As Judas Priest recorded its latest album, Redeemer of Souls, last winter, frontman Rob Halford found himself constantly repeating a one-two mantra. “I kept chanting, ‘Heavy metal! Heavy metal! Heavy metal!’ ” he says, “and ‘Energy! Energy! Energy!’
“The end result,” he notes, “is pretty relentless.”
No doubt that’s exactly what fans wanted from the British band’s 17th studio album, its first without guitarist and co-founding member K.K. Downing, who announced his retirement in 2011. (He was replaced by Richie Faulkner.) Redeemer of Souls scored two significant firsts in Judas Priest’s 40-year recording career: It made its debut at No. 1 on Top Rock Albums and cracked the top 10 on the Billboard 200 (No. 6) dated July 26, selling 75,000 copies to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
The new album’s performance was gratifying, but not entirely surprising to the team at Epic Records, says senior vp marketing Scott Carter.
“Everyone here thought it was such a fantastic record we would’ve been surprised if it didn’t get that kind of response,” he says. “Our goal from the get-go was to get this band the biggest chart debut it has ever had.”
Carter says Epic’s campaign focused primarily on generating “a ton” of online and social media content, including extensive song and video premiere partnerships and other special offerings for fans. During release week the band did more than 200 radio interviews and album signings at the Hard Rock Cafe in New York.
The next phase in Judas Priest’s redemption begins Oct. 1, when the band opens a 35-date nationwide tour in Rochester, N.Y. In February, it will play Australia’s Soundwave Festival, with more dates likely to follow.
Although the tour begins in a smaller market, the group will play the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Oct. 9 and the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J., on Oct. 17.
Halford says the stage theatrics won’t be quite as extravagant as the 2010 Epitaph World Tour — “We had everything and the kitchen sink on that one,” he recalls — but he promises this one will still be a visual and aural assault befitting Priest’s reputation.
“It’ll be a great live show and there will be some visuals we’ve not done before,” says Halford. “We know what people expect. You don’t say, ‘I’m going to go hear Judas Priest’ — it’s ‘I’m going to go see Judas Priest.’ We know the importance of making people say, ‘Wow!'”