Sunday, May 26, 2024

Atkins May Project – The Final Cut

The last few Atkins May Project albums have proved to be an aural attack of post-apocalyptical dystopia akin to those the movie and gaming worlds have unleased upon us since computer generated imagery (CGI) became an affordable tool to repurpose fantasy and science fiction story elements.

True, it’s nothing new in the world of heavy metal and the subgenre of power metal tends to focus on adventure escapism of that nature more than most. However, the Atkins May Project has tended to rise above such surface appeal, the albums near conceptual in their appeal, sometimes with a philosophical agenda but ultimately working as an honest slice of entainment.

This time around, despite its title, The Final Cut tends to be more down to earth in lyrical themes. Forswearing revelatory vision for a musical guide towards making good matters in the here and now, be that spiritually, socially, environmentally or otherwise.

It opens with ‘The Revealing’, barely a half minute of gentle sprialing guitar that links into the first version of ‘The Final Cut’ on the album, and that’s when things begin properly. This track rocks hard, goes less towards pulling the metal hammer down. Keyboards or effects of a simlar nature are in evidence, mainly in the role of supportive accompaniement; a guitar solo in neo-classical mode piercing through, while Al Atkins sings in battle weary manner, performing like he were Robert E Howard’s Conan turned king of Aquilonia even as an upbeat contemporary chordal melody plays underneath in contrast.

Acoustics breeze in gently, electrics drawing heavily thereafter, alongside a wail of guitars in the background, as in ‘When The Bell Tolls’ a song is told of a life less innocent and how there’s often a price we have to pay for our misdeeds. Musically reminiscent of Gillan’s ‘Pugent Sound’.

It’s allout attack from guitarist Paul May on the aptly named ‘War In Between’. Orchestrated six strings swoop down like eagles in pursuit of prey, before the song establishes itself with a wiry Blackmore flick to it in the main riff, despite which it is modern metal  in approach, and proceeds to hit the ground running with a mass of chopping chords and varies its pace throughout. While this ensues, Atkins vocals echo out loud with angered venom one minute, then retreat to the distance with wavered resigned forboding the next.

The grinding groove metal riff with a steady four-to-the-floor drum beat that is ‘Treading Water’ has Atkins sings of respite in an eduring battle of life’s hardships, taking stock and preparing, in self-belief, for what challenges may come next. Sung like casting some old testmament incantation, as often on this album he pitches vocallty towards Brian Johnson and delivers like vintage Charlton Heston. Come th last two minutes, the music goes into double time, a solo spins out bursting away, scouring the fretboard from top to bottom, before returning back to end with a variation of the song’s man theme.

‘Buried Alive’ is a more straight ahead metal workout with siren like leadwork flowing in and out, plus a barrage of other sounds while Atkins growls in deep vibrato. May is constantly inventive with a series of screaming solos dancing like illuminated fireflies up and down his fretboard on this one.

‘Fighting Man’ follows suitm but less metal more rock; in fact stick some young pretty boy up front on this and it could be classified AOR. As it’s Atkins the unexpected contrast catches the ear, even though he’s often singing in a higher register here.

‘Dead Men’s Bones’ rampages like Thunder & Lightning-era Thin Lizzy alongside Mortorhead, and edges towards the creative flow of both band’s visual lyricism too with Atkins delivering them with potency and equally aggrieved relish, while May divebombs, races and has his guitars screaming out at you like hellions on heat.

There’s another almost sultry AOR/melodic metal feel to ‘The Cold Wind Blows’, not unlike a brisk sauntering take on ‘The Zoo’ by The Scorpions rhythmicallly, Atkins’ voice up in the mix with a resounding boom, articulating each phrase with stoicism. By contrast ‘Stranger In A Strange Land’ rumbles on bass and drums, rolling slowly forward before a guitar struts in sharp staccato with waves of orchestrated lead lines cascading away in what one percieves to be a Schenker styled take on ‘Kashmir’ and yet while there’s indeed an evocative eastern flavour to it, I strangley picture some Jodorowsky directed spaghetti western cohabited by both John Wayne and Clint Eastwood and Wayne, walking into town side by side, challenging existence itself. But then, maybe I’ve been locked indoors too long.

There are keyboard effects in evidence again during ‘Masquerade’ while a bristelling riff and some guitar wails chiming in as Atkins sings about hypochrisy and ruminates on society’s ills, if only part in metaphor.

Ending like it pretty much began, we get a longer version of title track ‘The Final Cut Full’. Classical guitar plays equistely alongside effects, the combination of which like some mislaid segment Yes recorded back in their heyday before it progresses outwardly. There are running melodies affecting either a sense of longing or loss, they invert, digress, becoming more metalllic, entering pompish states, a touch symphonic in places, before all parties, vocally and muscally proceed in determined stately manner, May  giving the old whammy bar a workout at one point. Winds blow in the distance, a storm abrewing as with cranking of guitars and after nine minutes The Final Cut concludes empiracally.

Paul H Birch
Paul H Birch
RAMzine Senior Writer - Writer of fiction, faction and fact, has edited several newsstand magazines. He declares himself a hack for hire but refuses to compromise on the subject of music.

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  1. Atkins May Project (AMP) are in my opinion, the best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Duo working in British music, probably the whole World! The pedigree is top notch… Allan Atkins, founder, original lead singer, and primary song writer for Judas Priest, 1969-1973, penned such JO classics as “Victim of Changes”, “Never Satisfied”, “Winter”, “Dreamer Deceiver”, and more. That alone would be enough to warrant a listen – but add in 30 year long band mate, Paul May, guitarist extraordinaire, played on over 50 albums in sessions, member of The V-Rats, and Janus, then you have a lethal combination for making stellar R&R music. I own all the AMP albums and I’m excited to have “The Final Cut”, which they have said is their last… well, here’ hoping that maybe – just maybe, there’s fuel in the tank for one more lap!


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