After a second Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nomination earlier this week, Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford has every reason to be in a festive mood. And he turns that bonhomie to the holidays with the Oct. 18 release of Celestial, whose lyric video for the new track “Morning Star” is premiering exclusively below.
The Metal God assures us that he is a man of the season, even if ugly Christmas sweaters don’t seem to vibe with his usual leather and metal studs. “I do love the Christmastime, the holiday season,” Halford — who also released Halford III: Winter Songs in 2009 — tells Billboard. “It’s a very personal thing for me — family, sweaters, a Christmas cap, the whole thing.” Family, in fact, is a major part of Celestial, which is actually billed as Rob Halford with Family and Friends and includes his brother Nigel on drums, his sister Sue on bells and his nephew Alex Hill, son of Priest’s Ian Hill, playing bass like his father.
“In the back of my mind I was always waiting and wondering if there would be an opportunity to work with these guys,” Halford says. “It’s great, man. As we were making this I was doing a little bit of looking around and I don’t think anything’s been done of this nature on a holiday record before. Maybe the Osmonds did it, or the Partridge family, not a heavy metal Halford holiday family affair like this. It’s very rare, and it’s a lovely feeling because the holidays are all about that, all about family and friends.”
“Morning Star” is one of four new songs Halford wrote for Celestial, which also includes holiday staples such as “Joy to the World,” “God Rest ye Merry Gentlemen,” “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and others. “I’m always looking for a moment of expression that is a little bit different,” says Halford. “Morning Star” was born in the kitchen of his home in England — compared to another new track, “By The Light,” which came to him in the upstairs shower. “I just love the message,” Halford says, “the whole idea of the star in the night around Bethlehem and so forth. It’s a really nice story.
“My family has always been a faith-based family, but not a go to church every Sunday family. But the basic principle of what we believe in have always been there, and that side of me has grown exponentially as I’ve gotten older. My music is immortal, but I know I’m not, so there’s a lot of that wrapped up in this record as well, a lot of emotional components coming through the speakers of Celestial.”
With the album out, Halford is turning his attention toward other metal matters. He’s in the midst of writing a memoir, which he says is “just in the very early stages yet.” But he promises it will be “as revealing as it needs to be, otherwise, what’s the point? I hope it will be interesting, exciting, entertaining, maybe have some danger in there. Some of it will be shocking, some of it will make you cry, some will make you take a sharp intake of breath.” Publication, Halford hopes, will be “at the back end of next year, but there is no rush.”
He’s also plotting out a 2020 tour for Priest, which will celebrate the group’s 50th anniversary. Halford reports the group is designing its stage set, and while there are no recording plans yet, he says “we’ve been noodling away with riffs and ideas for the next Priest album. All of us in Priest are still hungry. This 50th (anniversary) is extremely important to this band; You only get one go at it, so we’re really focusing on making a great show with some amazing songs, many of which we’ve never done before.” And, Halford adds, a Rock Hall induction would be a nice cherry on top of the celebration. “The champagne is on ice — or in my case, the Red Bull is on ice,” he notes.