Mike Stebens reviews Rob Halford’s, of metal band Judas Priest, autobiography, which charts his early life, his musical highs, and his internal struggles.
Rob Halford, singer of acclaimed British metal band Judas Priest and one of the first frontmen of the genre to come out as gay in 1998, has decided it is time to ‘confess’ with this memoir. He notes from the beginning that it was his goal to be ‘totally candid’ in recounting his life. The result is a story about undying love of heavy metal as well as one of fear and angst. As Halford puts it, he was both “the lead singer of one of the biggest heavy metal bands on the planet, and yet too frightened to tell the world that I was a gay man”.
On the back cover, the reader is promised ‘an unforgettable rock ‘n’ roll story’. That is certainly the case for the first half of the book, dealing with his life until the mid-1980s. Halford describes his mostly-happy childhood years in a somewhat entertaining anecdotal way. It takes 50 pages to get to the beginning of Judas Priest, which feels an adequate length. What follows are stories about a band living life on the edge and shooting for the stars, hardly taking a break from recording and touring relentlessly.
However, as you turn to the second part of the book, Halford reveals more and more of his personal issues that were piling up and becoming impossible to ignore, and puts the focus on the darker side contrasting his rock star life. The seeds for this troubled period had all already been planted during his young adulthood. Now Halford’s mental and physical condition started deteriorating rapidly due to his suppressed sexuality, unhappy love life and his rampant alcohol and drug abuse. The ensuing tale of how he dealt with his struggles and came out stronger makes for the best reading of the book, especially for people who may be more interested in Rob Halford as a person than in the details of Judas Priest’s career. It is also what makes this autobiography unique and stand out from the many others released in past years. Halford’s life was bound to end in tragedy. He was staring into the abyss and contemplating suicide. Yet he managed to turn around, resolve his inner conflicts and return to triumph as a solo artist and with Judas Priest once again.
In a nutshell, Judas Priest or metal fans will find the many small stories and details about the process of recording albums or touring the world told in the book amusing. However, the more one progresses in the book, the more a serious life story emerges that replaces a recollection of loosely strung-together events. Halford does not want to paint the image of him as the ‘metal god’, but more often chooses to show his vulnerability as a human being who was for a long time struggling to find his place in the world. This makes the book a rewarding read, not only for die-hard metalheads.