Judas Priest Discuss Emotional Reunion, Leaving Ripper Owens Behind

Band ready to pen new studio album with vocalist Rob Halford.

Longtime Judas Priest fans were certainly psyched to hear on Friday that signature vocalist Rob Halford had reunited with the band after 12 long years. That doesn't mean the news came as a surprise.

For the past couple of years, Halford has talked about wanting to re-cement the bond, and for months there were rumors that negotiations were under way.

"It's just a testament to the great love and power of the music of Judas Priest," said Halford, who has been referred to as "The Metal God." "This has been wanted and pleaded for for so many years. And obviously, with us all being in our separate worlds musically, we haven't really been able to seriously consider it until now."

Of course, busy schedules weren't the only things keeping the bandmembers apart. After the release of Painkiller in 1990, Halford wanted to do a solo record, but the rest of the group wouldn't let him. So he split and did it anyway, which infuriated his metal mates, who broke off contact and continued without him.

"It's been almost a five-year process of rebuilding our friendship and musical bridges," Halford said. "So, this reunion has taken a lot of love and repair work and obviously we're thrilled that it's finally happened now."

When Judas Priest finally agreed to meet with Halford last week to discuss the final details of the reunion, it was like the gallons of bad blood had never been spilt (see "Back In Black Studded Leather: Halford Rejoins Priest").

"It was very emotional," guitarist Glenn Tipton revealed. "When I saw Rob, we decided right then to reunite and go back out there. It felt just like it did before he left the band. And the world's just gone mad about it. It's very exciting."

Judas Priest guitarist K.K. Downing and bassist Ian Hill formed the band in 1970 in Birmingham, England. Halford joined in 1971 and Tipton came on board three years later. The group's first album, Rocka Rolla, was released in 1974, and Halford sang on the band's next 12 albums before leaving after touring behind Painkiller. The group continued in 1996 with vocalist Tim "Ripper" Owens, who was recruited from a Judas Priest cover band and whose vocals bore an uncanny similarity to those of Halford.

"We were quite happy being out with Ripper," Tipton said. "He was the only person that could have stepped into Rob's shoes. We've all been enjoying ourselves and we've been relaxed, but we all feel the time is right now to go back out with Rob again, and Tim understands that."

The Judas Priest reunion will begin in earnest in September when Halford, Tipton and Downing convene to write songs for the band's 16th studio album. The trio will work at various locations in the U.S., England and Spain, and while they plan to release the record in 2004 they won't be working by a strict timetable.

"Like every Priest record we wrote as a threesome, we never really thought much about what we were going to do or when we were going to do it by," Halford said. "We let the music take us where it felt right, and did what made us feel good. That's what will happen this time."

"The most important thing for us to do now is to put pen to paper," Tipton added. "The old writing trio of Tipton, Halford and Downing will be back together, and that should make for some classic songs."

Halford's re-entry into the Judas Priest cavalry will coincide with the 30th anniversary of Rocka Rolla and will be accompanied by a Judas Priest box set that chronicles the band's full history. Priest will support their next record with an extravagant worldwide tour.

"Before I left Priest, we did a humongous show, and we don't want to dissolve that down," Halford said. "We want to let people blink a couple of times, fast-forward to 2004 and go, 'God, look. There it is again. There's the spectacle. There's the power and the passion. There's the bike.' All these great things that you know and love and cherish about Priest are going to be back in front of your life in real time in 2004."