When Rob Halford stepped down from Judas Priest nearly 20 years ago the metal world shuddered at the thought of anyone stepping into the substitute role of Metal God. While Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens did an exceptional job vocally, it simply wasn’t the same Priest without Halford’s unique style and delivery. Still, at the time, though fans were torn, they were excited that the mighty Priest would continue forward. But whether it was the changing musical climate (fuck you, grunge) or a lack of chemistry, the band never really felt as powerful, and the new music was not as inspired. So when Halford returned a decade later, fans rejoiced that the Metal Gods were once again whole, and hellacious.
Fast forward a few years, a few albums and a few tours, and the band announces they will complete one final world tour. A massive Epitaph for their legacy. While they have not ruled out more recording, this would be their fans final chance to see metal’s original beast one final triumphant time.
Then the bomb dropped. K.K. Downing has retired from the band prior to the Farewell tour for reasons more often assigned to young and immature bands. But what about the kids, K.K.? You gotta stay together for the kids, right? No. Downing is gone, and before the shock could even set in we are told, there’s already a replacement dialed in and ready to play.
Meet Richie Faulkner, 31-year-old London-based axe-wielder for Lauren Harris, also formerly with Dirty Deeds, Voodoo Six, and Ace Mafia among others. U.S. fans are not likely to know yet who this gun-for-hire is. Harris is the daughter of Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris.
From his own bio:
I have 20 years experience on my instrument. Eight years experience as a professional musician. I released my first album when I was 21 years old, and continue to write and perform on various projects.
I have toured the world extensively with acts such as Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, Thunder, Within Temptation, The Answer, Papa Roach, Machine Head, Lauren Harris, Mastodon, amongst others. I have written songs for various albums, all available on iTunes.You can check out more of my work on iTunes with these bands. Dirty Deeds, Voodoo Six, and Lauren Harris. I also write music for film scores.
I have played to crowds of 80,000+ and have played huge shows in all continents , spanning from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to India, Dubai And the middle east.
I can adapt to any style, I have perfect pitch, and a great musical intuition.
I see this industry as an art form and a business, I love to learn and grow in the industry, and Love it with a passion.
If all that sounds like a sales pitch, in a sense it is. You can read the full bio here.
The question for most diehard Priest fans is not whether or not Faulkner has the chops to play Downing’s riffs. The guys wouldn’t have picked anyone they didn’t have complete confidence in. Hell he even looks like a younger K.K. (with a smaller nose of course). But for a farewell tour, fans want to see the iconic line-up. It’s not just about the music, it’s about the icons, and their legacy. It’s not like K.K. will return in a few years like Halford did. This is it.
We’ve already asked whether or not Priest should go on without K.K. and the voting was almost unanimous that they should not. But there is no stopping the Metal Gods and their young apprentice. So we wish them well, and wish Richie much luck, and I hope they continue to make records for 20 more years. Still it’s hard not to be disappointed that we won’t see Ian, Glenn, Rob and K.K. lined up across that stage one last time.
K.K. has his reasons, and he’s earned the privacy and respect to be honored regardless of his choice. Still, you couldn’t get through one last tour, brother? Damn.
As a final note, to those asking, “hey, what about Dave Holland?” Yes, I acknowledge he was part of the key line-up we remember so fondly, but he was not quintissential Priest. Scott Travis is twice the beast behind the drum kit that Holland was and only make’s their sound more punishing. Plus Holland’s not an original either. (For those keeping count, the only original member remaining is Hill. He and K.K. started the band in 1968).