Rob Halford: "Across the board, metal is in great shape"

Rob Halford
Rob Halford
(Image: © Getty Images)

The mighty Judas Priest are returning to us this spring with their eighteenth studio album Firepower, which already sounds like a MONSTER if new single Lightning Strike is anything to go by. We sat down with frontman and heavy metal legend Rob Halford to talk about the new record and what he thinks of the metal scene in 2018.

So, the new Priest album is coming. Do you still get that rush of excitement when you’re about to release new material?

Rob: “Yeah, it’s always an exciting time for any band, because you’re about to display this new idea of where you are as a band to the world, which in our case is over four decades now. What I love about this band is the commitment to treating every release like it’s our first album, and nothing has slacked off in that respect. Probably more so than ever, Priest is under the metal microscope, so the foundations of making this record were really strong.”

Can you tell us about some of the lyrical themes running through Firepower?

“We’re an open book. We can go anywhere, and that’s my job, where the proverbial word ‘challenge’ comes into play. I’m looking for things around me in the real world and in the metal fantasy world, so I’m making political comment and comments on the environment, as metaphorically as I can. We’ve always tried to be a bit ambiguous, so our fans can make up their own mind, but on this one, you know, we are talking about Mother Earth and places like 10 Downing Street. But we’ve always found a balance in not making the message too intense, while showing that we’re connected as a bunch of metalheads in the real world.”

Do you still get a kick out of Priest taking on the younger generation of metal bands?

“Well, I think that the younger generation of metal bands are going to get a kick out of hearing the sound of this new album, if I’m honest. It’s all down to the incredible work of Andy [Sneap] and his production team to make this sound as wonderful as it does. We are aware of the elements that are important to Priest, that have been our anvil in everything that we’ve done, but in working with andy, who is such a sought-after, contemporary metal producer, he’s been able to dial everything in and get an effect where what you hear coming out of the speaker sounds like a young, fresh metal band. I’ve always tried to keep up with what’s going on in metal, and I really feel confident that this sound is as strong as it ever was.”

How do you feel about the current metal scene, as an elder statesman?

“I think we’re in great shape! We’ve seen metal grow from basically two bands – ourselves and Black Sabbath – and it’s fantastic that wherever you go in the world now there are metal bands of all different sizes. I’m listening to Power Trip, I really like what they’re doing, and even they reference the roots of metal in their work. I love Electric Wizard from the UK. It’s so diverse, and I love it all as well. I’m more of a classic metal guy, but I like what a band like In This Moment, who I worked with recently [on ITM track Black Wedding], are doing. Across the board, metal is in great shape.”

Is there anything you’d like to see change about the scene?

“I’d like to see a really great UK metal band come forward and start growing and dominating now. Britain is still the focus of such great music in the metal scene, and that’s a really great feeling. There’s a great opportunity now with all the various platforms that young metal bands can draw from to really experience it all, and if you like Priest, you’re bound to find something relatable from our realm. and that’s the great metal knock-on effect; I even see these young kids who are only just getting into Priest from listening to the bands we influenced. They have all this choice and they still go for Priest! It just goes to show, our music has no barriers.”

Firepower will be out in March via Columbia, and can be pre-ordered now on Amazon.

"I was out of my tree – I needed help": Remembering Judas Priest's Turbo