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metal talk

19th July 2011

jonathan churchill

richie faulkner judas priest

It's Saturday night and the Priest is back! The Epitaph stage curtain is glowing red. The house lights are down. The crowd's chanting "Priest, Priest, Priest" and I feel out of place because I'm not standing in my usual spot!

Tonight is a special night for various reasons. KK Downing is no longer with the band and we're all keen to see just how smoking-hot his replacement, Richie Faulkner, is. It's also Priest's final world tour, after almost 40 years traversing the globe, so there's poignancy about tonight as it may be the last time Manchester plays host to the Metal Gods.

I've also had the incredible opportunity to interview Ian Hill for, so I'm late to the party, having missed Rival Sons and most of Queensryche.

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As the curtain drops and the band appear, I'm inside the crowd barrier, glued to the front of the stage – on photography duty for!

When Scott kicks off the opening drums for 'Rapid Fire' and Ian, Glenn and Richie fire up the amps it's like standing in the slipstream of a 747 jet! I'm up close and personal with Richie's guitar and I can literally feel the riffs flying past my head.

judas priest

Scott's drumming is pulverising my kidneys and shaking the room and I can barely hear Rob's vocals, as I'm basically too close. It's a jaw-dropping experience!

Despite some tech problems, which affected Richie's guitar for the first few songs, the band hit the ground running with a world-class opening trio of 'Rapid Fire', 'Metal Gods' and 'Heading Out To The Highway'. It immediately showcases just why Judas Priest have been able to tour the world picking up new fans for 40 years.

judas priest

The depth and variety of their song writing – the "light and shade" as Rob Halford calls it – sets them apart from thrashers like Metallica and Slayer, while the sheer intensity of the double-kick drum attack from Scott Travis lifts them into a heavier, faster stratosphere than Iron Maiden or Black Sabbath.

And then there's the voice. Halford's voice has been criticised by cynics for years but tonight his vocals are spot-on and he owns the stage. Prowling like an ageing panther and screaming his mic into distortion, he's a one-man powerhouse that will never be matched.

judas preist

The set dips a little while Richie's technical problems are sorted and it allows Halford time to point out to the impatient crowd that the Priest are a truly live band - it's all 100% real. And after a strange few minutes of nothing, which gives me time to get back to my usual spot near what used to be KK's side of the stage, the set kicks into gear with 'Judas Rising', 'Starbreaker' and a truly epic 'Victim Of Changes'.

Any doubts about KK's retirement are eased as Richie plays a blinder. Seemingly squeezed into one of KK's cast-off pairs of leather trousers, he's perfect in this role. He plays wild, works the crowd and delivers the goods way better than you'd believe. Nobody would want KK to miss this tour but if he's determined to stay away then Priest have struck gold with Richie Faulkner.

judas priest

Glenn's on top form too, with Ian Hill, static as always, looking like he's loving every second of the show – they're like the elder statesmen allowing Richie and Scott to run wild.

Major highlights tonight include 'The Sentinel' and theatrical power-Metal classic, 'Nightcrawler'. Plus a crazy 'Diamonds And Rust', the epic 'Turbo Lover', and a powerful, emotional 'Beyond The Realms Of Death'. But for me one track rules the night – the classic from the 'Ram It Down' album and my personal highlight: 'Blood Red Skies'.

judas priest

And to all you doubters – yes - Halford genuinely sings the high-pitched intro bang on the money and then belts out this awesome sci-fi themed track like there's no tomorrow. It's truly epic. It also makes up for his extraordinarily odd appearance dressed as a foil-wrapped Gandalf for 'Prophecy'.

After a crowd-pleasing 'Breaking The Law' and 'The Green Manalishi', Scott's moment arrives for the 'Painkiller'. Preparing us for the onslaught with a powerhouse drum solo, this human drum machine is mesmerising. It's just raw power, totally dominating the song. 'Painkiller' is unbelievable.

judas priest

Halford disappears into a crouch and you don't really hear the vocals – you just get swept away by the force of this song. It is the definitive Metal moment – a drum driven devastation. It's a hostile/brutal/terrifying wall of sound that takes your breath away. Fantastic!

