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Halford reunites with Judas Priest

From Kris Osborn

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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Legendary heavy metal vocalist Rob Halford has reunited with Judas Priest, the singer told CNN Friday, speaking by phone from his Birmingham, England, home.

"Priest is reunited after many years of rumors, the big thing being the fans," Halford said.

The band, one of heavy metal's most popular groups and a leader in the late-'70s wave of British metal bands, plans to release a full-length studio album in the spring of 2004. Judas Priest will also embark on a global concert tour, the band's first with Halford in more than a decade, the group's management team said.

"Rob Halford, along with band members K.K. Downing, Glenn Tipton and Ian Hill, felt a heightened level of intensity," a member of the management team told CNN, speaking of recent meetings with the four. "Rob said they were all very excited and they have re-established their friendship. These guys grew up together from their early 20s on, so this means a lot to them personally and professionally."

Tipton also told CNN the band has reunited.

Judas Priest is best known for its songs "Breaking the Law" and "You've Got Another Thing Comin' " and the albums "Screaming for Vengeance" and "Defenders of the Faith."

"I'd like to feel that everyone would recognize that Judas Priest was the first true heavy metal band," Halford said. "I think there is a special attachment to Judas Priest and metal. We were the first band to really go out and claim ourselves to be a real metal band."

Work on the new album is scheduled to begin in October.

"We'll just do it like we always did, " Halford said. "I'll sit down with Ken and Glen and we'll start jamming and we'll slowly put the jigsaw of metal together. I know we will make another terrific metal masterpiece ...."

The original band members have been re-establishing their personal and professional relationships since 1999, along the way sparking reunion rumors.

"Rob and the other Judas Priest members are so happy this is all a go," the management team member said. "We've worked so hard over the last four years to make this happen."

"We've been through a lot together," said Tipton. "Priest is known for its live music, so what we're looking for to is playing again."

"It's difficult to put it into words," added Halford, referring to the emotions of the reunion.

Judas Priest formed in the gritty, working-class city of Birmingham in 1970. By the late '70s, they were one of the biggest bands in Britain, and had great success in the United States in the 1980s.

Halford left the band in the early '90s in a bitter split. He recorded four studio albums and released a live album without Judas Priest.

The band has continued to perform as Judas Priest, with Ripper Owens' vocals, since Halford's departure. The 2001 movie "Rock Star" was partly based on Owens' experience as a fan and leader of a Priest tribute band who later joined his heroes. Owens will not be part of the regrouped Priest, but his departure was amicable, says the band.

Speaking about Owen's departure, Tipton said, "We're going to maintain our friendship with Ripper. He's a great guy, in fact he sent us an email yesterday, saying he agrees with the decision, you know, because he is a big Priest fan as well, like we all are in a way. He is such an incredible vocalist he is bound to go on to greater success in his own right. Once people know he's free I'm sure he'll be in demand."

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