RICHIE FAULKNER Says ROB HALFORD's Vocals Are 'Sounding Stellar' On Upcoming JUDAS PRIEST Album
April 4, 2023
In a brand new interview with The Classic Rock Interviews, JUDAS PRIEST guitarist Richie Faulkner spoke about the progress of the recording sessions for the band's follow-up to 2018's "Firepower" album. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "Me and [album co-producer and PRIEST touring guitarist] Andy Sneap flew out to Phoenix a few weeks ago and worked with Rob [Halford, PRIEST singer] on the vocals. And they're sounding stellar, as only The Metal God can do. They're not quite finished yet, so once we've done the vocals, it needs to be mixed and mastered, and then we need to do the artwork and stuff. Recording-wise, there's only the vocals to go, but as we know, there's quite a process in putting a record package together. But it's not that far off, I don't think. We'll see a PRIEST record in the future very soon."
Last month, Faulkner told Canada's The Metal Voice that the songs for the new PRIEST LP were "almost complete. The songs have been around for a little while now. We didn't have the ability to get together and record them, because of the COVID pandemic. And when that lifted, we would then get out on the road. So then we had to record the stuff around being on the road. But we did it. So we'd do a tour leg and I'd come back and do the guitars and then we'd done the drums. And then [we] went back out on the road. And we'd done things around the touring cycle. Now Rob's doing the vocals. So they're almost finished."
Regarding the musical direction of the new PRIEST material, Richie said: "I've said this before, and the Internet — the sharks got hold of it… I would definitely say, and Rob said it as well, I said the word 'progressive', and the Internet tore me apart. But they haven't heard it. When I said 'progressive', I'd say it's a little bit… instead of, let's say, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, solo, chorus, finish, it might do verse, musical part, musical section, bridge, chorus, musical section, back into the verse. It doesn't stay on the path; sometimes it goes off and plays it a little… Like the old '70s PRIEST used to, like the 'Sinner' and stuff like that; it used to go on a bit more of a musical journey. Which I think is great — it's interesting.
"So that's what I can say. I've said it before: it's a little bit more progressive; it's a little bit more musically, not experimental, but it's got a few more riffs in there," he explained. "[There's more] intricacies, there's more solos, there's more riffs, which, I don't think that's a bad thing, as a guitar player."
In February, Halford spoke to the SiriusXM's Ozzy's Boneyard host Mark Strigl about PRIEST's musical evolution on the band's upcoming album. He said: "That's what we love about PRIEST, isn't it? I've always said we're the band that can kind of rip the skin off your face with 'Painkiller', and then the next second we can be your 'turbo lover', or we can go and 'break the law' or we can become 'the sentinel'.
"We've always had so much fun and adventure with not only the albums, but the songs within the albums," he continued. "It's part of who we are. And making these little microcosms of our personalities within the songs especially, all those names that I've referenced just, they've each got like a little mini-movie going on in your head when you think of the lyrics and the message, and then it's all supported by incredible music working together.
"That 'Firepower' record was a real pure effort on our part to do a little bit of reflection and reinforce a lot of the things that we've loved about PRIEST from day one," Halford explained. "That's not to say we went, 'Okay, let's get a bit of a vibe from 'Rocka Rolla' here.' And then, 'How about some 'Sad Wings Of Destiny'?' And 'Don't forget 'Point Of Entry'.' It was none of that. It was just really this overall umbrella of things that we've achieved in metal, and just using that in the back of our minds as we went through from song to song to song. And I wanna say it made it a little bit easier. And what I mean by that is when you have a focus and a direction and a template on which to work from, then you can keep going back to that and going, 'Okay, this is where we're focusing the ideas and the creativity,' and so on and so forth. So that's how 'Firepower' came together like it did. That album, to me, as a PRIEST fan, is as important as, say, 'Painkiller' was in reaffirming this band, and also what 'British Steel' was in reaffirming this band. And what I mean by reaffirmation is that it's like a football team or a basketball team. That team has been there forever, but you're bringing these ideas, you're bringing these moves, and then you go, 'Yeah, these are the things that make that band great.' 'These are the things that make this team great.' And because I overthink everything, that was my thought philosophy behind 'Firepower'. So you've got that in the back of your mind when you're trying to write this current album. And it can be a mind game."
Rob added: "You always wanna do better when you're in a band. Every band goes, 'This is the greatest record we've ever made,' as you should say, because that should be your logic behind whatever you're doing at that given moment in time, giving it a thousand percent so you stand by that statement: 'This is the best thing we've ever done, as of right now.'
