Judas Priest’s KK Downing on his departure: ‘I felt I was in crisis’

In a frank new memoir, the guitarist opens up about his time with the metal band and how boiling tensions caused him to leave

Everything about the image of Judas Priest communicates cooperation and unity. They’re five men in leather and studs, who barrel through a finely calibrated brand of heavy metal, highlighted by two lead guitarists who found a trademark by mirroring each other’s key riffs precisely.

According to one of those guitarists, however, the inner workings of the band represent the precise inverse of that image, creating a parallel history of resentment and suspicion. KK Downing has written a new memoir, Heavy Duty: Days and Nights in Judas Priest, which challenges the narrative of one of the world’s most storied heavy metal bands, while giving frank explanations for why, after 41 years as a Priest loyalist, he left in a huff in 2011. “If you load too many things on to a person’s plate,” the 66-year-old Downing said, “at some point they’re going to drop it.”

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