Published Jul 09, 2014With the exception of Black Sabbath, no other heavy metal band on the planet may be as universally revered as Judas Priest. Their influence on the genre — from music to fashion — is peerless. And yet, it wasn't long ago that the future of Judas Priest was uncertain.
In 2010, when their "Epitaph" world tour was announced, it was billed as their farewell, and then, in 2011, founding member K.K. Downing retired. However, just when the end seemed inevitable, rumours of new material began to surface, with guitarist Richie Faulkner, who was first brought on as a touring member and later joined permanently, on board.
Now, Judas Priest's 17th studio record, Redeemer of Souls, arrived this week on Epic Records, marking the band's 40th anniversary.
Speaking to vocalist Rob Halford, the energy and excitement that have pervaded Judas Priest's work 40 years into their career are palpable. "If you're lucky enough in life to find something that you genuinely do enjoy, then surely that's got to be a blessing," Halford tells Exclaim! "I think there's a very genuine spirit that you can feel in our work, and especially in this new record. I can feel the energy — the genuine emotions pouring out of the speakers — because those components were in the studio. There's some metal magic in this record."
Where exactly that magic comes from is a strange confluence of events and happenstance. While the loss of Downing was a dramatic blow, Halford claims Faulkner brought freshness and enthusiasm to Redeemer of Souls. The record began, in a more nebulous state, right after Judas Priest completed work on 2008's Nostradamus, but was shelved when Downing announced his retirement.
Halford says that he "spent a year like a deer in the headlights" while trying to sort out what to do, or whether the end of the band had truly come, "having one wheel on the wagon gone." Luckily for Priest fans, "the clouds opened and Richie Faulkner descended from the sky with his big golden wings and landed in our midst, and you think, 'Oh, thank God' and can move forward."
The record took six years to complete in the end, and while Halford promises it won't be that long before a follow-up to Redeemer of Souls appears, creativity cannot be commanded: "Sometimes the well dries up and sometimes it's overflowing."
It's not just a love for making music that has reinvigorated Judas Priest, but also their passion for performing and commitment to touring. Halford states that "the feeling of getting on a tour bus" still fills him with excitement.
"I had a wonderful trip across [most of] the Canadian landscape — all the way from Victoria to Montreal on a tour bus — and it was amazing. It's wonderful to look out and see it all going past, and that's one of the great joys I get. We're blessed, really; I should write the heavy metal traveller's guide."
Despite being on the road on and off for 40 years, Halford insists, "I still look forward to packing my bag, locking the door to the house and wandering the planet."
You can see Judas Priest's upcoming North American tour schedule below.
10/01 Rochester, NY - Main Street Armory
10/03 Hammond, IN - The Venue at Horseshoe Casino
10/04 Louisville, KY - Louder Than Life Fest at Champions
10/06 Montreal, QC - Bell Centre
10/07 Orillia, ON - Casino Rama Entertainment Centre
10/09 Brooklyn, NY - Barclays
10/10 Atlantic City, NJ - Harrah's
10/11 Mashantucket, CT - MGM Grand Theater at Foxwood's
10/14 Lowell, MA - Tsongas Center at UMass
10/15 Allentown, PA - PPL Center
10/17 East Rutherford, NJ - Izod Center
10/19 Detroit, MI - Fox Theatre
10/24 Baltimore, MD - Pier Six Pavilion
10/28 Duluth, GA - The Arena at Gwinnett Center
10/30 Hollywood, FL - Hard Rock Live Arena
11/06 Allen, TX - Allen Event Center
11/07 Austin, TX - FunFunFun Fest
11/10 Los Angeles, CA - Nokia
11/12 Phoenix, AZ - Jobing Arena
11/13 Highland, CA - San Manuel Casino
11/14 Las Vegas, NV - The Pearl
11/16 San Jose, CA - City National Civic
11/18 Salt Lake City, UT - Maverik Center