“As far as the 80s are concerned, we’re in for some very good heavy metal years”: Judas Priest’s Rob Halford predicted the future of metal in 1979

Rob Halford onstage with Judas Priest in 2024
(Image credit: Chiaki Nozu/WireImage)

In 1979, heavy metal was still in its infancy. Subgenres that define the scene today – like death metal, black metal and nu metal – were years away from existing, and such generation-defining masters as Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth were yet to even form. However, in an interview with legendary UK magazine Sounds that year, Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford was able to predict that heavy music would blow up in the decade to come.

The Metal God was interviewed by future Kerrang! founder and Classic Rock journalist Geoff Barton as the ’70s came to an end, and Barton closed the chat by asking Halford for his take on 1979 being hailed at the time as ‘the year of heavy metal’. The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal was in an upswing thanks to then-newcomers Iron Maiden, Def Leppard and more, so it’s easy to see why the press was so amped up. And Priest’s vocalist agreed about the genre being in rude health.

“As things stand at the moment I see a total re-emergence for heavy metal, absolutely,” Halford said (via Rock’s Backpages).

He continued: “The great thing is that our British tour is practically sold out… that comes as a reaffirmation to me of the music’s permanence. It’s been around for Christ knows how many years… What other form of music has had so much consistency and has attracted the attention of so many people?”

Halford further explained his optimism by offering an inspiring monologue on the appeal of heavy metal music. The reasons he gave for the style’s popularity, including the lyrical escapism and the sheer noise, still hold up 45 years later, reaffirming that the singer has always been a top-notch champion for the louder end of the sonic spectrum.

“I also think that heavy metal has a therapeutic quality for people, because of the volume, the intensity, the whole crazy escapism,” he stated.

“A metal concert is a unique event, there’s nothing like it. I’ve been to see other bands playing other types of music, but I’ve never seen a reaction that matches the sort seen at a heavy metal show. You could write a thesis about it, go into its psychological effects, but that’s not needed. All that it is is a raw, primitive, basic human requirement. Don’t analyse it, enjoy it.”

Halford ended the conversation with another astute observation: “I genuinely see a total upsurge. I think as far as the ’80s are concerned, we’re in for some very good heavy metal years.”

It wouldn’t take long for the singer’s prediction of an ’80s golden age to come true. Just a year after this interview, Iron Maiden debuted. Three quarters of thrash metal’s Big Four formed the year after that. The remainder of the decade would see a multitude of subcultures and subgenres proliferate, while the big guns reached arena-cramming status.

Priest themselves would start the ’80s magnificently, putting out their classic British Steel album and breakout single Breaking The Law. Four-and-a-half decades later, the Brummies are still recording and touring, with 19th album Invincible Shield recently released and the band currently trekking through North America. Get tickets to see them, and their Nostradamus-like frontman, via their website.

Matt Mills
Contributing Editor, Metal Hammer

Louder’s resident Gojira obsessive was still at uni when he joined the team in 2017. Since then, Matt’s become a regular in Prog and Metal Hammer, at his happiest when interviewing the most forward-thinking artists heavy music can muster. He’s got bylines in The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Guitar and many others, too. When he’s not writing, you’ll probably find him skydiving, scuba diving or coasteering.