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Music Review: Al Atkins – Demon Deceiver…Plus

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It is an incredible forty years since Al Atkins formed the legendary Judas Priest, one of the greatest heavy metal bands ever. To mark the occasion, Angel Air Records have re-released his 2007 solo album Demon Deceiver and in the process have added a couple of welcome bonus tracks.

Its release also marks the publication of Atkins' book, co-written with Neil Daniels, called Dawn Of The Heavy Metal Gods: My Life In Judas Priest & Heavy Metal. This should prove to be an excellent read.

Much has already been written about the birth of Priest in the Midlands in the late sixties, of course. It is a well-known fact that just as they were on the verge of releasing their first album Rocka Rolla, Atkins left to be replaced by the "metal god" himself, Rob Halford. The rest, as they say, is history.

Ever since, his name has been inextricably linked to that of Priest. As he says in the liner notes to this re-release, it has proved something of “a blessing and a curse”. His solo career got underway when his band Al Atkins A.N.D. released Judgement Day in 1989. Dreams Of Avalon followed in 1992. Next came Heavy Thoughts in 1995, an album that didn’t appear in the UK until 2003.

The Priest connection rears its head again on that album when he re-recorded “Cavier And Moths” which he had co-written whilst still with them. This led to the release of Victims Of Changes in 1998, an album that contained tracks written by Atkins back in Priest’s early days.

In 2007, he self-financed and self-produced his album Demon Deceiver. With an impressive guest line-up that included Diamond Head’s Brian Tatler, and Budgie guitarist Simon Lees, it attracted many glowing reviews. More recently, Atkins has formed another band, The Holy Rage who have already supported Skid Row and Diamond Head.

One of the bonus tracks on Demon Deceiver…Plus is “Give Them Hell”, a track written with his new band very much in mind. Also making a welcome re-appearance, is a 2009 version of “A Void To Avoid”, which originally appeared on Heavy Thoughts and features guitar legend Bernie Torme.

Demon Deceiver…Plus finally sees Al taking his place up on the pedestal of great heavy metal vocalists. His finely abused growl of a voice which, as Al says, has come about through “years of cigarettes and whiskey”, has never been better.  

The album opens with the Simon Lees-penned instrumental title track, which features a voice-over by Al Atkins. “Money Talks”, written by Atkins, gives an instant spotlight to those trademark vocals, which have rarely sounded more powerful. “Blood, Demons And Whiskey” arrives from the pen of drummer Pete Emms and is complete with a Brian Tatler riff that leaves you able to smell, see, and taste, the three elements of the title.

The equally powerful “Drown”, written by US singer Johnny Lokke, takes us dramatically into the darkness of “Sentenced”, a highlight track, with Simon Lees on lead. The instantly recognisable “Victim Of Changes” follows, before Al’s “Bleeding” takes over. Only a track of huge strength could follow “Victim Of Changes” and this is exactly that.

A driving “God Help Me”, and the memorable “Cradle To The Grave” confirm that there is no rest for the wicked with some more solid metal. The album ends of course with Al’s “Dreamer Deceiver”, which contains more superb guitar work from Simon Lees. Excellent stuff.

The two bonus tracks are worth the admission alone with “Give Them Hell” hitting every metal target possible with a window shattering riff and great vocals. “A Void To Avoid” is given a new blast of dank air leaving us looking forward to the book and more from Al’s latest venture The Holy Rage.

Timing can be all or nothing in the music world and Al’s Priest departure is doubtless one of the biggest examples. However the timing of this re-release is for once right and places him firmly back up on the metal pedestal where he no doubt should have been all along.

More details about Al Atkins and his various projects can be found on his official website.

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