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“Will I be borrowing the Harley? Nah, they’ve given me a moped!”: Richie Faulkner’s Elegant Weapons are the supergroup trad metal needs in 2023

How emergency heart surgery, COVID and a love for trad metal led to Richie Faulkner’s Elegant Weapons, featuring members of Judas Priest, Rainbow and Pantera



“When guitarist Richie Faulkner joined Judas Priest in 2011, his new bandmate Glenn Tipton had a warning for him. “He said, ‘You know, we’re not a band with 20 years left in us,’” says Richie. “He was very upfront about it. So it was always in my mind that I’d have to venture out on my own, so to speak.” 

More than a decade later, Richie has finally made that leap with Elegant Weapons. Their propulsive debut album, Horns For A Halo – featuring an all-star line-up of the guitarist plus Priest drummer Scott Travis, Pantera bassist Rex Brown and Rainbow singer Ronnie Romero – combines the heavy metal classicism of Richie’s day job with a modern hard rock edge. 

“It’s not that I wanted to do this band because it’s stuff I couldn’t do with Priest, but it’s an outlet to do something slightly different,” he says, speaking to Hammer via Zoom from Nashville, where he’s lived for the past few years. “I played some of the stuff for Rob [Halford] when I was putting it together, and he said it was great. It’s good to have that guidance.” 

Unsurprisingly, the project started life during Covid. Like every other musician on the planet, Richie found himself with plenty of unexpected time on his hands. “We’d written the Priest record and I had some ideas I’d had kicking around for a few years,” he says. “I thought, ‘Now’s as good a time as any to get them all together and see what I can make of them.’” 

If working on the songs alone was strange (“It’s normally me, Glenn and Rob in the studio, coming up with ideas”), pulling together a band to record it was much more straightforward. Scott Travis had told Richie years before that he’d be up for working on a side-project with him, while the guitarist had met Rex Brown via the bassist’s friendship with Rob Halford. 

“When I was putting it together, I thought, ‘I’ll ask him, but there’s no way he’s going to do it… he’s Rex Brown!’” says Richie. “But he said, ‘I’ll do your record if you do mine when I do it.’ It was a trade-off.” 

Ronnie Romero was the only unknown quantity, although that’s a relative term – the Chilean singer has sung with resurrected classic rock icons Rainbow since 2015, as well as fronting Spanish trad-metallers Lords Of Black. He met Richie properly when Lords Of Black supported Priest in 2018. 

“I heard Richie and Scott warming up in the dressing room,” says Ronnie. “They were playing Rainbow’s [1975 classic] Man On The Silver Mountain. So I knocked on the door, went in and started singing. It was like destiny.” 

While the songs were all written before Ronnie came onboard, his voice lends Horns For A Halo highlights Blind Leading The Blind and Do Or Die the kind of power and class you’d expect from a man whose day job involves having to fill original Rainbow singer Ronnie James Dio’s pointy boots onstage every night. 

“Richie called me one day and says, ‘I’m putting a band together, you’d be perfect for these songs – you have a classic voice, but a modern approach,’” says Ronnie, who recorded his vocals remotely in his adopted home city of Bucharest due to pandemic-related travel restrictions. “We had the chance to take our influences and what we did with the bands we played in, and bring something new to it.” 

That sense of having a foot in different eras extends to the band’s name. Elegant Weapons is a reference to Star Wars character Obi-Wan Kenobi’s description of the lightsaber as “an elegant weapon for a more civilised age” – a parallel Richie draws with the electric guitar. 

“I was going through airport security and the guard asked me what I had in this big case. I told her it was a guitar and she went, [astonished voice], ‘What, a real one?!’” he says. “These instruments are becoming antiques, like they’re from a bygone age.”

Balancing Elegant Weapons activity with Priest business is pretty simple, and Richie has his priorities. “When Priest are busy, we’re busy,” says Richie. “Elegant Weapons will have to fit around that.” 

The band’s upcoming gigs are a case in point. Elegant Weapons are due to play a string of open-air shows this summer, including the UK’s Steelhouse Festival (bassist Dave Rimmer and drummer Christopher Williams will fill in for the otherwise-engaged Rex Brown and Scott Travis). 

The dates were booked after Priest’s support slot with Ozzy fell through when the Black Sabbath legend cancelled his 2023 tour. Sadly, Richie hasn’t raided the Priest props cupboard for the shows. “Will I be borrowing the Harley? Nah, they’ve given me a moped,” he jokes. 

That Richie is here to play these shows at all is remarkable. In September 2021, he underwent emergency heart surgery after suffering an aortic dissection while onstage with Priest – a situation that could have been fatal. “I’m doing very well, back to normal, but it was a crazy time,” he says now. “It really brings it home how quickly it could all end. Life is fragile – just watch yourself and take care of yourself.” 

That near-death experience has lent an unspoken sense of urgency to Elegant Weapons. Horns For A Halo has barely hit the shelves, but Richie says he’s already thinking about the next album, with Ronnie set to be more involved with the writing this time. “Like Glenn said, Priest don’t have 20 years, so it will come to an end one day,” says Richie. “I want to be able to keep this one rolling.”

Horns For A Halo is out now via Nuclear Blast