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Judas Priest - Biography







Judas Priest was one of the most influential heavy metal bands of the '70s, spearheading the New wave of British heavy metal late in the decade. Decked out in leather and chains, the band fused the gothic doom of Black Sabbath with the riffs and speed of Led Zeppelin, as well as adding a vicious two-lead guitar attack; in doing so, they set the pace for much popular heavy metal from 1975 until 1985, as well as laying the groundwork for the speed and death metal of the '80s.

Formed in Birmingham, England, in 1970, the group's core members were guitarist K.K. Downing and bassist Ian Hill. Joined by Alan Atkins and drummer John Ellis, the band played their first concert in 1971. Atkins' previous band was called Judas Priest, yet the members decided it was the best name for the new group. The band played numerous shows throughout 1971; during the year, Ellis was replaced by Alan Moore; by the end of the year, Chris Campbell replaced Moore. After a solid year of touring the U.K., Atkins and Campbell left the band in 1973 and were replaced by vocalist Rob Halford and drummer John Hinch. They continued touring, including a visit to Germany and the Netherlands in 1974. By the time the tour was completed, they had secured a record contract with Gull, an independent U.K. label. Before recording their debut album, Judas Priest added guitarist Glenn Tipton.

Rocka Rolla was released in September of 1974 to almost no attention. The following year, they gave a well-received performance at the Reading festival and Hinch departed the band; he was replaced by Alan Moore. Later that year, the group released Sad Wings Of Destiny, which earned some positive reviews. However, the lack of sales was putting the band in a dire financial situation, which was remedied by an international contract with CBS Records. Sin After Sin was the first album released under that contract; it was recorded with Simon Phillips, who replaced Moore. The record received positive reviews and the band departed for their first American tour, with Les Binks on drums.

When they returned to England, Judas Priest recorded 1978's Stained Class, the record that established them as an international force in metal. Along with 1979's Hell Bent For Leather (Killing Machine in the U.K.), Stained Class defined the nascent New wave of British heavy metal movement. A significant number of bands adopted Judas Priest's leather-clad image and hard, driving sound, making their music harder, faster, and louder. After releasing Hell Bent For Leather, the band recorded the live album Unleashed In The East in Japan; it became their first platinum album in America. Les Binks left the band in 1979; he was replaced by former Trapeze drummer Dave Holland. Their next album, 1980's British Steel, entered the British charts at number three, launched the hit singles Breaking The Law and Living After Midnight, and was their second American platinum record; Point Of Entry, released the following year, was nearly as successful.

At the beginning of the '80s, Judas Priest was a top concert attraction around the world, in addition to being a best-selling recording artist. Featuring the hit single You've Got Another Thing Comin', Screaming For Vengeance marked the height of their popularity, peaking at number 17 in America and selling over a million copies. Two years later, Defenders Of The Faith nearly matched its predecessor's performance, yet metal tastes were beginning to change, as Metallica and other speed/thrash metal groups started to grow in popularity. That shift was evident on 1986's Turbo, where Judas Priest seemed out of touch with current trends; nevertheless, the record sold over a million copies in America on the basis of name recognition alone. However, 1987's Priest...Live! was their first album since Stained Class not to go gold. Ram It Down was a return to raw metal and returned the group to gold status. Dave Holland left after this record and was replaced by Scott Travis for 1990's Painkiller. Like Ram It Down, Painkiller didn't make an impact outside the band's diehard fans, yet the group was still a popular concert act.

In the early '90s, Rob Halford began his own thrash band, Fight, and soon left Judas Priest. In 1996, following a solo album by Glenn Tipton, the band rebounded with a new young singer, Tim "Ripper" Owens, (formerly a member of a Judas Priest tribute band and of Winters Bane). They spent the next year recording Jugulator amongst much self-perpetuated hype concerning Judas Priest's return to their roots. The album debuted at number 82 on the Billboard album charts upon its release in late 1997. Halford had by then disbanded Fight following a decrease in interest and signed with Trent Reznor's Nothing label with a new project, 2wo. In the meantime, the remaining members of Judas Priest forged on with '98 Live Meltdown, a live set recorded during their inaugural tour with Ripper on the mic. Around the same time, a movie was readying production to be based on Ripper's rags-to-riches story of how he got to front his all-time favorite band. Although Judas Priest was originally supposed to be involved with the film, they ultimately pulled out, but production went on anyway without the band's blessing (the movie, Rock Star, was eventually released in the summer of 2001, starring Mark Wahlberg in the lead role). Rob Halford in the meantime disbanded 2wo after just a single album, 1997's Voyeurs, and returned back to his metal roots with a quintet titled simply, Halford. The group issued their debut in 2000, Resurrection, following it with a worldwide tour that saw the new group open up Iron Maiden's Brave New World U.S. Tour, and issue a live set one year later (which included a healthy helping of Judas Priest classics), Live Insurrection.

