The work of Judas Priest has always shaped the modern metal world. Though there may have been other bands that constituted heavy music, Judas Priest was one of the first to co-opt the style as their own, making songs completely separate from blues traditions in favour of pummelling riffs and high-pitched vocals. Although Priest has been a metal mainstay longer than most of their contemporaries, vocalist Rob Halford has never stopped being a fan of the music that shaped him.
When talking about some of his biggest influences, Halford has been indebted to the godfathers Black Sabbath, who paved the way for metal in its earliest incarnation. Halford knows that there wouldn’t be a Priest without Sabbath first, telling Metal Hammer, “Their sound shook me to the core. I thought this is great being a local band getting attention, and I felt excited about the dream of singing for a famous band like them.”
Once Halford got a few more miles under his belt belting to the rafters, he started to get some competition from other metal royalty like Iron Maiden and Ronnie James Dio, the latter’s voice being the main reason he picked up the album Holy Diver upon release. While the rest of the metal world was coming together around the Sunset Strip in the 1980s, Halford was still on the heavy side of the spectrum, counting acts like Metallica and Slayer as some of his favourite acts of the thrash scene.
When talking about the impact of the thrash titans, Halford was reverent towards Metallica’s legacy, remembering his first encounter with them (via Louder), “Here was a band from America, on the West Coast, who are part of the world that… maybe this will sound ridiculous, but when I was growing up, San Francisco was this hippie place. Beads and sandals and all that stuff, and then you get these metal maniacs making this incredible racket! Wow!”
Even when metal wasn’t popular, Halford gravitated towards the most powerful singers in the scene, such as Maynard James Keenan from Tool and Layne Staley’s heartbroken croon on some of Alice in Chain’s heavier material. Halford credited Pantera with revitalising the entire genre as the grunge wave began swallowing the metal scene, explaining, “It can’t be stressed enough how important Pantera were in saving heavy metal in the 1990s. Things were getting a little mellow, especially in America. Then along came these four gentlemen from Texas who had captured the true spirit of heavy metal.”
Even in Priest’s evergreen years with albums like Firepower, Halford has kept his ear fairly close to the ground regarding heavy music. Outside of going out on tour with his friends in Sabbath in the past, Halford has expressed his affinity for newer takes on the genre like BabyMetal and Halestorm, even calling Ghost “important on a variety of levels”.
That’s before Halford even showcased his social media account, with photos of him rubbing elbows with fellow metal legends like Cannibal Corpse and King Diamond. Halford might look a lot different than he did when Priest got everything started in the early ’70s, but the love for all things heavy is something that’s been instilled in his bones.
Rob Halford’s favourite metal bands:
- Black Sabbath
- Iron Maiden
- Five Finger Death Punch
- Rage Against the Machine
- Alice in Chains
- Nine Inch Nails
- Power Trip
- Electric Wizard
- In This Moment