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Friday, 21 December 2012

LINK: Atkins / May Project - Serpents Kiss REVIEW

It’s not everyday you come across a metal album that has this much class, let alone that wears it as well as Serpents Kiss, the fall of 2011 full length debut from Atkins / May Project. A joining of original Judas Priest vocalist Al Atkins and Christian guitarist and music artist Paul May, Atkins / May Project has come up with ten NWOBHM influenced tracks that deliver every bit as much edge and bite (in terms of driving bass lines, relentless drumming and guitar pyrotechnics) as the do immediate accessibility (from the standpoint of catchy hooks that keep things fresh with repeated listen). Serpents Kiss, in other words, upholds the albums single selling appeal that “good and evil can in fact work together”, albeit as demonstrated in the lyrics, good, ultimately, comes out on top in the end!

Most of you I am sure are already aware that Al Atkins was a founding member of Judas Priest, staying with the group from its 1969 inception until his departure in 1973, when he was replaced by the legendary Rob Halford.  Since then, Atkins has released five solo albums, dating back to his 1990 debut Judgement Day but also including his most recent, Demon Deceiver, from 2007, in addition to the 2010 self-titled debut of his Holy Rage project.  Paul May, who also needs little introduction, has gained renown for being part of the traditional metal band A.N.D. at the time of its 1994 release Get Real while also performing on over 50 albums to date in both the secular and Christian arenas.

The “good vs. evil” thing, of course, might be played up a bit too much here, but if your metal tastes trend towards both sides of the fence - and by that I am referring to Judas Priest, Accept and Iron Maiden (on one side) and Saint, Testify and Armageddon (on the other) - then I can see Atkins / May Project being of interest.  Either way, the duo of Al Atkins and Paul May leave little doubt as to their abilities to stay true to their classic and traditional metal roots in no uncertain terms!

It starts with the Serpents Kiss material, which does not let up from beginning to end.  “The Shallowing”, as a result of its unrelenting tempo, and “Traitors Hand”, bringing every bit as much heavy hitting fury, deliver adrenaline in abundance, while the same can be said for hook driven monster “Fight” and boisterously catchy “Betta Than Twisted”.  Slowing the tempo but not the quality is the bottom heavy hooks to “Dream Maker” in addition to the joining of hard charging riffs and melody representative of “Judge” and “Can You Hear Me”.  You will also find a fitting Kiss cover, “Cold Gin”, along with a near doom influenced piece, “Sign”.  By far the best representation of the group’s songwriting is “Theatre Of Fools”, as majestic an eight and a half minutes of epic metal as you will find.

There are some who are born to front a metal band and such is the case with Al Atkins.  As gusty a singer as you will find, Atkins gives prominence to a gruff and gravelly mid-ranged presence – full of power at a moments notice but also to reach down for a low-key growl - in perfect tune with the music at hand.  I hesitate to invite comparison because Atkins has his own style, he sounds resoundingly fresh for someone in his mid-sixties, but he reminds me somewhat of original Testify vocalist Ron Poggione, David Sandstrom (Chained) and Billy Hagan Blax (Spittin Jonah).

But it is Paul May on guitar who steals the show.  What we have in May is as blazing a soloist as you will find, laying down extended stretches of scorching leads that range from the all out intense (see “Traitors Hand” and “Dream Maker”) to bristling (as found on “”Signz” and “Betta Than Twisted”) to full of feeling and emotion (check out “Theatre Of Fools”).  Heavy duty riffs you will also find in abundance (catchy and potent but also decidedly dominant when need calls for it) along with songwriting perfectly tailored for Atkins’ abilities.

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