Life assembles itself from opposites; what is a strength in one area is a weakness in another. Confess: An Autobiography serves as a great history of Rob Halford, but misses what his audience would like, which is a history of Judas Priest in which Halford discusses his own progress as well as that of the band.
As seems to be the case with many rock hagiographies, this book reads really well but seems like a first draft, since much of the duplicate content could be eliminated and replaced with more detail on Judas Priest, their influences, their musical learning, and what drove them to heavy metal.
On the other hand, this book provides at least one hearty belly laugh a chapter and several chuckles a page, satirizes the industry ably, and gives us some insight into the Halford saga, even if the second half drops off a bit.
For an example of the viral hilarity of this book, Halford reveals that early on, the Judas Priest guys began using the term “wrist merchants” for music journalists, a phrase which means about what you think it does (summon the lotion and kleenex). The more I read from the genre of music journalism, the more I can appreciate the keen insight that this term suggests.
Halford gives us highly interesting details of his early life but, like similar books from Celtic Frost, Confess: An Autobiography focuses too much on defending the subject and not enough on explaining it. We are left with almost a journalistic view of Halford, leaving out too much Priest, with not enough about the inner motivations he has.
Perhaps musicians do not articulate such things, but maybe also, they should consider it. There was enough room in here to make all of his points, go further into Judas Priest, and more concisely handle his solo career and other post-Priest life. Let us be honest: most of us are reading about Halford because he is important to us in the context of Judas Priest, primarily.
On the other hand, a wealth of detail and insight comes out in these pages. Halford speaking about religion, for example, sounds like a wise seer in a mountaintop cave more than a modern world-weary person, and his revelation that he is a die-hard royalist surprises and delights the postmodern monarchist reader.
In addition, the man conveys a great insight into personalities, which he reads both ably and quickly, and shows some of the origins of heavy metal in a mixture of medievalism and science fiction. In fact, “reactionary” does not apply well, but “eternal futurist” might. One senses there is much more to Halford, the person, than musicianship or his personal life.
As a description of his struggle to understand himself as a homosexual, and come to the point where he could tell the world (although anyone with a tenth of a clue already knew and did not care much, since even revanchiste reactionaries accept self-contained homosexuality), this book takes us on a roller coaster. One feels for the young man who is alienated in more ways than one, basically alone in a world that understands him as much as a UFO or pagan demigod.
Where this book succeeds, above all else perhaps, rests in its intravenous dose of excitement: you feel the liminality, instability, and ambition of a time as people try to rise above the obviously sinking Western Civilization Titanic. Halford writes well, sees deeply, and makes us laugh at the same time, making this book the perfect winter night read.