In 2001 the Ripper-led Judas Priest issued a new album, Demolition, and Judas Priest's entire back catalog for Columbia was reissued with remastered sound and bonus tracks. In 2003 the band - including Halford - collaborated on the liner notes and song selections for their mammoth career-encompassing box Metalogy, a collaboration that brought Halford back into the fold. Owens split from the group amicably in 2003, allowing the newly reunited heavy metal legends to plan their global live concert tour in 2004, with their sixteenth studio album, Angel Of Retribution, to be released the following year. In 2008 the band released Nostradamus, a sprawling, two disc conceptual piece that charted the life and times of the famous French seer. On December 7, 2010, the band broke the news that their current tour, The Epitaph World Tour, would be their last. The following month, however, they clarified that they were not disbanding, announcing that they were working on new material. Before the tour began, founding member Downing left the band over differences with the other members and their management; he was replaced by Richie Faulkner.

Band worked on their new album during the tour, which ran until 2012. The album's release was delayed several times, but it was eventually announced that it would see the light of day in July 2014. Entitled Redeemer Of Souls, it was described by the band as a traditional, crowd-pleasing return to their roots. Coinciding with the announcement of the album's release, they backtracked on their earlier pronouncement and revealed details of another new world tour.

(Source: Allmusic, 31.1.2013)

Redeemer Of Souls sold around 32,000 copies in the United States in its first week of release to land at position No. 6 on The Billboard 200 chart, the band's highest charting position in the US after the double-disc concept album, Nostradamus, debuted at No. 11. This was the band's first top 10 album in the US.

In March 2017, the band entered the studio to begin the recording process, with support from long time producer Tom Allom, along with former Sabbat guitarist and producer Andy Sneap and engineer Mike Exeter, who worked with the band on the previous album. This marked the first time since 1988's Ram It Down that they had worked with Allom. In an April 2017 interview with Planet Rock, Halford said that the band was "coming to some of the final moments" of completion of the new album. He also promised "a very exciting 2018 period“ with a world tour taking place in 2018.

2018 was in fact an exciting period when Judas Priest's newest album Firepower was released. It was instantly hailed as one of the band's best releases and the best since the legendary Painkiller. It won on Metal Storm 2018's biggest surprise award.

Unfortunately, on 12 February 2018, Glenn Tipton revealed that he had Parkinson's disease and would step down from touring. According to the band, the disease's progression left him unable to play the more challenging material. Tipton stated that he was still a member of the band despite his diagnosis and did not rule out future on-stage appearances. Andy Sneap was then announced as his replacement for the tour.

In a March 2019 interview with Australia's May The Rock Be With You, Rob Halford stated that Judas Priest would definitely release a new studio album in the future, and that Tipton had already started composing riffs. Bassist Ian Hill said that the band had "some very strong ideas that were left out of Firepower which we never got around to completing". Despite Tipton's condition, Faulkner said that he would "very much be involved in the creation of the next record."

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the writing process of the upcoming album hasn't ceased. Halford describes the songs as "monsters. Even in a very, very rough, primitive stage, they're great — they're really, really good." He explained that the album would capture "the emotion of what we're going through together." On 29 April 2021, former drummer John Hinch died at the age of 73, as confirmed by Halford on Instagram.

Judas Priest were originally scheduled to embark on the 50 Heavy Metal Years Tour in 2020 in Europe and North America, but was pushed back to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, due to its continued presence, the European leg was pushed back to 2022. They returned to the stage on 15 August 2021 as they headlined the Bloodstock Open Air festival, once again rejoined by Glenn Tipton for the encore songs. The tour commenced on 8 September. When asked about the upcoming album, Ian Hill expressed doubt that it would be released before 2023 due to the band's tour schedule. The remainder of the US Tour was postponed due to Faulkner being hospitalized for major medical heart condition issues. He underwent a major emergency heart surgery and was stable and resting, according to his girlfriend Maria Lynch, daughter of guitarist George Lynch.

Despite the setbacks of a worldwide pandemic and personal illnesses, Judas Priest remain determined to create creative, energetic heavy metal for many years to come!