Headbangers Brawl: Is Judas Priest still Judas Priest?

Posted by on February 12, 2018

Today we were hit with the disconcerting news that Judas Priest guitarist Glenn Tipton would be sitting out the band’s current tour due to Parkinson’s Disease. It’s another in a long line of musicians aging out of touring. Malcolm Young, Brian Johnson, Neil Diamond, and Mr. Big’s Pat Torpey are among those that have had ailments that have prevented them from touring, with Torpey dying just last week due to Parkinson’s, and Diamond abruptly stepping off the road due to the disease. This raises the question: With Glenn Tipton not participating in this tour, is Judas Priest still Judas Priest?

Bram: I think that as long as Judas Priest still has Rob Halford and at least one original member, they’re still very much Judas Priest. Ian Hill has been in the band since day one, and remains. Halford still sounds amazing. Richie Faulkner has done a great job filling in for Downing. Redeemer of Souls was a great record, and Firepower, or at least what we’ve heard of it so far, sounds like classic Priest as well, so unlike some other bands who will go unnamed by me at least, the quality of music is still there.

Also, Tipton is still in the band. As long as he can write music, even if he doesn’t have the chops to pull it off live, it’s still Judas Priest music coming from Glenn Tipton. I loved the Turbo years of Priest, but it could be argued that Judas Priest was less Judas Priest when they were using guitar synths. Either way, they’re still a phenomenal band, and I’m looking forward to hearing their music hopefully for years to come.

Jeff: Given that Priest has shown us that they can replace a legend like KK Downing with, really, the perfect fit in Richie Faulkner, I’m not worried about the live performance now.  Many might recall that when they heard KK was retiring that they thought the band was “over,” and yet here we are and Richie is just plain incredible.  I mean he is an absolute joy to watch.  Glenn’s replacement is Andy Sneap.  No slouch to begin with and have you heard what he added to Saxon’s sound lately?  Sneap is at the top of his game.

Look, no doubt that Tipton not being on stage hurts but we know the reason why and we can only wish him the best.  And as Bram said, he’s still in the band.  When 1349 plays in the US there’s usually no Frost on drums, yet 1349 still puts on a killer show.  I have little doubt in Priest and I know they’re going to crush it on this tour. Let’s also face it, Halford is worth the price of admission alone.   
Zach F:  I thought we were coming here to brawl, but I don’t think I disagree with a thing Bram or Jeff said. If it riffs like a Priest, wails like a Priest, and performs like a Priest, it’s probably still Judas Priest. It’s not like they’re pulling a Slayer and kicking out members and writing mediocre material. 
Matt: Not having Tipton out with the rest of the boys on tour is a bummer to be sure, but I’m still comfortable calling it Priest. It’s not like he’s quitting/being fired, he’s just sitting out the tour because he knows his limitations. I think most people will agree that Halford is the member that makes Judas Priest Judas Priest, though that’s certainly not meant to discredit Tipton’s or Ian Hill’s roles as original members. Obviously, plenty of bands have gone on without their original frontman, but at this stage in the game losing Halford would be the nail in the coffin for Priest moreso than anyone else. Also, let’s not forget Scott Travis has been in the band nearly 30 years and he’s the best drummer Priest’s ever had, so he’s right on par with the original members in terms of importance. I don’t think many fans are going to be butting heads over this. They’ll more likely be banging heads when the new record drops.
Jeff: Let me say this – we have to hope Priest doesn’t put Sneap in Tipton’s stage costumes a la KISS.  I can’t image they would do that, but if that thought crosses their minds they need to pause for a moment.  Personally I love KISS but I refuse to pay money to see them with two guys in Ace and Peter’s costumes.  Don’t get me wrong, Eric Singer is a great drummer but give the man his own costume.  

Zach S: I feel oddly conflicted by this. I’m usually under the belief that almost everyone is replaceable in a band. So my initial response is yes, Judas Priest is still Judas Priest … so why do I feel hesitant to say it aloud?

Of course, Rob Halford is the MVP of Judas Priest. Yes, Richie Faulkner has done a stellar job taking over, and I have no doubt it’ll be a blast to watch him and Andy Sneap shred onstage together. But part of me has a hard time justifying paying a high ticket price for what’s being billed as Judas Priest, when really it feels more like you’ll be getting a show of “Halford plays the hits with a killer backing band.” Not to downplay Ian Hill and Scott Travis’ roles in the band, but Glenn Tipton and KK Downing really were major draws to Judas Priest’s live shows and albums. Now we’ve lost both original guitarists.

I’ll admit I’m a tad spoiled because I’ve been lucky enough to see Priest live multiple times with the Painkiller-era lineup. And sure, the two new guys are extremely talented guitarists who arguably might deliver an even better show than their predecessors at this point in their lives (it stinks getting older, don’t it?). But does that justify paying the full price you’d pay to see Judas Priest, when you’re missing multiple key ingredients?


Chip: There have certainly been more than enough times in rock/metal history where you could question it. Was Lynyrd Skynyrd still Lynyrd Skynyrd after the plane crash? Was Black Sabbath still Black Sabbath when it was Tony Iommi and a long cast of forgettable characters? I’ve always been of the mindset that if at least one original member is carrying the torch and we aren’t arguing and going to court over naming rights and all that whatnot then Band X is still Band X. What those two examples show is that it doesn’t mean it’s good or we have to like it. (With that said can we put both versions of Queensryche to bed forever, please and thank you.) Now, if you are asking if Judas Priest is still as good as Judas Priest, that’s a completely different discussion and one I’ll be happy to report back on when I see them next month. Plus, if we can still call Napalm Death, Napalm Death with zero original members left in the band then I think we’re all going to be o.k. 


Categorised in: Columns, Headbangers Brawl