JUDAS PRIEST bassist Ian Hill spoke to Andrew Daly of Vinyl Writer Music about the status of the songwriting and recording sessions for the band's follow-up to 2018's "Firepower" LP. He said: "There is an album in the pipeline, and it's not far from being finished. Whether it'll be out sometime next year or the year after, we don't know yet. But there will probably be a little bit more touring next year in 2023, so we'll wait for the dust to settle and let everybody catch their breath. And then we'll probably start again in 2024; it might be sooner than that, but we'll see what happens. As far as sound, we've taken it forward again; it's gonna be a bit more intricate and maybe more complicated than 'Firepower'. But that's what we've always tried to do, and hopefully, it's another step in the right direction."
When asked what JUDAS PRIEST owes its longevity to, Hill said: "Well, probably our sense of humor and the fact that we started as friends and we're still all friends. And it's also the culture of this band, how strong it is, how we get along, and how we operate, all of which have made an enormous difference. I mean, obviously, guitarists have changed, drummers have changed, and vocalists have changed, but we've always made sure that we could get along with whoever has come into this band. I think that's very important too, because if you've got any animosity between any one of the members, it'll come to a head sooner or later, and you won't last long. So, we just befriend everyone and take them as they are, and I think that's the secret to staying together. If you do that, you won't rub each other the wrong way too much. [Laughs]. That's how things last; it's what's worked for PRIEST, so we'll keep doing it until it doesn't."
Last month, JUDAS PRIEST guitarist Richie Faulkner told The Entertainment Outlet that the drums, guitars and bass have already been recorded for the band's new LP. "I think the main thing we have to do now is vocals. So we've got the U.S. leg of the tour coming up, so Rob's [Halford, vocals] gotta protect his voice and use his voice sparingly before that. So maybe after that. I mean, we've got [dates in] the U.S. and we've got South America, which takes us into December. So maybe in the New Year we can start working on vocals."
Regarding when fans can expect to see the next PRIEST LP released, Richie said: "It's always tough to talk about timeframes, because, as we know, things change. But Rob always says, 'It's done when it's done.' There's no point in rushing anything at this point in the band's career. But it's getting there — we're working on it and it's getting there. And we're using the time we've got. These days as well, we don't need 18 months in a 10,000-square-foot studio in Fiji to do a record. The way things are these days, we can do it in a lot more economical way. So we're making technology work and we're making all that work for us so we can get it done in the best way we can so we can get it out when we can. But it'll be done when it's done."
As for what the new PRIEST material is sounding like, Faulkner said: "[Producer and touring guitarist] Andy Sneap was texting me this morning, and he was saying it sounded really solid, really confident. He was saying… I know people love this stuff on the socials, but it's not 'Firepower 2'; it's its own thing. Some people might like that; some people might hate that. When you read the socials, people read comments like that and they know what the album sounds like straight away. I don't know how they do that. But it's all good. It means they're invested in PRIEST and they're invested in the new music. But as he said, it sounds confident, it's sounding great and solid. It's always good as well when you've got something like this and no one's heard it. So you're excited to release it to the world — you want the world to hear it, but they haven't heard it yet. So it'll be great for the world to hear it. They might hate it. But it's still exciting."
This past February, Halford was asked by Remy Maxwell of Audacy Check In if he agreed with 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."
Also in February, Faulkner told Canada's The Metal Voice about the overall sound of the new PRIEST music: "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."
A year and a half ago, Halford confirmed that PRIEST's next album would see the band reuniting with the "Firepower" production team consisting of Andy Sneap, longtime collaborator Tom Allom and engineer Mike Exeter (BLACK SABBATH).
Hill is the sole remaining original member of PRIEST, which formed in 1969. Halford joined the group in 1973 and guitarist Glenn 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.
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.