Judas Priest will reteam with estranged lead singer Rob Halford for a new album and tour in 2004, marking the veteran British heavy metal band's 30th anniversary. It's been more than a dozen years sin

Judas Priest will reteam with estranged lead singer Rob Halford for a new album and tour in 2004, marking the veteran British heavy metal band's 30th anniversary. It's been more than a dozen years since Halford performed with longtime guitarists Glenn Tipton and K. K. Downing and bassist Ian Hill, as well as drummer Scott Travis, who joined the band in 1990.

"We all agreed that we feel the time is right," Tipton tells Billboard.com. "Everything just seems to have locked into place, and we just felt like we wanted to do it now, and maybe if we don't do it now, we never will."

The last Judas Priest album with Halford fronting the band was 1990's "Painkiller" (Columbia). After leaving the fold, he formed the thrash band Fight, which released three albums through Epic. Halford followed with the industrial-leaning act Two, which issued one album through Trent Reznor's nothing label, and then the short-lived metal quintet Halford.

Rumors of a reunion have circulated for the last several years, but Tipton insists that the band made the decision only last week. "We've been bonding our friendship again with Rob over the last two years or so, and we've had a lot of offers to reunite, but we've all been doing our own things," he says. "We've only just come to a point where we felt everything's right.

"Obviously when we split there was a lot of animosity and we didn't speak for a number of years," Tipton continues. "I saw [Halford] for the first time in years about two years ago, and it was very emotional. Anything that was said or done was all forgotten. We've been together for 30 years and we've been through a lot together in this band. It just needed time really. We all did our own thing, and it ran its course. It's all about timing."

In returning, Halford will be in the position of replacing his replacement in the band, Tim "Ripper" Owens. The former singer of the Judas Priest tribute band British Steel has been the singer in Judas Priest since 1996. The rock fan's dream-come-true story was the inspiration for the 2001 film "Rock Star," which starred Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston.

"There is no one who could have stepped into Rob's shoes except Ripper," Tipton enthuses. "He's been fantastic. We told him last week, and basically, he said, 'Look, I've got to agree with you.' He's a big Priest fan. And he's been a real gentleman about it."

The band released two studio albums with Owens, 1997's "Jugulator" (CMC) and 2001's "Demolition" (Atlantic), plus the concert set "98 Live Meltdown" (CMC).

The reunited Judas Priest expects to begin work on new material in September. "Rob is a great lyricist," Tipton says. "And it's the old team back together, it's the three of us [Halford, Tipton and Downing] writing and it's exciting because that is the team that's written Priest classics for the last 30 years. There's just some magic about it and we shall just proceed and start where we left off, really. I'm sure the floodgates will open. It's been a long time and we're quite eager to get going, so that's when you usually write your best material."

A world tour will follow. "And we'll stay out for a long time," Tipton guarantees.

Also in the offing is a Judas Priest box set, described by Tipton as "a retro-album, right from the old record days right through to the Ripper years. There are lots of things in the pipeline and lots of things we'll be working on."

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