It comes as no surprise to discover that, musically, power metal four-piece, Judicator, pulls inspiration for their dramatic sound from the greats of the genre, such as Blind Guardian, Helloween and Sonata Arctica.
The band is set to release their sixth album, The Majesty of Decay, on November 25th, 2022, through Prosthetic Records. On the album, the group traverses through weighty themes of love, illness and death, familial belonging and transformation from the mortal coil into the afterlife. Presented as a puzzle for the listener to solve through the lyrics’ narrative arc, Judicator aims to provide catharsis in their quest for answers and enlightenment.
In our own quest to find out more about the inspiration and meaning behind the songs, Judicator vocalist John Yelland took us through each song in some wonderful detail.
1. “Euphoric Parasitism”
John Yelland (vocals): “Opening the album with this song was definitely a risk. A lot of the time, bands make their catchiest, most “hit single” song the opener. I wanted to try something different. Rather than hitting you in the face right off the bat with something fast and epic, I wanted to lull the listener into a hypnotic state. Melodramatic, perhaps, but you can hear how I was trying to do that in the opening sequence of the song. I wanted to ease listeners into the album rather than grab them by their lapels and demand their attention as we did on At the Expense of Humanity.”
2. “The Majesty of Decay”
“I wrote this song when I was in a big King Diamond phase. Abigail II was in constant circulation at the time. The instrumental section in the middle was inspired by David Bowie. I can’t pinpoint any specific song or album, it just struck me as the kind of thing you would hear in one of his more experimental albums.
“Regarding the song and album title, ever since I was a child I’ve been fascinated with death. I remember when I was in grade school I would bombard my mother with questions about heaven, hell, and everything in between. Later, as this fascination developed into existential anxiety, I became curious about dead things. I even got in the habit of taking photos of roadkill and other dead things I stumbled on.
“One time when I was 12 or so, I found a dead elk in the gully by my house. Its belly was wide open to the world, and it was crawling with maggots and other creepy crawlies. The smell was so intense I could hardly think. Despite this, I stayed as long as I could. Holding a bandana to my face, I switched between holding my breath and taking the shortest, most shallow breath possible.
“I wanted to get as close as I could to this majestic, little city of bugs and putrescence. Papa Nurgle would be proud. This city’s foundation was flesh and its binding ethos was simply “decay.” There was something majestic about it, and that’s when the term “the majesty of decay” entered my mind. It wasn’t until I began to work on this album that I found an application for the phrase.”
Fun Factoid: Can you identify what TV show theme song Balmore made a nod to in his guitar solo?
3. “From the Belly of the Whale”
“I’m a big Grateful Dead fan. While they were working on Anthem of the Sun, their guitarist Bob Weird recommended they record room tones (or ambient sound) of the desert and city and mix it into their music. Inspired by the idea of incorporating something like that into our album, I began to brainstorm.
“The original idea was to record an hour and 15 minutes worth of room tone in the sanctuary of Holy Virgin Cathedral in San Francisco. Saint John Maximovitch, a great Orthodox saint, was buried under the church, and I thought it would be a neat idea to have this room tone silently resting beneath the entire album, every single second of it. However, my priest advised against it, telling me there was no way they would let me do that. Oh well.
“After some thought, I determined that instead of recording something holy and beautiful, I would record something disgusting and sick.
“It’s not totally uncommon where I live to stumble upon dead deer on the side of the road and it took me four or five outings to find one. The strange thing was, the deer I found was decapitated. What’s more is I realized this wasn’t done by an amateur, no! The cut was clean and very precise. I asked around and learned that the Department of Natural Resources does this to prevent people from taking the heads as trophies.
“Anyways, I knelt beside the deer and recorded the scene. This is what you’re hearing at the end of ‘From the Belly of the Whale.’”
4. “Daughter of Swords”
“With this song, I tried to combine elements of death metal and prog/power metal. I wanted to put Cannibal Corpse through a power metal prism and see what came out the other end. And that’s how “Daughter of Swords” was born.
“The backing vocals singing “bum bum bum bum” in the final chorus trace their roots back to Dire Peril’s cover of “Godzilla” by Blue Oyster Cult. For that song I had constructed an elaborate choir section singing “bum bum bum bum.” It sounded positively epic, and grand, but also kind of Christmas-y. Needless to say, Jason rejected the idea outright! I saw an opportunity with “Daughter of Swords,” tried it out, and I think it fits much better.”
5. “Ursa Minor”
“When I wrote this song I was listening to Blood Magick Necromance a lot, which is my favourite Belphegor album. I wanted to play with some ideas that were more overtly black metal, and this was the result.
“What I love about this song is how naturally it switches back and forth between that black metal, almost gothic-sounding atmosphere and more upbeat power metal. The chorus is pretty cheesy (and I love it), and the ending sequence of the song feels like such an unexpected yet fitting turn.”
6. “Ursa Major”
“This is my “Nightfall in Middle Earth” song. I wrote this song in a parking lot over the course of a few weeks. During this time I was working a very unfulfilling job. I hated it. But every morning I would park and write music for 30 minutes before going in. This is how “Ursa Major” was born.”
7. “The High Priestess”
“What would it look like if Tom Jones met the soundtrack of “The Warriors”? This is what I sought to answer with “The High Priestess.” I love Tom Jones and I did my best to channel him during the chorus of this song. If you couldn’t guess, the funkier parts of this song are what were inspired by ‘The Warriors.’”
8. “The Black Elk”
“I wrote this song when I was first falling in love with Hypocrisy, most notably their album End of Disclosure.
Fun Factoid: I wrote this song years ago and I almost sold it to someone. I’m glad things went the way they did because I really like this song.”
“‘Please God, can I say one more thing?’ This was ripped off from a death scene in Battle Royale, a Japanese movie from the year 2000. In the scene, a girl is dying in the arms of a boy she loves, and she says this before delivering her final words. I found the moment very touching, so I kind of, uh, stole it. Shhh, don’t tell Kenta Fukasaku!
“Why is there a seashore though? That’s kind of random. Well, it’s a direct nod to At the Expense of Humanity. Go listen to that album and follow along with the lyrics, then this will all make more sense. For those who don’t want to do that, here’s the quick summary. I associate water with birth and rebirth, and the shoreline is the transition point between this world and the next.
“One other factoid about “Judgment” that’s interesting. At this point in the story, I really wanted to present the wife’s point of view, and so to lend credibility to that I asked my wife Rachel to write the lyrics for that portion of the song. As a prompt, I told her to write it as a farewell to me. I told her to imagine these are the last words you’ll say to me. What she came up with is what you hear Angel Wolf-Black singing on the track.
“I was in a very Queen and Iron Maiden mindset when I wrote this song.”
“The goodbye kiss of The Majesty of Decay, “Metamorphosis” was originally supposed to be called “Theosis.” But if I learned anything from “Enantiodromia” on At the Expense of Humanity, it’s that Greek terms as song titles just confuse people. What is it like to die and enter a new state of existence? I don’t know, but this is a lovely little picture of what it might be. Take it with a grain of salt if you like.
“The outro was inspired by how Between the Buried and Me’s Parallax II ends, as well as The Beatles’ Abbey Road. The vocal singalong was inspired by my time doing backing vocals on the Periphery album Hail Stan. I was struck by how wonderful the vocal arrangements were, and it really stuck with me and fueled my imagination.”