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Judas Priest hell-bent for leather again

With Halford back in fold, quintet thrilled to make metal again
/ Source: The Associated Press

They’re five middle-aged men who fancy a nice cup of tea in their off-hours.

But up onstage, they’re Judas Priest: Rip-roaring, leather-clad headbangers who are part of a wave of old-school heavy-metal bands who will be a major part of the summer concert season this year.

Since reuniting with original lead singer Rob Halford last year, the British quintet is riding high again with a new album, “Angel of Retribution,” and tour.

“The passion is still there, probably even more so,” Halford told The Associated Press in a phone interview from San Diego, his U.S. home while on tour. “We’re just so thrilled to be back in each other’s company and making metal again, and seeing that reaction. We’re on full roar at the moment.”

Along with Motley Crue, in the midst of their own successful reunion tour this year, Judas Priest will share the road with the likes of Iron Maiden, Quiet Riot, the Scorpions, Twisted Sister, Ratt, Queensryche and Cinderella — all of whom sold millions of records in the ’80s and still hold their own at the box office.

But 30 years after blasting their way out of the industrial dregs of Birmingham, England, the band that scored hits including “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming,” “Breaking The Law” and “Living After Midnight” is capitalizing on a music scene that hasn’t produced a bona fide metal hero in years.

“The revolving door in rock ’n’ roll is spinning faster than it ever was, spitting out and chewing up all of this great talent that really doesn’t have a chance to develop,” Halford said. “You’re not seeing any of the great singers anymore; you’re not seeing any of the great lead guitar players anymore. We’re taking advantage of that because we’re providing the quality that is sadly lacking in a lot of areas of popular music.”

Halford left Priest in the early ’90s to pursue a solo career, and the band soldiered on with vocalist Ripper Owens, who had played Halford in a Judas Priest tribute band and whose real-life promotion was the basis of the film “Rock Star” starring Mark Wahlberg. The reunion crystallized around the kitchen table of Halford’s U.K. home in July 2003 when band members gathered to discuss a box set.

“I think it was all in our hearts,” Halford said. “We’d all been thinking about it and waiting for it. It was very typically British, very subdued, very conservative: ‘Well, do you want to get together again?’ ‘Well, I will if you will.’ ‘Are you up for it?’ ‘OK, let’s get back together again.’ We knew it had to be done.”

Priest’s summer shows will end with their trademark roar of a different sort as Halford rides onto the stage atop a massive Harley Davidson motorcycle to sing the anthem “Hell Bent For Leather.”

“I love the Harley; it’s synonymous to Priest,” he said. “A lot of people don’t like Harleys because they’re big and they’re shiny and they’re metal and they smell and they p--- people off. That’s just what Judas Priest is.”