Judas Priest have reversed their decision to tour as a quartet and are going with two guitarists once again.

If you missed the news, Judas Priest is hitting the road for their 50 Heavy Metal Years tour dates again. They had to postpone due to guitarist Richie Faulkner having a heart issue during the tour. Richie is on the mend, and tour dates have been rescheduled for the tour. However, today, Judas Priest released this statement.

Hello maniacs! We are chomping at the British Steel bit to return to world touring… celebrating 50 years of Judas Priest as an an even more powerful, relentless four piece heavy metal band – with Glenn coming out onstage with us here and there as before. Big thanks to Andy for all you’ve done and continuing to be in the production team for our new album… See you all soon headbangers!

*UPDATE: Andy Sneap Speaks On The Decision To Move Forward As A Four-Piece*

Andy Sneap gave a statement about the decision to move on as a four-piece earlier today.

Rob called me last Monday and said they wanted to move on as a four-piece, which I find incredibly disappointing after this amount of time but I respect his decision as they obviously have a vision how they want this to play out. This always was a temporary situation, and like I’ve said before, I’ll always help the band any way I can, and that applies going forward also. I’ve been a huge fan of the band since the early ’80s and it was mind-blowing to play onstage with the guys and quite frankly terrifying in the beginning at such short notice.We are moving forward with the new album next month and look forward to making a killer follow-up to ‘Firepower’.

Producer Andy Sneap filled in as the touring guitarist for Judas Priest for the entire Firepower World Tour and the dates already played on the 50 Heavy Metal Years tour. Now, it looks like for the first time since 1974, the band will be a four-piece. I know what you’re thinking. K.K. Downing.

Not going to happen. That bridge burned long ago, read our review on Firepower for my thoughts on K.K. Downing.

With that out of the way, here’s why this is a perplexing decision on the band’s part.

The Band Is All About Twin-Guitar Harmonies

They didn’t invent the twin-guitar attack for a hard rock/heavy metal band, but they certainly popularized it. Thin Lizzy and Wishbone Ash gave the blueprint and Judas Priest ran with it. So now, when we all go see the band on the rest of this 50th Anniversary tour, the sound is going to be off. The band is all about blistering riffs from both guitarists and how they play off one another.

I know what some are going to say, the bitter truth, they’ll just use pre-recorded guitar tracks, bands do it all the time. That’s probably the case with this upcoming tour, but with a band like Judas Priest, you can’t just get another guitarist? How many heavy metal guitarists out there would kill for a chance to play with Judas Priest? You’re telling me that they can’t get someone else to fill in for this tour and then do a full search later? It’s an incredibly strange decision from the band to just forego the other guitar slot.

They’ve done it before, in 1974, but that Judas Priest with one guitarist might as well be a completely different band. They did make the announcement that Glenn Tipton would step in for select songs on select dates, but that’s more a special gift for the fans to see Tipton rock out. He can’t tour rigorously because of his condition.

So it all comes down to the sound of the band. Listen to any Judas Priest song, and the guitar tracks are layered. It’s what adds the extra oomph to all the riffs and it’s especially evident when someone is playing a solo. Without that second guitar, you just lose that wall of sound.

Not To Mention The Live Experience For Audiences

This is a smaller point, but when you go see a band like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Helloween, Exodus, etc., when you’re in the audience, there’s always going to be a guitarist in front of you. It’s a small thing, but it helps draw people more into the show. Iron Maiden has three guitarists, so your eyes are always on one. In Judas Priest, it was much the same way, Richie took stage right, Glenn/Andy took stage left. Now that left side of the stage is pretty empty. Ian Hill can move up from his normal spot in the back of the stage, but that doesn’t really change the dynamics.

This also goes back to the live sound, on an album, like their new one coming out at some point, they can just do two plus guitars on the record. Live, with one guitarist, that gets cheapened by having guitar tracks pumped in instead of from an actual musician live. So the Priest might still be the Priest, but the sound is going to be much different live.

I could be wrong, and this is an awesome decision by the time my rescheduled date for the 50 Heavy Metal Years tour. Some bands do major trickery with sound and music that audiences don’t notice. It’ll just be a lesser experience for the eagle-eared fans out there that go to see Judas Priest to hear the music they all know and love.

I’m really hoping I’m wrong, but this could be a bad decision on Judas Priest’s part.

You can get tickets for the upcoming tour dates in the US with Queensryche here.

For more on metal, make sure to check back to That Hashtag Show.

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