Judas Priest is an English heavy metal band formed in West Bromwich in 1969. The band has sold over 50 million copies of their albums to date. Judas Priest is frequently ranked as one of the greatest metal bands of all time. Despite an innovative and pioneering body of work in the latter half of the 1970s, the band struggled with indifferent record production, repeated changes of drummer, and lack of major commercial success or attention until 1980, when they adopted a more simplified sound on the album British Steel, which helped shoot them to rock superstar status.
The band's membership has seen much turnover, including a revolving cast of drummers in the 1970s, and the temporary departure of singer Rob Halford in the early 1990s. The current line-up consists of Halford, guitarists Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner, bassist Ian Hill, and drummer Scott Travis. The band's best-selling album is 1982's Screaming for Vengeance with their most commercially successful line-up, featuring Halford, Tipton, Hill, guitarist K. K. Downing, and drummer Dave Holland. Tipton and Hill are the only two members of the band to appear on every album.
Their influence, while mainly Halford's operatic vocal style and the twin guitar sound of Downing and Tipton, has been adopted by many bands. Their image of leather, spikes, and other taboo articles of clothing were widely influential during the glam metal era of the 1980s. The Guardian referred to British Steel as the record that defines heavy metal. Despite a decline in exposure during the mid 1990s, the band has once again seen a resurgence, including worldwide tours, being inaugural inductees into the VH1 Rock Honors in 2006, receiving a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance in 2010, and their songs featured in video games such as Guitar Hero and the Rock Band series.
K. K. Downing and bassist Ian Hill had known each other since early childhood, as they lived near one another and attended the same nursery and school in West Bromwich. They became close friends in their early teens, when they shared similar musical interests (Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Cream, The Yardbirds) and learned to play instruments. The band was founded in 1969 in Birmingham, England, United Kingdom, after a local ensemble named Judas Priest (after Bob Dylan's song "The Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest" from the John Wesley Harding album) split up. The band's singer, Al Atkins, approached Downing and Hill, who were playing as a power trio with drummer John Ellis, and asked if he could become their singer. With Atkins now in the band, Downing suggested they change their name to Judas Priest as he had been a fan of the original band.
Later, in 1972, Rob Halford and drummer John Hinch joined to replace Atkins and Partridge, respectively. A second guitarist, Glenn Tipton, was also added to the line-up in 1974 as compensation for their record company's (Gull Records) suggestion to add a horn section to the first album, Rocka Rolla.
Downing and Tipton's harmonised guitar lines were not particularly common at the time, but became a trademark for the group and would inspire other bands such as Metallica, Iron Maiden and Megadeth to do the same. It is now a standard feature of many heavy metal bands and appears in many of metal's sub-genres.
The band featuring Halford, Downing, Tipton and Hill would go on to record 14 albums from 1974 through to 1990. Their second album, Sad Wings of Destiny (released in 1976), is considered one of the most influential metal albums along with Black Sabbath's self-titled début.
Priest went through a considerable number of drummers between their formation and 1980 when Dave Holland joined and stayed until 1988's Ram It Down, and this is arguably the inspiration for Spinal Tap's misfortune with drummers. Racer X drummer Scott Travis joined the band to record 1990's Painkiller album and has been with the band ever since.
1980 saw Priest release perhaps their most famous album, British Steel, which featured a more focused and sleek approach to metal than previous efforts. This, coupled with catchy, fist-pumping riffs and memorable vocal melodies ensured the band a string of consecutive platinum selling albums. Fans were slightly disillusioned with 1986's Turbo, which featured electronic drums and synthesised guitars, but the band were still selling out arenas worldwide.
With Halford gone, the future looked bleak for the band, but after numerous searches for a suitable replacement, they found something special in tribute band front man Tim "Ripper" Owens. This story forms the basic plot of the movie "Rock Star," which was originally to be completely about Judas Priest and the Ripper, titled "Metal God," but the script was altered after the failure to reach an agreement with the band. Judas Priest recorded 4 albums with Owens (2 studio, 2 live records) which were greeted with mixed reactions from fans.
In 2003, the Judas Priest's 1990 line-up was restored when Rob Halford returned to the group after rekindling the relationship during work on Judas Priest's 4-CD career retrospective "Metalogy." In 2004 the band played Ozzfest and released a CD of new studio material entitled Angel of Retribution and an accompanying live DVD in 2005, enjoying a successful world tour that year.
After reunion, extensive tour and new studio album, the band released a follow-up album in June 2008, entitled Nostradamus. Unusually for Priest, this album was a double CD and was their first conceptual album; based upon the life and predictions of Nostradamus, which instilled a mixed reaction among fans.
In 2011, KK Downing announced his retirement. The band itself stated that their next world tour, Epitaph, would be their last. Downing's replacement is the former guitarist for Steve Harris's daughter, Lauren Harris. The new guitarist was born in 1980 when Judas Priest was on the British Steel tour. His name is Richie Faulkner.
In July 2014, Judas Priest released 'Redeemer of Souls'. This was the first Judas Priest studio album not to feature KK Downing, and instead feature Richie Faulkner. The album was received with much success, and Ian Hill named it Priest's best album yet. Later in 2014, Judas Priest embarked on their Redeemer of Souls world tour.
In March 2017, the band followed up with "Firepower" which was again a success and received positively by critics and fans alike.
In February 2018, Glenn Tipton announced that he had Parkinson's disease and retired from touring with the band, though he is still considered a member of Judas Priest. The band named Andy Sneap as Tipton's touring replacement.
Rob Halford - Lead Vocals (1973-1991, 2003-)
Glenn Tipton - Lead Guitar (1974-present; retired from touring in 2018)
Richie Faulkner - Lead Guitar (2013-)
Ian Hill - Bass (1970-)
Scott Travis: - Drums (1989-)
Andy Sneap - Guitar; touring (2018-)