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LONDON (Billboard) - "Everybody," Judas Priest vocalist Rob Halford says, "is eager to grab the full metal opera."
Halford is talking about "Nostradamus" (Epic), the veteran U.K. metal act's 16th studio album -- and its first concept work. The double-disc set, due internationally June 16 and one day later in the United States, tells the story of 16th-century prophet Michel de Nostredame, better-known as Nostradamus.
The set is the second album since Halford returned to the band in 2003 after doing other musical projects for 12 years.
"Nostradamus" is available in three configurations. Fans can buy the regular version of "Nostradamus" in a jewel case with a 20-page artwork booklet designed in conjunction with artist Mark Wilkinson, who has worked on numerous Judas Priest albums. Or they can choose the "regular deluxe" version, which has the double-CD housed in a 48-page hardbound book.
A third "super deluxe" release includes a triple-album vinyl version of the set and an exclusive poster plus the hardbound CD/booklet package. That version will be available through normal retail channels internationally, but in the States is exclusive to Best Buy stores.
Sweetening the pot for fans, select packages will include a code redeemable for a free lawn ticket to see the band on this summer's Live Nation-promoted Metal Masters tour with Heaven & Hell, Motorhead and Testament.
"It's a sign of the times. You have to be really rigorous in all aspects of the way you present something of this size," Halford says. "The consumer, more than ever, has multiple choice. You really have to relate to the experiences that are out there for the listener, and that's what we're doing."
Roadwork forms a major part of the album's promotion. Judas Priest began a world tour June 3 in Finland, with European dates running through July 13, followed by a seven-date North American tour beginning July 22 in Seattle. The band then headlines the Metal Masters bill August 6-31.
The band's eighth studio album, "Screaming for Vengeance" (1982), which has sold 3.1 million units worldwide, in April became the first fully downloadable album from videogame "Rock Band."
As for the new material, Halford says that "Nostradamus" "shows the passion we have for music still. But the music is typical Priest. It's full of melodies and great hooks; it's not a difficult record to listen to."