"So what's what we're trying to do with this next one. And the substance of it is great, man. I mean, again, you've got all the things that you need from this band. And it's so difficult to talk about music, isn't it? All I can say is — you can tell by the way I'm expressing myself — there's a tremendous amount of belief and love and thought and power and riffs and crazy drums and screams. Man, it's just roaring again. But it's also got those familiar elements of some of the previous material. That's not to say that we're doing 'Firepower' Mark 2 — we're not. But we're in the home stretch. It feels wonderful. I listen to it every day. I've still got a lot of work to do myself, but the foundations of all the instrumentation are so thrilling to listen to. And it feels good.
"We wrote so many songs, like we always do — we overwrite, overwrite, overwrite — and then we curate the best things that we need to work with. So we have an album-plus worth of material, and it's roaring; it's roaring, man. It's on fire."
Halford previously about what fans can expect to hear on the band's upcoming LP in January in an interview with Metal Express Radio. At the time he said: "When you're in a band, you're always trying to better yourself; you're always trying to say, 'This is the best album we've ever made.' It's just a natural thing to do. And I'm aware of the great success and love that was given to 'Firepower'. And so how do you deal with that? Well, firstly, you have to let that go. You have to let that go, because it's like you're chasing after something that's elusive. What's the point of trying to emulate something that you've already done? We've just gotta do like we've always done with PRIEST, the way that every album has its own concept, every album has its own thing. 'British Steel' isn't 'Painkiller'; 'Painkiller' isn't 'Point Of Entry'; 'Point Of Entry' isn't 'Nostradamus'. So this album is shaping up to be its own thing."
He added: "It's great. It's a really good album, and I know our fans are gonna love it."
Last November, Faulkner told Robert Cavuoto of Metal Rules about the musical direction of PRIEST's upcoming LP: "You know what? The Internet seems to know everything these days about what the new album's going to sound like based on a couple of words that [we've] put out there [in previous interviews]. I think we've used the word 'progressive', and everyone thinks it's gonna become 'Nostradamus' [PRIEST's controversial 2008 symphonic heavy metal concept double album about Nostradamus], or RUSH, which is two different things. I've definitely used the word 'progressive' [to describe the new PRIEST material in previous interviews], purely because it's got a few musical turnarounds that 'Firepower' doesn't have. But that doesn't make it a RUSH record. It just makes it — instead of, like, a verse into a bridge into a chorus, there might be a couple of more musical passages in there to make it a bit more… interesting; might be the wrong word. I don't know. You've gotta be careful with the words you use these days. So it's not 'Firepower 2', but it's the same band a few years later, so there's obvious connections to the last record. But it's not 'Firepower 2' by any means."
Richie continued: "No PRIEST records have sounded the same, but it's got a common DNA. And you always try and make the next one sound a bit better — or whatever 'better' may be; 'better' is subjective. So, is it better written? Are the lyrics better? Does it sound better? And 'better' is always subjective. So it's hard to pinpoint, really. But it's a bit more of a musical adventure than the last one, I'd say. But then again someone might listen to it, when it does come out, and have a totally different interpretation of what it is. So it's always tough to sum up your own music without sounding up your own butt."
Asked if longtime PRIEST guitarist Glenn Tipton, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease nine years ago after being stricken by the condition at least half a decade earlier, will play on the band's album, Richie said: "He will be, yeah. I don't think he's recorded his guitar parts yet, but he's definitely involved in the writing of it. Obviously, we're all aware of his challenges with Parkinson's, so we were adamant that if he couldn't play that particular day that he was involved in the writing. He'd share his ideas with me and I'd kind of be his… he would share his ideas through me."
In October, Halford told AXS TV's Katie Daryl about what PRIEST fans can expect from the upcoming LP: "The same energy, the same vitality, the same determination, and it really is, again, another affirmation of what you love about JUDAS PRIEST. If you listen to any album from PRIEST from 'Rocka Rolla' in the '70s up to the 2000s with 'Firepower' and everything that went on between there, whether it was 'Turbo Lover' or whether it was the 'Painkiller' or '[You've Got] Another Thing Comin'', all of these pinpoints connect the dots of this great 50 years of metal, this journey that we're on. And it ain't over yet, folks, because that means another album and another tour. And we can't wait to keep pouring out the metal, 'cause that turbo power isn't gonna get turned off anytime soon."
In February 2022, Halford was asked by Remy Maxwell of Audacy Check In if he agreed with Faulkner's 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."
Two years 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).
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.
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