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Judas Priest’s Rob Halford talks ‘Invincible Shield’, Dolly Parton, acceptance in metal community – National

Judas Priest’s Rob Halford talks ‘Invincible Shield’, Dolly Parton, acceptance in metal community - National
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It’s been six years since Judas Priest released their last album, but on Friday the British Heavy Metal pioneers returned with their 19th studio effort, Invincible Shield.

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Since 2018’s Firepower, the Breaking the Law hitmakers have had a rollercoaster journey. COVID-19 wasn’t the only obstacle that put a wrench in their touring plans. Lead singer Rob Halford battled prostate cancer throughout a portion of the global pandemic before getting the all-clear in early 2021.

Not long after they were back on the road, co-lead guitarist Richie Faulkner suffered a near-fatal acute aortic aneurysm onstage during a performance at Louisville’s Louder than Life festival in September 2021.

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The 43-year-old was midway through the band’s last song of the night — Painkiller, ironically — when it happened. Faulkner powered through and finished the song and was rushed to a hospital where surgeons performed a life-saving surgery.

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Faulkner stayed on the mend until rejoining Priest on the road in March 2022, shortly before they were set to embark on their mammoth 50th anniversary tour.


Rob Halford (R) and Richie Faulkner (L) of heavy metal band Judas Priest perform at the Heaven and Hell Metal Fest, in Toluca, Mexico, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022.


AP Photo / Alejandro Godinez

During the trek, the leather-clad quintet stopped in Los Angeles for the band’s long-awaited induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame — where Priest welcomed back estranged band members guitarist K.K. Downing and drummer Les Binks to make speeches, before a rocking medley performance.

Additionally, Halford performed Jolene with the Queen of Country herself, Dolly Parton — a personal favourite icon of his — before going on to record the song Bygones with her for her acclaimed 2023 Rockstar album.

Speaking with Global News, Halford expressed his gratefulness: “I can’t thank her enough, not only for giving me the opportunity, but for giving the metal community the opportunity, because I know who I know who I am, I know what I represent. I’m a singer in this British heavy metal band.”

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Inductees Dave Stewart of Eurythmics, from left, Dolly Parton and Rob Halford of Judas Priest perform during the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.


AP Photo / Chris Pizzello

By the way, we’re not yet done with the challenges.

Throughout these successes and close health calls, co-lead guitarist Glenn Tipton had been fighting Parkinson’s disease since 2008 — a battle he made public only weeks before Firepower was unleashed to the world.


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The culmination of emotions endured by Halford, Tipton and Faulkner — Priest’s core songwriters — in that time resulted in one of the band’s most ferocious and introspective records to date.

Between lead singles Panic Attack and Trial By Fire, power ballad Crown of Horns and the touching, tributary closing track Giants in the Sky — which pays homage to fallen metal legends Ronnie James Dio and Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister — fans are treated with some of Halford’s deepest lyrics to date. The vulnerable nature of these compositions, however, doesn’t take away from the “heavy” aspects that heavy metal fans should expect. Throughout this record, all five band members are firing on all cylinders and perform with conviction that hasn’t been heard since 1990’s Painkiller. Though we are met with sonic twists and turns that harken back to records of Priest’s “golden era,” the overall diversity contained within Invincible Shield’s progressively shines brighter as each track ends and the next begins — serving as a reminder that Priest never does exactly the same thing twice and is a force to be reckoned with, still, after all these years.

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The title, Invincible Shield not only represents the victories and hardships of the collective band, but those of their fans, too, according to Halford.

The 72-year-old “Metal God” emphasized the importance of writing music that will connect with Priest fans — or “heavy metal maniacs” — and being able to show them that they’re not alone in whatever troubles they face.

For decades, Halford has been an advocate for acceptance and empowerment of those within not just the heavy metal community, but for folks from all walks of life.

