Here we go again as rushonrock features a blast from the past and an even louder blast of the present.

In the world of metal you don’t get much louder than the mighty Judas Priest – and now we’ve just about forgiven Rob and the boys for missing out the Toon on this year’s Priest Feast tour it’s about time we revisit last year’s concept album and the classic Ram It Down.  

Now 2008: Nostradamus (Sony BMG) is the concept album to beat all concept albums as Birmingham’s finest tackle the rather weighty issue of the man who made more predicitions than West Midlanders make pork scratchings.

Divided into various sub-categories and boasting the fabulous song titles Pestilence And Plague and Death, to name but two, this is a record often drowned by its own ambition. You can’t just dip into a concept album – it requires a serious sitting without any distractions – and yet Nostradamus is incredibly heavy on the ears as well as the mind.

It takes a better roster than the rushonrock team to manage the above feat more than once a month and therefore we have been forced to file this extraordinary record under ‘slow burners’. It has the potential to explode and the highlights demonstrate the fire that still simmers in the belly of British metal’s finest.

But accessible it isn’t and even those who have seen the new tunes in the live arena have reported that the whole Nostradamus project appears to have engulfed Halford and his heroic cohorts to the point of a lack of cohesion. That’s a shame because this record really is something else.

rushonrock rated: 9/10 We Predict A Rock Riot

…And Then 1988: Ram It Down (Columbia) saw Priest embrace a more commercial – but no less heavy -sound at a time when metal had suddenly become mainstream. Epitomised by their raucous cover of the Chuck Berry classic Johnny B Goode, this revealing record allowed frontman Rob halford to extend his vocal range like never before.

And if old skool metallers poured scorn on the new beast that was progressive Priest then a heavily produced Tom Allom swansong would prove to be the precursor to the classic Painkiller. That 1990 standard might have been better received but for many fans of the late 80s, Ram It Down is the superior record.

The title track and the ‘does what it says on the tin’ Heavy Metal get this brain crunching bag of power chord favourites off to a flier and the pace rarely dips. The epic Blood Red Skies wouldn’t appear out of place on new concept record Nostradamus while album closer Monsters Of Rock could easily be the anthem for the Donington festival of the same name which dominated the live scene two decades ago.

Ram It Down might have been eclipsed by Painkiller but don’t let this pearler of a record pass you by. It’s special. It was then and it is now.

rushonrock rated: 9/10 Ram It Down (The Critics’ Throats)