Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dawn Of The Metal Gods - Al Atkins & Neil Daniels
Iron Pages

Following on from the Anvil film comes this further tale of a nice guy who apparently did no, or relatively little, more than the initial burst of activity that saw him enter the footnotes of stage history. Atkins was not just the original singer but founder member of metal titans Judas Priest and the man who gave them their name (literally as it happened, for he never registered it). Though he never recorded with them (bar an early demo) he also had a hand in a slew of songs on their first two albums and has continued into his fifth decade in music. And so why the fuck shouldn't he earn a pint or two, he'd been grafting at getting bands going for a few years before he started JP in 1969. Aside from Priest's excommunication of past members, this type of book is far better than the usual few years rehearsing and getting a recording deal, followed by tour itineraries and yawnsome arsing about with a few old magazine snippets thrown in. After all these are the boats known to most of us and admirably Atkins is one you can salute for continuing rockin', not merely being about to, without actually hearing his music. Never does he come across as self-serving or self-obsessed, vainly attesting to his own unrecognised talents and sulking about his lack of success. With hardly a trace of bitterness, though there is the odd hint of tongues being held - Iron Pages perhaps not wishing to bear the brunt of the Priest's legal wraiths - Atkins relates his story from 50's Birmingham through to the present day with his current bunch of hard rock stalwarts The Holy Rage. Along the way he tells in engaging though rambling style (though that with a mention of the many typos would be a tad hypocritical methinks coming from this old teapot. One of us however has the excuse of a German translation!) the troubles and travels of trying to twist that steel hand of fate with a multitude of bands. Perpetually on the edge of that old cusp, with so many cases of wrong timing, slightly missed boats and the wrong hair let alone trousers for what the prevailing wind liked to be passed onto, you'd think he would have changed career and started bottling optimism or written self-help guides, especially after seeing many contemporaries such as The Move, Sabbath, Zeppelin and Budgie pass him on their way outta West Brom to wealth and LA. Even with his solo albums he's had to endure some treacherously atrocious album cover-work which should make any supposed artist or designer question their talents, or at worse make Atkins wonder if he's being conspired against. Though he comes across as an endearing and utterly likeable bloke some of his outbursts show either age or ignorance or just the plain ideological differences between what came after the metal / hard rock era, like his somewhat simplistic dismissal of punk for instance being all skinheads and spitting. With recent releases meeting increasingly favourable responses and acclaim from Scandinavia and Japan the years of striving and inactivity end on a suitably high note and demonstrate obstinacy and passion can't be beaten if the talent and tenacity are there. As a business guide it's slight but moreso slightly indispensable and you come out gunning for the underdog through his humility and self-effacing naturalness.
Stu Gibson

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