“I got back on the horse and rode on”: Richie Faulkner on why finishing the new Judas Priest album helped him recover from near-fatal heart issue

“We’re proud metal fans and this music is like an invincible shield.”

Richie Faulkner

Image: Kieran Frost / Getty

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It’s around two and a half years since Richie Faulkner required emergency heart surgery, but now the Judas Priest guitarist reveals that finishing the band’s new album, Invincible Shield, helped him recover.

In an interview with Total Guitar, Faulkner – who replaced original Judas Priest guitarist KK Downing in 2011 – explains, “Part of the healing process was getting back out there and finishing this record. I got back on the horse and rode on.”

He continues, “We’re proud metal fans and this music is like an invincible shield. We all go through challenges. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Glenn [Tipton, guitarist]’s had his struggles, I’ve had things, Rob [Halford, vocalist]’s been through it as well, but we live to fight another day!”

Tipton – who shared in 2018 that he’d been living with Parkinson’s disease since 2008 – has been discussing his own health conditions, too. To Total Guitar, he says, “I played what I could and I’m very proud of the whole album … This disease won’t beat me and I will continue writing and playing for as long as I can.”

On 27 September 2021, the band had to postpone their tour in the US due to Faulkner needing major emergency heart surgery, and the following month Faulkner explained on their official website that he had an aortic aneurysm and complete aortic dissection.

The condition can be fatal, but Faulkner – who was not aware of any prior heart issues – underwent open heart surgery taking over ten hours, with five parts of his chest replaced with mechanical components, to save his life.

Recently, Faulkner was discussing some of the modern guitarists he admires, too, and suggested that guitar music is “evolving.” He said, “I think there’s room for everyone. There are a lot of good players out there with a lot of different styles under that heavy metal, hard rock, blues guitar banner. It keeps evolving the guitar. Someone picks up the guitar and plays something completely different.”

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