The encore's exactly what we've come to expect. 'Electric Eye', 'Hell Bent For Leather' on the Harley and the epic 'You've Got Another Thing Coming'. Fresh from its exposure on American Idol, the band stretch it into a lengthy love-in, complete with Halford sing-along and Richie being given free reign to solo for a couple of minutes mid-way through.

judas priest

Freestyling, wrenching and ripping his guitar strings, accompanied only by Scott and Ian, he certainly captures the essence of departed KK Downing. Halford re-emerges to simply state: "Richie Faulkner".

And then it's over. Except it might not be because with a new album in the works and an exciting new guitarist breathing life into the stage performance, I reckon we'll see the Priest again. They might be the elder statesmen of Metal but when they hit their stride with 'Nightcrawler' or 'Painkiller' there's nobody to match them. Metal Gods indeed.

Were you there? Check out MetalTalk's Facebook page to comment on this article.

Coming up: An exclusive interview with Judas Priest's bassist and founder member, Ian Hill. Watch this space!

Jonathan Churchill.



Wacken Winter Nights 2018 takes place between February 23rd and 25th 2018 and the great news is that you can now experience a full-on, top class German Metal Festival easily and affordably.

It only takes an hour to fly to Hamburg from London and we've had longer journeys than that within the capital and they were certainly more expensive than the £33 air ticket that just appeared in our 'flights to Wacken Winter Nights' search.


Wacken Winter Nights is organised by the same team who are responsible for the world's greatest Metal festival, Wacken-Open-Air and the 2018 bill includes Skyclad, Orphaned Land, Elvenking, Finntroll, Grave Digger, Aeverium, Comes Vagantes, Coppelius, Corvus Corax, Die Pressgëng, Elvellon, Heimataerde, Hell-O-Matic, Ignis Fatuu, Ingrimm, Irdorath, Johnny Deathshadow, Krayenzeit, Letzte Instanz, Mr Hurley und die Pulveraffen, Pampatut, Pat Razket, Schandmaul, Sündenrausch, The Aberlour's, The Moon And The Nightspirit, Torfrock, Visions Of Atlantis, Vroudenspil, Wind Rose and more.

Besides this rich billing of superb Metal bands, there is so much more to see in the festival area including the medieval market and also the walking acts and jugglers you will meet at the theme worlds, including Robert Blake, three-time World Cup winner of street magic.

Wacken Winter Nights is something not to be missed and you can check out the amazing ticket and accommodation prices right here.

We just priced up the whole four day trip with hotels, flights, shuttles and festival tickets for less than £300 and we don't think you will get a better value festival than that, anywhere.


MetalTalk recently sat down with Wacken founder and owner Thomas Jensen and that interview will be online next week and it's a fascinating insight into how Wacken originated from nothing to become the world's premiere Heavy Metal event.


Wacken 2018 takes place from 2nd to 4th August 20218 and as with Wacken Winter Nights, if you have never experienced all it has to offer, then you owe it to yourself to remedy that.

Already announced for Wacken 2018 are Judas Priest, Nightwish, Running Wild (exclusive), Arch Enemy, Dirkschneider, Doro (Special Anniversary Show), In Extremo, Sepultura, Amorphis, Amaranthe, Firewind, W.A.R., Belphegor, Mantar, Knorkator, Deserted Fear, Watain, Night Demon, Epica, Knorkator, Belphegor, Firewind, Deserted Fear and many more and we'll have more Wacken 2018 announcements during December.

As well as being the greatest Heavy Metal festival in the world, it is without a doubt the Mecca of Metal and the one thing that every single person who loves our music should have on their bucket list.

For 2018, MetalTalk have joined forces with Wacken-Open-Air to help you get to Wacken easily and inexpensively and you can peruse the ticket and travel options right here.

If you are interested in going to Wacken 2018 and have questions, please fill out the form below and we will contact you with answers to all your enquiries. You are under no obligation whatsoever by filling this form out. We won't add you to any mailing lists or send you loads of spam - all we will do is help you get to Wacken as easily and inexpensively as possible.



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