When it comes to heavy metal, Judas Priest could be considered part of the holy trinity.
The British metalheads known for twin lead guitars, frontman Rob Halford’s soaring operatic vocals, leather and studs and hits such as “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’,” “Breaking the Law” and “Hell Bent For Leather” are true rock legends.
Forty-five years after forming, their 17th studio album “Redeemer of Souls” debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 chart, the band’s highest U.S. album chart debut in their career thanks to stellar album reviews and tremendous fan response.
The band will bring its brand of heavy metal to Harrah’s Resort on Friday, Oct. 10, and Halford talks about everything from the success of “Redeemer” and his absence from Judas Priest to coming out as gay and what fans can expect to hear this weekend.
Q: It’s pretty amazing how “Redeemer of Souls” is the band’s highest-charted album ever after 45 years of being together. What do you make of that?
A: It is amazing, so thanks to the fans first and foremost. It’s very important to chart. Everyone around the world checks out the charts. Everybody in the band was just all in … it was kind of a win-win situation. It’s all about the music. I would like to say what we just released is the best metal we made in a long time, and I am pretty much satisfied with it. I would put it up against any of the significant records Judas Priest has done. We said, “Let’s go in one more time,” and we came out with these songs. I listen to them now and I am very proud of what we have come together as a group to produce.
Q: On top of the charts and fans loving it, you’re also getting critical acclaim. Does that matter to you?
A: It does. You can’t ignore the critics, especially if it’s recognition of acceptance. Does it do any good? In terms of the band, it’s fantastic. It helps us feel good about what we have done when you get that recognition from “the important critics.” So in the company of your peers, it’s important.
Q: You took your time recording it and you always said you wanted it to be right. I’m guessing you finally think you achieved that?
A: We got there. One thing we can’t acknowledge enough is (guitarist) Richie’s (Faulkner, who replaced K.K. Downing) contribution. His involvement can’t be overstated and what a factor he is in this band. When we came together for the Epitaph Tour (in 2011) and went around the world playing songs mostly covering the history of the band, we knew new music is where we had to go. I remember we kept pushing the metal mantra and heavy metal energy and we instinctively knew we had to make new music.
Q: So why do you think Judas Priest “gets it” and can remain successful while other bands struggle releasing new music?
A: We talk about this thing called heavy metal chemistry. No one slacks off. We know who we are and know what we expect from each other as band mates and treasure this metal trail we left behind us. We are not just in a band making songs. This is f---ing important stuff, and we know that.
Q: How much of the new material will we hear in A.C.?
A: It’s a difficult thing, isn’t it? We want to show it off and would like to play every single song, but we accept and understand that when we play “Breaking the Law” for the 10,000th time, that’s still important. We are not ignoring the fact that the reason we are standing on the stage is because the fans put us there. We think about all of this stuff. It’s important to us. So we will probably play three or four “Redeemer of Souls” songs and other stuff to give it a really good variety. That’s what a good show is all about. It’s all about taking you on a roller-coaster of emotions with placement of songs and the effects and the lighting … a full-on show.
Q: Is there anything new standing out live?
A: Well, we are just going to start playing these (in rehearsal) for the first time. But I am so looking forward to it. I think the title track is obvious, and I think we will do more of the chunky stuff like “Sword of Damocles” and “Halls of Valhalla.”
Q: There is always turmoil in bands that are in it for the long run, and Judas Priest is no exception to that. What are your relationships like now?
A: It’s good, really good. Having Richie completely embedded in the band has created some really strong vibes. And because of the response to “Redeemer,” we couldn’t be stronger.
Q: Do you think that you being away from the band for 10 years ended up being better in the long run?
A: I am never one of these regretful people. Things happen for a reason. And when they happen, they should be your choice and not choices people make for you. Having said that, I asked “Why am I doing this? Do I need to be playing this music and be in this life and in this group?” So the 10 years away was satisfying and frustrating, as well. (His solo album) “Resurrection” seemed to strike a chord. So that was rewarding.
Q: I think when you came out being gay that people would have stereotyped metal fans by thinking they would alienate you, but the opposite happened, right?
A: I probably deluded myself into thinking I would get rejection. Nothing could have been further from the truth. When you make that choice of stepping out and facing the issue of disclosure you do create this kind of self-imposed negative fear. It’s unfortunate it still happens today. “Do I step out and say I’m a gay guy?” But you have got to do it and live your life on your terms and no one else’s terms. Don’t say you can’t do this and you are worried about people being offended. If they push you away, then they push you away. Grab life by the horns and tell them, “Take me for what I am and who I am and if you don’t like it, that’s your thing. Not my thing.” If I had been in the band at the time … I think when it happened was a good moment. The fans were amazing.
Q: Your voice has certainly changed over the years, but at 63 years old, how do you manage to still sing like you do?
A: It’s not as clear and concise as it used to be 45 years ago. But if you listen to Pavarotti when he stared, he wasn’t the same at 70. And that’s where I’m at. There’s a different texture.