Judas Priest announced their farewell Epitaph tour late last year, stating that after they release a studio album next year, they’ll tour the world one last time. Well, today, they announced that the tour will take place without founding guitarist K.K. Downing. The 59 year-old founding member of the band stated that he’s retiring. In a statement released on the band’s website, the band announce that they’ve already found a replacement, Richie Faulkner. The 31 year-old Faulkner, currently the guitarist for Lauren Harris’ band (Steve Harris’ daughter), was born the year British Steel, the band’s sixth studio album, was released. The full statement is as follows:

It is with regret that Judas Priest announce that K.K. Downing has formally retired from the band and will therefore not be joining them on their forthcoming Epitaph tour.

The band respect his decision and naturally all wish him well.

Having thought long and hard about how to proceed, Rob, Glenn, Ian and Scott unanimously agreed that they should to ahead with the tour and not let the fans down all around the world.

Fate also stepped in and delivered the perfect replacement – 31 year old British guitar player Richie Faulkner – he had blended into the and perfectly and is a great talent who is going to help set the stage on fire!

The Epitaph tour will include songs from every Priest studio album and also tracks they have never before performed on stage plus all the old favourites!

With a new album due to be released next year, the Metal Gods are preparing to tour the planet once more – heavy metal at its best complete with lasers, lights, bikes and hellfire!! It’s a show not to be missed!

While it’s unfortunate that one half of the Downing/Tipton juggernaut won’t be taking part in their final tour, it only puts a little bit of a damper on the tour and album. Downing is an architect of the band’s sound, and it’s hard to imagine the band without him, but as long as Faulkner knows his parts, it won’t be all that noticeable, and there’s no way Priest would allow him to play without having confidence in him. This will make bassist Ian Hill the only member of Judas Priest that’s been in the band for its entire existence.