They don’t make them like K.K. Downing anymore.
A living heavy metal legend, Downing was there at the onset of the birth of the genre, lending his considerable guitar chops to the soundtrack of an era as a cornerstone of Judas Priest.
Now, with the second studio album for his true-metal collective KK’s Priest, Downing doubles down (pun intended) on sick riffs, soaring vocals and waves of nostalgia fit to transport audiences to the heyday of the ‘80s.
“The first album I decided to see if I could write songs for an album before I actually put a band together as opposed to the other way around, because otherwise, you could well end up with egg on your face, right?” Downing shares.
“I shut myself away for Christmas 2020, and within three to four weeks I had all the songs, lyrics, and everything because I was there on my own. I kept adding things on because I wanted to know how it would sound, singing along to it as best I can and I’m doing solos everywhere and improvised solos and I’m kind of just enjoying the process.”
Enlisting longtime friend, collaborator, and former Priest frontman Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens on vocals, alongside bassist Tony Newtown, guitarist A.J. Mills, and drummer Sean Elg, the newly formed faction dropped their debut album, Semons and Sinners, to great fanfare in the spring of 2021.
Two years and change later, and the fiery faction is back once again with The Sinner Rides Again, through their new home at Napalm Records.
“I just got on with it again, because I had so much inside of me that I wanted to get out, I think,” Downing remarks. “That was a big part of it as well. All of the emotions and sentiments, messages, and connectivity that I wanted to create between me and this band and the audience with songs. And to me, it was all about making the connection. But I did that through real-life emotions that I was experiencing at the time.
Embarking on their maiden run of tour dates this past summer, Downing honors his legacy in heavy metal, running through re-imagined cuts of Priest classics his hands had a hand in crafting, while treating fans to balls-to-the-wall renditions of soon-to-be classics from KK’s Priest.
“I’m not going to just let my life and my legacy and my heritage just disappear into the dust. I’m going to bring it with me to the present and the future. And why shouldn’t I? I did all those years ago come up with all those ideas. ‘You’ve Got Another Thing Coming,’ ‘Before the Dawn,’ ‘Dream Deceiver,’ ‘Run of the Mill.’ It’s me, and I embrace that, and it’s a part of me, and I deserve to hang those portraits on the wall. I painted them, and if I didn’t paint them all, I’ve painted an awful lot of them,” Downing shares, impassioned.
“I feel stronger and more powerful than I ever did. You know, I can now allow myself to run on six cylinders or even more, 12 cylinders, and I’ve got the freedom to do that. Before I had a pair of feet and two legs, but now I’ve got wings and I’m able to spread them.”
Five decades and counting into a hall-of-fame-worthy career, Downing marches forward, steadfast in his love of the game, and his dedication to waving the banner of heavy metal.
“I do feel as though I’ve got a duty of care to a classic metal. And I don’t know why, I just feel it’s my responsibility,” he says with pride. “But I think it’s me anyway, I’m never going to change.”
Photo courtesy of Artur Tarczewski.