In a new interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, JUDAS PRIEST guitarist Glenn Tipton spoke about the progress of the songwriting sessions for the band's follow-up to 2018's "Firepower" album. He said: "The epidemic really halted the writing process. But the band was kicking ideas around before that. I think it's what every PRIEST fan would want to hear. There's no attempt to be clever or try and do something too risky. It's just down and out PRIEST. And as I say, I think it will be what every PRIEST fan will want."
Last month, JUDAS PRIEST singer Rob Halford was asked by Remy Maxwell of Audacy Check In if he agreed with guitarist Richie Faulkner's recent comment that the band's upcoming album will be more musically "progressive" than "Firepower". He responded: "Yeah, the metal is there. But here's the thing: we've tried our best not to replicate anything that we've done. From 'Rocka Rolla' all the way through to 'Firepower', each record has had a distinctive character. And it's tough because fans go, 'We want another 'Painkiller',' 'We want another 'British Steel'.' And [it's, like], 'Dude, we've already done that.'
"Fans know that we're a band that is always full of adventure and trying new stuff," he continued. "And so, yeah, this has got probably some more progressive elements that we've never really delved into before. And that's exciting, because, again, it gives us and our fans another opportunity to see a different side of PRIEST. But it's still metal. There's just more of it. There are more notes than there were before."
In February, Faulkner told Canada's The Metal Voice about the progress of the songwriting sessions for PRIEST's next album: "Since the 'Firepower' tour, we all went our separate ways, like we do, and we've always got ideas coming up; me, Rob and Glenn, we sort of start to put ideas down. And we got together in early 2020 — me, Rob and Glenn; and [co-producer and touring guitarist] Andy Sneap was there as well — and we pooled all our ideas together and we started the first writing session. So we got together a batch of songs that were by no means finished, but they were developed enough that we could call them songs. So we could give them working titles. They were demos, if that makes sense. So we had a batch of demos. And then since then, we've been trying to find an opportunity where we can all get together and develop 'em further and record them. But, obviously, with the restrictions of the lockdown and the pandemic…"
He continued: "We wanna be together as a band to iron out those creases. If the three of us got together with a group of songs and we played them together, it's, like, 'Oh, that one needs a bit of fat trimmed there,' 'That's too long' or 'We need to put some more guitar solos in there.' It becomes evident when you play together what songs need. So we've been looking for an opportunity to do that. It's been tough with the travel restrictions — some of us live over here; some of us live over there — so it's been tough. But we have started recording some and getting it put together with those restrictions, because we wanna get it done, but it's obviously taking longer than we'd like, really, because of the pandemic. Obviously, now we've got the tour coming up and hopefully we can get on the road and stay on the road, so we're gonna work around that flow. So I wouldn't like to say when it's gonna be finished and when it's gonna be out, but we are working on it and we are dedicated to getting it done, getting those songs down and then getting it out to the world. But, obviously, we're nowhere near a release date, but we are dedicated on working on it and getting it done to the best of our ability, for sure."
As for the musical direction of the new PRIEST material, Faulkner said: "Whenever you start a record, you never know how it's gonna turn out. So you might start with an idea of what it's gonna be, and as it kind of rolls on, it comes out something different. So you don't quite know. And also it's really hard to sum up your own music, I find, without sounding really pretentious. But I think this one — it's not 'Firepower 2', I don't think. It's its own thing, it's its own animal. If anything, I would say it's a bit more progressive in places, and in places it's got a bit more of that 'Killing Machine' swagger."
Faulkner added: "I know everyone says, 'Oh, is it the next 'Painkiller'?' or 'Is it the next…?' whatever… I don't know if they'd ever done it, but I know we've never done it when I've been in the band; we've never tried to recreate an album. It's always we try to create an album that stands on its own legs. So I think it's definitely a little bit more progressive than 'Firepower' and, as I said, in places it's got a little bit of that 'Killing Machine' angry swagger attitude going on. But again, as I said, we're waiting to see what it turns out like, 'cause it could turn out completely different."
In March 2021, Halford confirmed that PRIEST's next album will see the band reuniting with the "Firepower" production team consisting of Sneap, longtime collaborator Tom Allom and engineer Mike Exeter (BLACK SABBATH).
Tipton was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease eight years ago after being stricken by the condition at least half a decade earlier. Tipton announced in early 2018 he was going to sit out touring activities in support of "Firepower". He was replaced by Sneap, who is also known for his work in NWOBHM revivalists HELL and cult thrash outfit SABBAT.
Bassist Ian Hill is the sole remaining original member of PRIEST, which formed in 1969. Halford joined the group in 1973 and Tipton signed on in 1974. Rob left PRIEST in the early 1990s to form his own band, then came back to PRIEST in 2003. Founding guitarist K.K. Downing parted ways with the band in 2011, and was replaced by Faulkner.
Some of the other members of PRIEST have also dealt with various health setbacks in recent years. Halford recently publicly revealed that he battled prostate cancer during the pandemic. He previously mentioned his cancer battle in the new chapter added to the updated paperback edition of his autobiography, "Confess". In "Confess", Halford revealed that he was diagnosed with cancer after experiencing symptoms for at least a couple of years.
In July 2020, Rob underwent prostatectomy, an operation where the entire prostate gland is removed plus some of the tissue around it, including the seminal vesicles. After more cancer was found last year, he went through radiation treatments in April and May 2021 and eventually got then all-clear in June 2021. He also had an appendectomy after a tumor was discovered on his appendix.
Faulkner suffered an acute cardiac aortic dissection during the band's performance at the Louder Than Life festival in late September. Faulkner was rushed to the UofL Health - Jewish Hospital where the cardiothoracic surgery team needed approximately 10 hours to complete a life-saving surgery.