Good things usually come to those who wait and Rob Halford’s long awaited autobiography is no exception. The aptly named memoir “Confess” is everything its title suggests and everything a good autobiography should be. I found myself not wanting to put the book down with his often heart wrenching recollections of dealing with the confusion of his sexuality at a young age and later, having gained fame as the frontman of one of music’s biggest metal acts, hiding that part of his life out of concern for his band mates and his own career.
Starting from his early childhood in the Black Country in the English West Midlands, we’re given a vivid description of the industrialized area that gave birth to Priest’s unique brand of heavy metal.
– “Metalworks like G. & R. Thomas LTD. shaped and dominated where I lived – and how I lived. At home, my mom would hang our white bed sheets out on the line on washing day, and bring them in streaked with grey and black soot. At school, I would sit and try to write at a desk that was vibrating to the rhythm of the giant steam press in the factory over the road: THUNK! THUNK! THUNK! ”
The images and sounds generated by his description give the reader a clear view to the environment that shaped the man who would become the God of heavy metal, you can almost smell and taste it. The Black Country is the same area that a young Robert Plant grew up in and Rob talks of how bands like Zeppelin, Sabbath and Deep Purple were the seeds of his passion.
Rob doesn’t hold back and gives us raw accounts of sometimes painful memories and sometimes very humorous ones. It’s a roller coaster of feelings for the reader as well. I found myself feeling his angst describing the highs and lows of several failed relationships as well as one very traumatic life altering event which will leave the reader shocked to say the least. Also talked about is the notorious case of two young men from Sparks Nevada who made a suicide pact one day in 1985 while listening to the album Stained Class on repeat. Several years later, the families of the two men launched an unsuccessful civil suit against the band accusing them of “back masking” lyrics in their songs.
The intimate and matter of fact bluntness of the events of Rob’s life are a great read even if you’re not a metal music fan. It will probably surprise a lot of people to get to know a man who is deeply spiritual, strongly convicted to his pledge of sobriety and is at least away from the stage, the antithesis of what some might imagine a Metal God to be. Writer and music journalist Ian Gittins who also collaborated with Nikki Sixx on The Heroin Diaries encouraged Halford to tell everything, no matter how painful or seemingly taboo and he does.
Despite sometimes the painful moments, there is still a lot of light-heartedness and self depreciating humour.
– “Thank you so much for coming,” said the Queen. “Isn’t it strange that we have no music playing when it’s a music event?’
“Yeah, that would have been nice!” I said trying not to sound too yam-yam.
“I should have had a string quartet in the background,” mused Her Majesty. “And what do you do?’
Before I could answer, Cilla chimed in: “He’s in this band called Judas Priest! He’s come all the way from Finland to be here!”
“Oh,” said the Queen. “And what kind of music do you play?”
“Heavy metal Your Majesty,” I said.
The Queen gave me a slightly pained look. “Oh, heavy metal,” she said. “Why does it have to be so loud?”
Whoa! The Queen just said the words “heavy metal”! Possibly for the first time in her life! But…how do I answer THAT question?
“It’s so we can bang our heads, Your Majesty!” I told her. Cilla gave me another dig in the ribs.
The Queen smiled, regally. “It’s been very nice to meet you,” she pronounced. As she turned to leave, I instinctively stuck out my hand toward her again. And got yet another jab in the ribs from Cilla.
Throughout Rob’s story we see a real conveyance of his devotion to values of family, spirituality, and loyalty to the people close to him. We see a truly compassionate being who offers a lot of introspection in the telling of his life story. We see his coming to terms with his own demons and his self realization and growth to the happy place where he resides today. This is a story that anyone can relate to in some way regardless of your taste in music or position in life. I highly recommend it.