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Devin Townsend turned down a chance to replace Rob Halford in Judas Priest

Instead of the Metal God, Judas Priest could have had prog metal genius Devin Townsend fronting them



Judas Priest might be heavy metal legends, but their illustrious history doesn’t come without its wobbles. Chief among these is the decade (and a bit) absence of Rob Halford from 1992 until 2003, the band’s long-time vocalist leaving after fulfilling contractual obligations to promote 1990’s seminal Painkiller.

Replacing the Metal God would be an enormous task at the best of times, but coming right as the tides shifted and classic heavy metal was being thrown out in favour of grunge, it certainly put the pressure on Priest. While the band would ultimately hire the excellent Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens in 1996, a new interview with prog metal mastermind Devin Townsend suggests we almost had a very, very different outcome. 

Speaking to The SDR Show hosts Ralph Sutton and James Mattern, Townsend admitted that he received an invitation to try out for the vacant vocal spot in Judas Priest. 

“Technically, yes, that happened, but it’s not like they were knocking down my door,” he explains. “They threw out a blanket thing to a bunch of singers – Warrel [Dane] from Nevermore, myself and a couple other people got this letter with the [logo].”

At that point, Townsend had enjoyed some success singing with guitar maestro Steve Vai, as well as a short-lived stint with British group The Wildhearts. He would ultimately balance his time between extreme metal project Strapping Young Lad and a (characteristically) unpredictable solo career, but admits he was pretty starstruck to receive the invitation in the first place. 

“[1979 Judas Priest live album] Unleashed In The East was the shit for me right, so to have that was… but I also remember thinking that singing was this thing that happened to me because of my involvement with Steve [Vai]. I learned to sing, because I was a guitar player and most of the singers I auditioned I didn’t relate to.” 

For all of his unpredictable prog metal genius, Townsend admits he didn’t think much of his chances when it came to working with a band like Judas Priest.

“The technique that I had was so shoddy, that had I got into a situation with that level of expectation, to sing like Rob Halford… Dude, I’d have been crucified.”

Still, in the grand scheme of the multiverse, we can’t help but wonder what a universe where Priest could go from Painkiller into Oh My Fucking God would look like…

Watch the full interview below.