atkins may valleyIs that the Odd Couple theme I hear in the background? Worlds collide once again – with good results – as The Atkins / May Project returns with a follow-up to their heavenly metal debut.....
Valley of Shadows
Atkins / May Project
Gonzo Multimedia
10 tracks / 53:26

Judas Priest founder/vocalist Al Atkins gets together once again with Paul May as The Atkins / May Project: what might just be the Odd Couple of Heavy Metal. May plays fiery metal-edged guitar and writes songs from a Christian perspective while Atkins provides signature metal vocals with his gutteral, almost threatening vibrato-laced theatrical delivery. If nothing has changed since the duo's debut album, Atkins makes no claim at being a believer, making this an example of what can happen when two worlds collide – thankfully, the resulting explosion is appropriately musical. This is what classic Metal should sound like: in your face, hard rocking, gut-wrenching stuff. Thanks to the spirituality of the lyrics (most explicitly in the title track: "In the darkness that befalls me / there's a beast I cannot tame / shelter me from evil / I will call upon Your name"), and the occasional instances of harmony guitar lines, think Stryper with a double-dose of testosterone.

Valley of Shadows is no theology lesson and certainly isn't contemplative music for a restful Sunday afternoon – but it sure feels right cranked up on your car's stereo while driving down the highway. Looking for subtlety and introspection? Mmmm – maybe not here ...but The Atkins / May Project manages to tap dance on the edge of what – pushed too far – would begin to sound like self-parody, and they manage to pull it off with enough macho that you won't dare to even think of making a Spinal Tap joke.

Once again, May's production work is spot-on. Does it go without saying that this is made to be played loud? Yes.

-Bert Saraco

3nhalf - Add 1/2 a tock if you wear leather pants

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