RONNIE ATKINS – One Shot (2021)
It was time; to be released tomorrow, “One Shot” is the first ever solo effort by PRETY MAIDS front man RONNIE ATKINS. Most 0dayrox team members being big Maids’ fans, we’ve been waiting this Atkins solo venture for a long time… and the man doesn’t disappoint.
“One Shot” is a real killer. The Danish singer for the most part leaves the path of his mainband and with massive support of bandmate Chris Laney turns things more melodic and less heavy here. Incredibly hook-driven, very personal and simply intense, this will be the ultimate RONNIE ATKINS album highlighting his unique voice.
If history has taught anything, it is that adversity is what truly makes a hero, and the creeping promise of mortality is the greatest trial that awaits anyone. Such was the saddening news that the man standing at the fore of one of Denmark’s founding fathers of metal Pretty Maids had been diagnosed with lung cancer in 2019, which would subsequently reach Stage 4 by April of 2020.
But much as the triumphant character of the melodic, rock-infused bombast that he’s been delivering since the early 80s, Ronnie Atkins is not the sort of man to take things lying down, and resolved to spend his days continuing to inspire the masses by way of song.
Though having never approached music as a solo artist, his charismatic persona and instinct for a good hook would make him a natural at being the prime mover in a songwriting capacity, though naturally the compositional endeavor would be joined by keyboardist and fellow Pretty Maids band mate Chris Laney to hone the raw material into a refined, fully formed product.
Taken with the context of Atkins’ present disposition and the colossal past accomplishments he carries in tow, “One Shot” is the sort of inspirational rock opus that speaks a similar language to the latter day works of Queen, save with a less theatrical and more down to earth tone.
It carries with it the highly polished and massive production quality that one comes to expect from an entry tied to the Frontiers Records label, from the dense yet subdued verses that cater to the confessional character of the lyrics to the pounding bluster of the electrified choruses that bring each chapter of the story back home.
Along for the ride is an impressive cast of supporting musicians, including former Pretty Maids drummer Allan Sørensen and keyboardist Morten Sandager, former Lion’s Share and current King Diamond bassist Pontus Egberg, and a litany of prominent guest guitarists providing the solo work such as Kee Marcello (ex-Europe), Oliver Hartmann (Avantasia, ex-At Vance) and Pontus Norgren (Hammerfall). This all-star fold of instrumentalists proves invaluable in bringing Atkins’ clear cut yet diverse vision into focus.
Though the brand of rocking metal that Atkins has brought to the table over the decades has been of a fairly stylized character, this is the sort of album that runs with that idea while still keeping the listener guessing. The formulaic presentation of a subdued starting point with a flurry of acoustic guitars and clean droning electric counterpoints in the spirit of Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers that kicks off the opening power ballad “Real” gives way to a louder and grittier chorus that, nevertheless, maintains the sweet aroma of a rock radio banger.
This formula of predictably gripping the listener with an infectious set of hooks is reprised on similarly succinct yet passionate anthems like the dreamy acoustic musings of “Frequency Of Love”, the more ’80s infused pomp and majesty of “When Dreams Are Not Enough” and the somewhat more keyboard-steeped, Journey-like “Picture Yourself”, yet the richness of the dynamic contrast and the masterful musicianship backing Atkins’ powerful pipes keeps things fresh and vital.
By the same token, this is an album that knows when to give familiar patterns a needed kick in the pants with a more extreme emotional expression.
On the harder-edged side of the equation is a galore of flashy anthems that hearken back to the glory days of ’80s AOR, such as the swift moving and shred-happy riff monster “Before The Rise Of An Empire” and the low-end, gritty punch with a lofty edge “One By One” that showcases that sweet spot that exists between hard rock and heavy metal that is often a staple of the Frontiers tribe.
Of a similarly heavy character yet with more of a technical, keyboard-happy gloss is the anthem of wild living “Scorpio”, which winds up being the closest to the early days of Pretty Maids when they were still closely tied to the raw intensity of their Thin Lizzy infused days.
On the lighter side of the equation is the slow-paced, inspirational melodic smoothness of “Miles Away”, which is fairly reminiscent of the dense vocal arrangements often heard out of Michael Sweet’s solo efforts, and is outshined in the memorable department only by the dreary piano ballad turned call of defiance that is the title song “One Shot”, arguably the best song on here and definitely the most distinctive.
It’s a risky business, attempting to quantify the legacy of any veteran of the rock and metal world, let alone one that has been consistently scoring victories for the better part of 40 years.
That said, the record speaks for itself where in Ronnie Atkins’ tenure is concerned, and this first time solo outing proves more than worthy of it.
It is often said that an artist’s best work is always his latest one, at least from the perspective of the creator, and while the jury will be out as to whether this outshines the splendor of such classic Pretty Maids offerings as “Red Hot and Heavy”, “Future World” or “Planet Panic”, this is the sort of power-infused, hard rocking splendor that has kept this icon on the map since the early days of metal.
Perhaps the coming months will see this fearless warrior continuing on to another studio venture before all is said and done, God willing, but this is the sort of album that could mark the glorious end of any career, listen loud and listen proud.
3. One Shot
5. Frequency Of Love
6. Before The Rise Of An Empire
7. Miles Away
8. Picture Yourself
9. I Prophesize
10. One By One
11. When Dreams Are Not Enough
Ronnie Atkins: Lead and backing vocals
Chris Laney: Rhythm guitars, keyboards, backing vocals
Allan Sørensen: Drums
Morten Sandager: Keyboards
Pontus Egberg: Bass
Acoustic guitars: Anders Ringman
Additional backing vocals: Chris Laney, Linnea Vikström Egg, Oliver Hartmann, Bjørn Strid