Last spring, [artist id="1301"]Judas Priest[/artist] frontman Rob Halford was in the studio working on material for his new album Halford IV — Made of Metal (in stores this week) when things almost went very wrong.
Halford had noticed his guitarist, co-writer and producer Roy Z was chugging coffee like Gatorade to stay awake after a late night. "Two hours later, we're working on a track and he turns to me and goes, 'Whoa, I have to stop and take a break. My heart's racing. I'm really freaking out here,' " Halford recalled.
Fearing he was having a heart attack, Roy called 911 and an ambulance screeched into the studio parking lot, lights flashing.
"They took Roy out of the room and I sat alone in there for a little bit," Halford said. "Then this paramedic comes in and says, 'We want to take Roy to the hospital just to check him out and put him on an EKG.' "
In such instances, medical professionals are usually in a hurry. However, before taking the producer to the hospital, the EMT turned to Halford and said, "Hang on, you're the Metal God!" Then, he left the room and returned with a half-dozen other paramedics.
"They took pictures I signed autographs while Roy was just waiting," Halford said. "Then when they were done, they rolled Roy away and I'm just sitting there thinking, 'God, I can't believe this. My producer's going to die on me.' "
The experience inspired Halford to write the song "Heartless," a reflective, stomping love song with a rousing chorus.
Other than the pre-"Heartless" incident, the creation of Made in Metal was pretty free of drama. Moreover, it was one of the easiest and most enjoyable albums Halford has worked on in years. The singer decided to start working on the follow-up to last year's Christmas album, Halford III: Winter Songs after Judas Priest got off the road and began a year-long hiatus. But the real jumpstart came when the Halford band was invited to play on the 2010 Ozzfest.
"I thought, 'Oh, God, wouldn't it be great if the Halford band could get together and play some brand new material?' " he said. "It's kind of like buying a new pair of shoes. You want to get out and go, 'Hey, check these out.' It's the same with the music. I was excited about showing off some new songs on the tour."
Seven of the albums 14 tracks were entirely written by Halford, the first time he has taken the musical reins on a project since the 1993 Fight album War of Words.
"As a musician, you can't control these things when they happen to you," Halford explained. "The ideas just take over your body and it can be pretty scary. You've got to get them down quickly. It feels like there's a spark you have to grab, like lightning in a bottle, and if you don't get it down, there's a chance it's going to escape. So, for two weeks, these things kept flooding through my brain. And then suddenly, they stopped and that's when I got together with Roy, [guitarist] Metal Mike Chlasciak, [bassist] Mike Davis, and [drummer] Bobby Jarzombek and came up with the other songs."
Like many of Judas Priest's best tunes, Made of Metal is raw and immediate, simple in structure, but crafty in design. "For me, music has always been about riffs and melody," Halford said. "These songs — bang! — they get right into your head and they sink in right away. It's like 'She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah.' That's the type of music I was brought up on as a kid. This is just a little bit louder."