The Living After Midnight singer recounted the loneliness he felt for the first 25 years of being a part of Judas Priest and feeling like he had to hide his sexuality as a prominent figure in the music community at a time where it was not as well-received.

It wasn’t until he publicly came out during an MTV broadcast in 1998 that he felt truly like himself.

“Tolerance and inclusivity is something that that I won’t stop talking about. This whole business of being embraced and feeling not alone and feeling (like) part of a group of people that are all feeling the same way is really special and unique to the metal world.”


Metal fans celebrate the performance of the British heavy metal band “Judas Priest” at WOA – Wacken Open Air in wacken, Germany, Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022.


Frank Molter / dpa via AP

And though Halford has faced prejudice along the way in, Halford has paved the way for multiple generations of metalheads and LGBTQ2 members and says that the collective idea of embracing each other’s differences has improved significantly since his career began.

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Prior to unleashing the pummelling Invincible Shield, Priest shared four of the 11 tracks as singles, offering a mere taste to their loyal followers.

He made clear that while Tipton’s battle with Parkinson’s has slowly deteriorated his stamina, his compositions are still very much present. And where Tipton was not able to record a phrase or solo to his best ability, Faulkner stepped in and replicated it as accurately to his bandmate’s style as possible.

Glowing at the incredible reception they have received, Halford couldn’t contain his excitement for fans to hear the rest of it, adding an eagerness to get back out on the road.

Taking Tipton’s place on the road once again will be touring guitarist Andy Sneap, who also produced Invincible Shield — his second time producing for Priest. Fortunately for some fans, Tipton has previously made a handful of appearances on the road for the band’s encore.

Though Priest have yet to announce Canadian tour dates, Halford has shared fond memories of travelling the country via tour bus from coast-to-coast, and is promising the band will return in the near future.

“I’ve driven the entire breadth of Canada, and it’s the most glorious thing. I feel very, very lucky that I’ve been able to do. It’s just a beautiful country,” Halford said, adding, “We will be coming back.”

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Judas Priest will begin the first leg of the Invincible Shield world tour in Glasgow, Scotland on March 11, making their way through the U.K., U.S. and several European countries until July.

As well as select tracks from the 53-minute spanning mammoth that is Invincible Shield, Halford promises diehard fans a healthy dose of the classics, as well as “two or three” deep cuts.

You can watch a condensed version of our interview with Rob Halford above.


Judas Priest, the band, with an image if their 19th studio album ‘Invincible Shield’ (2024).


Kyarah Boon (UK International Group)

‘Invincible Shield’ is now available worldwide at judaspriestinvincibleshield.com.

2024 ‘Invincible Shield’ world tour dates

March 11 – Glasgow, Scotland
March 13 – Leeds, England
March 15 – Dublin, Ireland
March 17 – Bournemouth, England
March 19 – Birmingham, England
March 21 – London, England
March 24 – Frankfurt, Germany
March 25 – Munich, Germany
March 27 – Dortmund, Germany
March 29 – Prague, Czech Republic
March 30 – Krakow, Poland
April 1 – Vienna, Austria
April 3 – Basel, Switzerland
April 5 – Lyon, France
April 6 – Assago, Italy
April 8 – Paris, France
April 18 – Wallingford, Conn.
April 19 – Newark, N.J.
April 21 – Reading, Penn.
April 24 – Bangor, Maine
April 25 – Boston, Mass.
April 27 – Youngstown, Ohio
April 28 – Indianapolis, Ind.
May 1 – Rosemont, Ill.
May 2 – Minneapolis, Minn.
May 4 – Kalamazoo, Mich.
May 05 – Maryland Heights, Mo.
May 07 – Huntsville, Ala.
May 09 – Daytona, Fla.
May 11 – Alpharetta, Ga.
May 12 – Mobile, Ala.
May 14 – Charlotte, N.C.
May 17 – Evansville, Ind.
May 19 – Washington, D.C.
May 21 – Albany, N.Y.
May 22 – Syracuse, N.Y.

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