judicator doesn’t go overboard with either speed or melody. There’s plenty of both to be found on The Last Emperor, but they find a smart balance. Vocally, John Yelland turns in what is probably his finest performance, and when he’s backed by the “Judi-Choir,” the impact is just incredible.
The Last Emperor has eight songs (plus a bonus track), and aside from the 9-minute “The Queen of All Cities,” most hover around the 5-minute mark. It’s a relentless album, so aside from the occasional tranquil passage within a song, they keep a headbanging pace all the way through. It’s always hard picking standout tracks when a) it’s a concept album, and b) the whole thing is first-rate, but if you’re looking for “seal the deal” songs, the call to arms “Take Up Your Cross” and the epic “Antioch” and “Spiritual Treason” (which finds Yelland and Kursch trading vocal lines) ought to be more than enough to convince you to buy The Last Emperor. After the “main” album, we get a rerecording of the early Judicator song “King of Rome” which sounds great and fits the theme of this album quite well.
At this point, you have to acknowledge that Judicator is a top tier power metal band, or at least that they’re putting out albums of that caliber. The Last Emperor is as good as anything Iron Savior, Orden Ogan and even Blind Guardian has released of late. Fans of Judicator’s past albums will absolutely love this album, and power metal fans who think greatness only resides on the other side of the Atlantic have an amazing discovery to make.
Summary: I doubt you'll find a better power metal album this year.