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Atkins May Project: Valley Of Shadows

Billing itself as a collision between good and evil, Atkins May Project returns for their second outing Valley Of Shadows, with the original Judas Priest vocalist Al Atkins once again teaming up with Christian guitarist and music artist Paul May, who has also worked with the likes of Roy Wood (Wizzard/ELO). I wasn't fortunate enough to hear the duo's first effort together, Serpent's Kiss - and in truth, I had all but dismissed the idea of someone harking back to their time in a band (some 39 years ago now) who went on to become seminal members of the world's metal scene, being able to hack it now. In fairness to Atkins, he not only sang with early incarnations of Judas Priest, but without him the band wouldn't exist and his time with them predates that of any of the men who went on to make the name famous throughout the lands. However having been lucky to have a copy of Valley Of Shadows plop onto my door mat, it now looks like I'll be going back and snapping up that debut, as this is a top notch slice of fiery, exuberant heavy metal in the style of....wait for it..... Judas Priest!

Atkins isn't a singer possessing bags of finesses, or a voice liable to croon you to sleep, but that's a good thing, as otherwise guitarist Paul May would swamp him with the gargantuan riffs of the galloping "No Ordinary Man", or the stomping anthem of "Enslaved To Love". But this is a team effort with both halves of the duo working hard to keep up with the other, as spit-firing riffs are chased through the air by powerful rasping vocals. Refined this is not, hard hitting, in your face it is. Then add to the maelstrom a production that slaps you round the head when you're not looking and the fact that (and I'm guessing here, but no one other than Atkins or May is credited in the booklet or press release) the programmed drums are the best of this variety I've heard and Valley Of Shadows really packs a punch. Especially when it runs at full pelt, as it does during the fret burning, guitar solo salvo of "Stronger Is The Grace", or Thin Lizzy inspired instrumental "Messiah (Prelude)".

Surprisingly for an album that has rock, rolled, brawled and mauled for its first eight numbers, the eight minute title track and "The Shallowing (Return)", which together close things out, bring a more introspective, reserved outlook. It may not be the obvious end to an otherwise muscular excursion, but the poised guitar work from May and controlled rasp from Atkins makes both songs convincing and memorable.

Sporting as the debut did, a fabulous, trademark cover from Rodney Matthews, Valley Of Shadows is a classy album from start to finish and one that packs a far mightier punch than I'd initially anticipated.

Track Listing
1. Welcome to the Nightmare
2. No Ordinary Man
3. Bitter Waters
4. Enslaved to Love
5. Stronger Is the Grace
6. Harder They Fall
7. Not Ready to Die Today
8. Messiah (Prelude)
9. Valley of Shadows
10. The Shallowing (Return)

Added: December 7th 2012
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Atkins May Project Online
Hits: 2586
Language: english

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Atkins May Project: Valley Of Shadows
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2012-12-07 07:28:55
My Score:

Serpent's Kiss was a more than solid debut from the pairing of original Judas Priest vocalist Al Atkins and Christian guitar shredder Paul May, and they are back for a quick follow-up on Valley of Shadows. This is classic heavy metal through and through, nothing fancy and with no surprises, but that is really the charm of Valley of Shadows. Atkins has that classic gruff delivery going once again (you can totally hear him singing those early Judas Priest classics), which basically fits the crunchy riffs and shredding solos of May perfectly. Much of the album is damn heavy, Atkins bellowing over a wealth of tasty riffs & solos on "Welcome to the Nightmare", "No Ordinary Man" and the crushing "Enslaved to Love". Atkins' limitations can he heard on a song like "Bitter Waters", as he seems unable to come out of that gruff, bluesy shell, where the song might have called for something a tad more melodic and emotional. Those who love, pedal-to-the-metal styled music along the lines of classic Priest will find lots to enjoy on "Stronger Is the Grace", complete with furious riffs and galloping rhythms, and the raging "Harder They Fall" is a chugging behemoth tailor made for all NWOBHM fans.

It's hard not to like Valley of Shadows, in fact other than some spotty production and lack of variety on the vocals on a few tunes, this is a pretty kick ass, enjoyable slice of classic heavy metal by the duo of Atkins and May. At this stage of the game we basically know what we are going to get out of Atkins; he's got his limitations but he fits this style of music just fine, but May is a real powerhouse of a guitarist who I for one certainly want to hear more from. If these two can continue to come up with strong stuff like this I'll be listening for years to come.

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