K.K. DOWNING Celebrates 40th Anniversary Of JUDAS PRIEST's 'Defenders Of The Faith': It's 'Probably One Of My Favorite Albums'

January 6, 2024

Former JUDAS PRIEST guitarist Kenneth "K.K." Downing has shared a new video message in he reflects on the band's classic album "Defenders Of The Faith". In the clip, which can be seen below, the 72-year-old musician states (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "Hello, everyone. It's K.K. here, just checking in, because today is a very special day. It is exactly 40 years since the release of this record here, 'Defenders Of The Faith'. Anybody remember that? For those who were around at the time, yeah, it was 1984. We were recording this — let me see — the mainstay of it was in Spain and then we moved to Florida to do some more recording and mixing. I remember it well. We had a great time, and little did we know — little did I know — I think this is probably one of my favorite albums. We've got on here 'Freewheel Burning', 'Jawbreaker', 'Rock Hard, Ride Free', 'The Sentinel', and it goes on. Yeah, killer first four tracks — really full-on metal."

He continues: "But anyway, you guys, I just wanted to say a big hello and congratulate the album, 'Defenders Of The Faith'. It made it 40 years.

"And, yeah, but let me know. I'm trying to think what are my favorite tracks here, but what are your favorite tracks? Let us know. Drop us a line on Instagram, Facebook. And hopefully I'll see you guys in another 10 years, and we'll do exactly the same with the 50th anniversary. Until then, see you soon. Keep it metal, and rock hard, ride free."

PRIEST's platinum-certified 1984 release "Defenders Of The Faith" spawned such headbanging classics as "Freewheel Burning", "Jawbreaker", "The Sentinel", "Some Heads Are Gonna Roll" and "Love Bites".

In March 2015, an expanded three-CD version of "Defenders Of The Faith" was unleashed via Columbia/Legacy, featuring the original ten-track album remastered by producer Tom Allom, and a complete live recording from the "Defenders" tour, recorded at the Long Beach Arena in California, on May 5, 1984.

Nine years ago, Downing posted a message in the "blog" section of his Steel Mill web site in which he wrote: "In 1984, PRIEST 'Defenders Of The Faith' tour sold out Madison Square Garden! Now that was what you call a memorable gig, exuberant fans decided to fill the stage with foam cushions from their seats. It was crazy, but full-on metal. In the end of the night, [the stage] was completely two to three cushions deep, making it impossible for us to walk on as it became like one big trampoline. However, it was great fun. I remember how we laughed so much, it was difficult to continue to play, but, of course, we did!

"The result of this amazingly unusual gig was a ban for life from the venue, but we did not care, as it was truly a night to remember.

"I think that you may all agree that the 'Defenders' stage set was possibly the most metal of all PRIEST sets and also the most synonymous with both PRIEST and with metal!

"It was a tough task to follow the success of 'Screaming For Vengeance', but I think it is testimony to PRIEST that there was no conscious effort to write single-orientated songs for 'Defenders'. In fact, we never did that. If a song became popular for radio, it was just what happened. As the title and song says, 'we are defenders of the (metal) faith' and very proud of it.

"The opening two tracks on this album, for me, are seriously the way to open a metal album; 'Freewheel Burning' and 'Jawbreaker' are a combination that for me is hard to get tired of. It was also great to play most of this album on the tour, which, I guess, also pays tribute to the album, as it is always difficult to present new material live. It is usual to allow a record to be well digested and to see what tracks become favourites before risking putting too many songs in the set list. For example, in 1990, I think we put five songs in the set list from 'Painkiller', but after a week or so on tour, we dropped tree songs. Such was the demand for our established songs. Now I guess PRIEST would be well received if the whole 'Painkiller' album was played. Now there's a thought?

"I must say a big thank you to [producer] Tom Allom and [engineer] Mark Dodson for their part in 'Defenders' as they too are real defenders of the faith."

Downing left PRIEST in 2011 amid claims of band conflict, shoddy management and declining quality of performance. He was replaced by Richie Faulkner, nearly three decades his junior.

In 2019, Downing said that he reached out to JUDAS PRIEST about taking part in the band's 50th-anniversary tour but that their response was that they were not interested in including him in the celebrations.

In 2018, Downing revealed that he sent two resignation letters to his bandmates when he decided to quit JUDAS PRIEST. The first was described as "a graceful exit note, implying a smooth retirement from music," while the second was "angrier, laying out all of his frustrations with specific parties."

Downing later said that he believed the second letter was "a key reason" he wasn't invited to rejoin PRIEST after Glenn Tipton's decision to retire from touring.

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