“I thought it was a heart attack.” Judas Priest’s Richie Faulkner remembers 2021 emergency heart surgery

Richie Faulkner of Judas Priest performing live in 2023
(Image credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Power Trip)

Richie Faulkner has reflected on the emergency heart surgery he underwent in September 2021.

The Judas Priest guitarist, 43, was performing onstage at the Louder Than Life festival when he suffered an acute aortic aneurysm. He immediately went to the UofL Health – Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky, for a 10-hour procedure.

“I was halfway through the last song of the set [Painkiller], which fortunately was the last song of the set,” the guitarist remembers in a new video uploaded by UofL Health (transcribed by Blabbermouth).

“There was like an exploding in the chest area. And as the song went on, I started to feel a bit lightheaded. And I thought it was a heart attack. Anything around that kind of area, I’m thinking, ‘Well, what else could it be?’

“And at the end of the song, I pick the guitar up with one hand, and I lift it up in the air. And this time I took the guitar off and I tried to lift it and I just couldn’t. And they took me, obviously, to the hospital, which was fortunately three or four minutes away.”

Faulkner also thanked the team of surgeons who operated on him, who were led by Dr Siddharth Pahwa and included Dr Brian Ganzel and Dr Mark Slaughter.

“They saved my life. They made it possible for me to come home and hold my daughter again and cut the lawn and play guitar and do all the normal things that I can do. So I’m forever grateful to them.”

The guitarist previously thanked the doctors in November 2021, in an Instagram post about his recovery.

“I’ll be back on stage in no time!” he wrote. “My surgeons are very pleased with my progress and have all reserved front row tickets for the next Priest show.”

Faulkner spent 10 days in hospital from September to October 2021, before returning home to continue his recovery. He resumed touring with Judas Priest in March 2022.

Judas Priest will release their 19th studio album, Invincible Shield, on March 4 via Sony Music. They announced the album directly before their set at the 2023 Power Trip festival, where they replaced Ozzy Osbourne.

The band will support Invincible Shield with a European tour that begins in Glasgow, Scotland, on March 11 and concludes in Paris, France, on April 8.

Invincible Shield will be Faulkner’s third album with Judas Priest, following 2014’s Redeemer Of Souls and 2018’s Firepower.

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.