AtkinsMayJudas Priest founder Al Atkins gets together with Christian Guitarist Paul May to see if oil and water can produce Metal...

Serpents Kiss
Atkins / May Project
Gonzo Multimedia
10 tracks / 47:46

Serpents Kiss (no apostrophe involved – apparently they're telling us what serpents do) could serve as an audio-dictionary definition of the term 'Heavy Metal' (note to self – look into this audio-dictionary idea). Al Atkins, who was the founding member of Judas Priest (but split with the band before they really hit) has the appropriately sinister operatic growl, and Paul May has all of the pyrotechnic fury that any Metal guitarist could want – quite a combination! Relentless bass and thunderous drumming round out the sound, which is heavily influenced by the early new-wave of British Heavy Metal. Obviously, there's some Judas Priest influence (of course) along with a little Iron Maiden – all combined with articulate, screaming solos with frequent melodic harmony runs from May's guitar. The end result sounds something like a nastier, more aggressive version of Stryper – without the ballads.

Since this is Metal, don't be looking for subtlety or complex song structures. From start to finish, the music is in-your-face classic hard-rock Metal with a modern touch – but not so modern as to stray far from the tested Heavy Metal formulas. Nine out of the ten songs are originals written or at least co-written by Paul May and are written with a Christian world-view, though none are explicitly 'religious' by CCM standards. The closest song to 'come out of the closet' would be "Can You Hear Me," which includes the words, "Falling on my face, Calling out Your name, Depending on your grace, Can you hear me, will ya' heal me?" In stark contrast is their cover of Kiss' "Cold Gin," which contains the following tender sentiment: "Ohh, it's cold gin time again, You know it'll always win, It's cold gin time again, You know it's the only thing, that keeps us together." So, you might want to re-think 'Valentine's Day gift' for this one.

What we have here is a very well-produced, somewhat retro Metal album created with two masters of the art coming from distinctly different world-views. Do they succeed? Yes, if you love classic Heavy Metal – it will put hair on your chest. If you're a singer/songwriter type of person, stay away. But Atkins and May have no-doubt achieved what they set out to do in fine form, so Serpents Kiss succeeds ...give or take that cover tune. Hey, name your poison.

-Bert Saraco