The serene opening instrumental simply titled "Prelude" may not give any clue that thudding drum machines will dominate soon. Instead, it paints a perfect, widescreen picture of how huge and ambitious VNV Nation's seventh effort Judgement is, while also warning that this album is not afraid to be soft. Fans of the gritty and gutsy early days may think this another sub-Depeche Mode effort, and there is no hint VNV has any desire to chase them. Adjust your expectations accordingly and the up-tempo numbers -- most stretching past the five-minute mark -- do not disappoint. Strong tracks like "Testament" and "Descent" flex their muscles with ominous power and melodies that are instant and probably a bit too friendly for the Ministry set or anyone looking for the industrial blasts found on VNV's debut, Empires. Of course, heartfelt tracks like the lazy and drifty "Illusion" would be impossible on their early albums. Here, they're the ones that make the whole package so well rounded when dropped between the band's tried and true darkwave club music. The lyrics are free of metaphor for the most part and uncomplicated, maybe to a fault. Still, they get their distraught and disappointed message across and sit on intricate, layered arrangements of synths, sequencers, and drum machines. VNV still work just fine in dark clubs, but with bold personal moments and grand soundscapes, Judgement works even better at home when given full attention.
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries