Without this one particular person, we might not have heard of this juggernaut band in metal. Most heavy metal frontmen that come to mind are names like Ozzy, Dio, Bruce Dickinson and Rob Halford. The band I’m talking about, of course, is Judas Priest and that person I’m talking about is Al Atkins.
Judas Priest was originally formed in West Bromwich, England, in 1969. Judas Priest was formed by Al Atkins (vocals) and Brian “Bruno” Stapenhill (bass). Bruno named the band after the title of a Bob Dylan song, The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest. This lineup also featured John Perry (guitar) and John Partridge (drums).
During the early version of the band, a young KK Downing tried out as their guitarist but was not experienced enough at the time.
This version of Judas Priest broke up sometime before Al Atkins met up with a band called Freight featuring guitarist, KK Downing, and bassist, Ian Hill. Freight changed the band name to Judas Priest. The band played many great shows and some with major bands such as Black Sabbath and Thin Lizzy, to name a couple. Judas Priest was also managed by Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath.
Judas Priest recorded a 2 song demo with the songs Mind Conception and Holy is the Man. The demo was never released (a snippet of Mind Conception can be heard at the end of Atkins’ Reloaded album). Al Atkins left Judas Priest in 1973 to pursue a day job to raise a family. Judas Priest recruited Rob Halford shortly after. The rest is history for Judas Priest
Al Atkins decided to form a weekend band called Lion which would have been successful if they roughed it in the punk music era and stayed around long enough in the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) phase. The NWOBHM scene was in the mid and late 70’s. Al Atkins took a step back from being a performer but still continued writing material.
Al Atkins wrote several Judas Priest songs when he was in the band. Some of his contributions were recorded for the debut Judas Priest album, Rocka Rolla (1974), and the sophomore release, Sad Wings of Destiny (1976).
Rocka Rolla and Sad Wings of Destiny showed his talents as a true songwriter. These Judas Priest albums and their live album, Unleashed in the East (1979), featuring Al Atkins’ writing sold well.
Al Atkins deserves more recognition, in my opinion, after forming one of the biggest pioneering metal bands in the world. His songwriting and vocal abilities are unique and powerful. He also seems like a really cool person with his positive attitude, outlook and persona.
The release of his solo debut, Judgement Day, in 1990 is the first official recording with Al Atkins as a performer rather just a song writer.
His 2nd release called Dreams of Avalon came in 1991. The 3rd album, Heavy Thoughts, was recorded and shelved in 1994, but was finally released in 2003.
The 4th album, which includes a handful of Atkins-penned Judas Priest tracks, Victim of Changes, was released in 1998 also features the full version of the song Caviar and Meths with lyrics. The late Dave Holland, formerly of Judas Priest, performs drums on this album as well.
His 5th solo album, Demon Deceiver, in 2007 is quit raw and heavy. This album was also reissued in 2009 with 2 bonus tracks. It features the Judas Priest cover Dreamer Deceiver, which Atkins co-wrote.
Al Atkins formed the band Holy Rage and released a self titled album in 2010. Around this same time, Al Atkins joined Paul May (his guitar player on most of his solo albums) and formed the Atkins/May Project. They released 3 albums and a compilation within 2011-2015.
Another solo album, Reloaded, saw the light of day in 2017 and is a re-recorded best of that features Ian Hill of Judas Priest and plenty of guests in the metal world, a must have.
His newest release is The Final Cut (2020) by the Atkins/May Project.
This guy deserves our utmost respect and for his legacy in music to carry on forever. I raise my goblet, cheers!
Al Atkins • Judgement Day (1990) (Solo debut and the first official recording to feature Atkins as a performer) • Dreams of Avalon (1991) • Heavy Thoughts (1994) (Shelved album released in 2003 with bonus tracks) • Victim Of Changes (1998) (Atkins-penned Judas Priest songs, also includes Caviar and Meths with lyrics, drums performed by the late Dave Holland, formerly of Judas Priest) • Demon Deceiver (2007) (Features the Judas Priest track, Dreamer Deceiver, and reissued in 2009 with bonus tracks) • Reloaded (2017) (Re-recorded best of featuring Ian Hill of Judas Priest and many other guests)
Holy Rage • Holy Rage (2010)
Atkins/May Project • The Serpents Kiss (2011) • Valley Of Shadows (2012) • Empire Of Destruction (2014) • Anthology (2015) • The Final Cut (2020)
Get yourself the latest release by Atkins/May Project!