Rob Halford says that after 45 years, he's less surprised that Judas Priest is still around than he is at how much he and his bandmates enjoy still being around.
"I think it's changed from a passion to a burning passion," Halford, 63, says by phone from Milan, Italy, during the heavy metal group's recent European tour. "We really want to get out there more than ever now to play. It's remarkable, and I'm so thrilled that none of it's become diluted or that we've taken it for granted at any time along the way. We never have.
"And we seem to be having more fun with it now than ever before."
Halford and company certainly have good reason for to feel energized. Last year's "Redeemer of Souls," Priest's first new release in six years, debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200, the group's highest showing ever on these shores. Most importantly, however, Halford says the group's internal dynamics, rocked a bit when founding guitarist K.K. Downing left in 2011, are also better than ever.
"Everybody's getting along, everybody's respecting each other. We've got a lot of love for each other. We're all on the same team together," says Halford, who's trademarked the term Metal God from the track "Metal Gods" on Priest's 1980 album "British Steel." "To be at that place now, where we're at in the group's history, is absolutely fantastic.
"It makes you play harder, I think, when you're having such a great time with each other, off stage as well as onstage. When you carry that offstage spirit onto the boards and start screaming out the metal, you just gain strength, it seems."
Thanks to that momentum, Halford predicts Priest will deliver a followup to "Redeemer of Souls" sooner rather than later. Songs are already being written, he says -- with new guitarist Richie Faulkner making even more of a contribution than he did on the last album -- and Halford expects the group to hit the studio possibly even before the end of the year.
"We're so ready to get back into the studio, so why pull back now?" he says. "We've been doing this for more than four decades, and the sense of urgency has never been stronger to see what we can come up with next. So I'm sure that's what ill be happening in the coming months; we'll start going into the studio again to see what more metal we can create in that place."
Judas Priest and Pop Evil
7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 15.
Freedom Hill Amphitheatre, 14900 Metropolitan Parkway, Sterling Heights.
Tickets are $35-$99.50 pavilion, $25 lawn.
Call (586) 268-5100 or visit www.freedomhill.net.
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