Editor's note: This is a book review
JUDAS PRIEST frontman Rob Halford is as beloved offstage as he is on, due in part to how charming his demeanor is during the battery of press interviews that come with every album release and tour. His dry sense of humor is the type that can sometimes be hard to translate to the written word, so who better to make that attempt than the man himself, with help from music journalist Ian Gittins. Whether guiding the reader through the highs and lows of the JUDAS PRIEST machine, or through harrowing struggles with his sexuality and cocaine addiction, Halford's ability to let his humble working-class British upbringing and a wisecrack poke through the events depicted in his autobiography, "Confess", gives an uplifting aura to even the darkest parts of his life story.
As with many rock-star autobiographies, the journey of the band that led to Halford gaining his fame is the least interesting part of his story. There are very few bombshells dropped throughout that will surprise heavily devoted JUDAS PRIEST fans, at least in regard to that band's development and career. After introductory chapters about his family's background and teenage years, the majority of the career-related events are described in a rather perfunctory "We did this, then we did that" manner, though enough side treks and humorous anecdotes are delivered to keep those stories from being too dry of a read. Dirt-seeking audiences will be disappointed, as Halford comes off as too nice of a person to really throw dirt on people he has interacted with throughout his career, which is genuinely an endearing quality. Outside of a few oddball celebrity encounters and instances of the band receiving the cold shoulder from headlining bands, Halford doesn't seem keen on trash talk. Even during turbulent times such as the courtroom drama surrounding suicidal acts from teenage JUDAS PRIEST fans, Halford's departure from — and subsequent return to — the band, and Glenn Tipton's later struggles with Parkinson's disease, the revered singer favors introspection over anger.
It's that sense of introspection that drives what ends up being the most compelling, and inspiring parts of Halford's story. As the majority of chapters chart JUDAS PRIEST's triumphs and tribulations, a simultaneous arc throughout "Confess" is Halford's ongoing struggles with his sexuality. One paragraph may be devoted to another career benchmark being cleared, be it related to record sales or selling out sports arenas, but the next paragraph will bring the sobering reality that for many years, Halford could not bring himself to publicly be a gay man. From failed relationships and increasingly reckless attempts at secret sexual encounters to subtle — and quite frankly, not-so-subtle — allusions to his sexuality within his lyrics, it really is evident throughout the book how much of a weight was lifted off of his emotional state of being when he officially outed himself during an MTV interview in 1998, and the overwhelming majority of JUDAS PRIEST fans accepted and embraced that.
The already converted members of the JUDAS PRIEST fan base would likely be happy enough if "Confess" just stayed focused on what Halford accomplished with that iconic act. It's the introspective — and brutal honesty — of Halford's off-stage struggle that truly lifts his autobiography from a library checkout to a must-purchase.