In a new interview with the Corpus Christi Caller Times, JUDAS PRIEST singer Rob Halford was asked about the inspiration for the band's upcoming follow-up to 2018's "Firepower" album. He responded: "We never really know. I don't think we've ever made a plan, per se. We did a little bit with 'Firepower' because we wanted to explore our other classic elements with PRIEST. I think the only other time where we had a kind of blueprint was 'Painkiller'. We wanted 'Painkiller' to reinforce the ferocious metal power this band possesses. Besides those two, everything is just whatever happens. We get together, as we have done for all these albums, we meet at a studio, everyone brings their ideas — some days we start with nothing — and then we end up with a song that will live forever. It's just joyous. We always try to make an album that stands alone.
"['Firepower'] was so well-received and critically acclaimed," he continued. "It was kind of like, 'Is that it? Should we leave it there? Should we leave the party now?' But that record, along with the reception from our friends and in the industry, gave us even more energy and more determination to make another PRIEST album. And make one that's a strong piece of work to come after 'Firepower'."
Earlier in the month, JUDAS PRIEST guitarist Richie Faulkner told Robert Cavuoto of Metal Rules about the musical direction of the band's new material: "I've definitely used the word 'progressive' [to describe the new PRIEST music 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 eight 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."
Last month, Halford told Q104.3 New York's "Out Of The Box With Jonathan Clarke" that PRIEST's upcoming studio album is "close" to being completed. "All the writing's done; the bulk of the recording is done," he said. "I've still gotta put my vocal tracks down. So, in essence, it's done, which is a great feeling, because that really points us to the metal future. Everything that we've done in PRIEST over the last 50-odd years has been driven by the latest music that we're making. So this is no exception.
"We'll finish this 50th-anniversary celebration down in São Paulo, Brazil on December the 18th, and that'll be this year done," Rob added. "And then next year we're kicking off with our good friend Ozzy [Osbourne] in the U.K.; we'll do some shows with him. And [in the rest of] Europe. And then a few other bits and pieces we've got going over in Europe. And then we stop. And then we plan the next release sequence for the next PRIEST album."
Earlier 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."
Regarding when fans can expect to see the next PRIEST LP released, Faulkner told The Entertainment Outlet: "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."
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).
Bassist Ian 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 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.