By Dark Starr
Al Atkins is probably best known as the original singer for Judas Priest. You can find his name on some of the early Priest albums as one of the writers of a number of their songs. The thing is, he's had quite a career since then, both as a solo artists and more recently as one half of Atkins May Project. This album is a collection of new recordings of songs Atkins has released over the years. There is one fairly short (mostly instrumental) bonus track that's a piece of an original Judas Priest song. All in all, this is an exceptionally strong metal album.
There are a number of musicians joining Atkins on this set. The main band is Atkins on vocals with Paul May (the other half of Atkins May Project) playing the guitars and basses and Rob Allen on drums. The guest list is impressive, though. Atkins' old Priest band mate Ian Hill and John McCoy provide bass on various tunes. Ralf Scheepers provides duet vocals on one song. Additional guitarists are Roy Z Ramirez, Stu Marshall, Chris Johnson and Tysuyoshi Ikedo.
The opener is "Winter," a version of a song that was on the very first Judas Priest album. I like the weird vocal based bit at the start of this. The grinding metal here is really great stuff. I think I prefer this as Priest released it, but honestly, this is very strong, too. This is a bit more direct than the version that Priest did on album. There are some really exceptional instrumental sections on this thing.
"Mind Conception" is apparently an old Judas Priest tune that was never released. Interestingly, they recently did a song that seems to my ears to have come from this piece in terms of some of the musical passages. Here's the original tune done in a smoking hot modern metal approach.
Another smoking hot metal tune, "A Void To Avoid" is one of my favorites here. The crunch driven parts really scream. There is a great mellow drop down movement that adds a lot of style and flavor to the piece. This is just such an exceptional piece of music. Around the half-way point (this is close to ten minutes long) a killer jam emerges that's both pure metal and very dramatic. This serves as the backdrop for some awesome guitar soloing.
"Coming Thick & Fast" is a cool rather bluesy rocker with plenty of metal in the mix. Next is a screaming hot metal number titled " Heavy Thoughts." It is such a great grind. I really love the guitar fills on this thing.
Next they turn their attention back to the early Priest days with "Never Satisfied." I think I like this turbo-charged version of the tune better than the version Priest released on their first album. There is some screaming guitar soloing here.
I love the hot riff that drives " Money Talks." It's a real screaming rocker that works so well. There is a drop back movement that has some psychedelia built into it. It definitely makes me think of old school Priest in a lot of ways.
More of a straightforward metal grind, "Cradle To The Grave" is another scorching hot tune. The guitar solo on this thing is very expressive and very tasty. The psychedelically tinged jam later is classic stuff. It has some neo-classical technical guitar soloing built into it, too.
"Love At War" is another scorching hot slab of heavy metal. This is very heavy and very energized. It's one of the highlights here. The riff is just so mean. It has some epic metal in the mix in some ways. It's such a classy tune. There are definitely links to Judas Priest on this thing.
Another stomper that was originally written by Atkins in his Judas Priest days, "Victim of Changes" is next. The original version that Priest did had a bit of a psychedelic rock vibe to it, with less of a mellow texture. Live versions were more metallic. This is more like the live end. This is a screaming hot version and includes both Atkins' vocals and some from Ralf Scheepers.
There is a bonus track that's a demo extract from the Priest days of "Mind Conception." It is just a section of the tune and was recording with an early version of Priest.
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