Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2014-10-22 18:38:13
Empire Of Destruction is the third traditional metal offering from original Judas Priest singer Al Atkins and guitar supremo Paul May, and thankfully it continues on from where the excellent Valley Of Shadows left off a couple of years back. May is a fine guitarist, possessing the ability to hammer out rampaging riffs and searing solos, as his vocal mate gargles grittily (but tunefully) to great effect; resulting in an album brimming with the sort of metal anthems that have you punching the air. Yes, it's a simple formula, yet plenty of bands don't hit this hard while following the very same "metal rules". Take "Dog Eat Dog" and its pounding beat and call and response vocal-guitar trade off. You've heard it plenty of times before but there's little denying that done this well the results are still amazingly captivating. Priest (natch), Maiden and Saxon can all be seen as touching points (if anyone deserves to be allowed to relive these days, then surely it's Atkins? After all he was there in the first place), however in places the more pompous excursions of Magnum also comes to mind, offering a welcome change of pace to the likes of "Whisper To The Wind", or lengthy, ambitious "Here Comes The Rain".
However, at the risk of sounding negative, three albums in, is it possibly time for Atkins May Project to become Atkins May Band? For while, as with previous AMP albums, the drum programming does verge on excellent, the lack of a live drummer sucks just a little of the life out of the pacier selections presented. Imagine the likes of "The Midas Touch" and "World At War" with say, Vinny Appice laying down the law and the results could be spectacular indeed. The other negative shows up in May's production, which seems to lack the absolute clarity of his previous work, although not in a way which saps too much of the ferocity from an otherwise excellent piece of work.
Interestingly the bonus track "End Of The Earth" is written and partly performed by artist Rodney Matthews and it has to said that the slightly Proggier feel to the track works really well, while the (slightly renamed) Thin Lizzy cover "R U Ready" also gets a convincing reworking.
As an added bonus, the first 1000 copies of the CD comes with a bonus DVD, featuring four music videos from across the Atkins May catalogue, an interesting and surprisingly effective acoustic track and an interview with the two protagonists and a separate piece with Matthews regarding his Atkins May album art. It's a nice, if watch only once, addition, although some detail in the booklet of what the DVD contains, would have been helpful.
Through their sound and even the excellent album art (line up all three Rodney Matthews adorned AMP albums and they look superb), Atkins and May appear to be harking back to a particular time and place with their vintage take on the metal genre, but when they do it so well, who's complaining? At the risk of simply echoing my esteemed colleague's thoughts above, hopefully the next logical step is for Atkins May Project to form a full band and put in some stage time before album number four hits the shelves. If that's the case, what comes next could be utterly massive!