Everyone thinks of Rob Halford when they think of Judas Priest. But singer Tim “Ripper” Owens temporarily replaced him from 1996 until 2003 and was much younger with a similar voice. So is Tim “Ripper” Owens a better singer than Rob Halford?
Here’s what I think, having listened to both:
Technically speaking, Owens is a stronger singer than Halford when it comes to staying in tune, particularly on the high notes on many Judas Priest songs. Owens has a slightly expanded range and is notably more refined in his voice training.
Rob Halford, on the other hand, is the signature voice of Judas Priest (ironically not the original singer though).
His voice was groundbreaking for its time – and being rough around the edges was a defining trait of his distinctive style. After Rob Halford left Judas Priest in 1992, it kind of felt like the band was coming to an end.
But they never broke up.
And finding and hiring Ripper brought new life to the band. Tim “Ripper” Owens was fronting a Judas Priest cover band known as British Steel.
Somehow, a video of his performance (remember this is pre-internet or YouTube) got into the hands of the band’s amazing great drummer Scott Travis. He was flown to England for an in-person audition.
He was immediately hired.
Some fans argue that Owens was just a lucky lead singer of a cover band, who learned to copy the singer he emulated.
Others say that Rob Halford, 16 years older, has a more worn voice that isn’t quite as capable or reliable.
Let’s untangle the tale of these two singers and take a look at what each of these undeniably talented men contributed to the ongoing legacy of Judas Priest.
– GUEST ANNOUNCEMENT!
WE ARE VERY HAPPY AND PROUD TO WELCOME BACK TIM “RIPPER” OWENS (KK’S PRIEST, SPIRITS OF FIRE, THE THREE TREMORS, JUDAS PRIEST) FOR ANOTHER SONG.
Thank You Tim!#thundermaker #timripperowens #kkspriest #spiritsoffire #judaspriest #vocals #guest #metalband pic.twitter.com/TduO5F7O8c
— THUNDERMAKER (@thundermaker_se) August 25, 2020
Did Tim Ripper Owens Just Copy Rob Halford’s Style?
Tm “Ripper” Owens, who was fronting a Judas Priest cover band at the time Priest hired him, was intentionally mimicking Halford’s style both in his band and once in Judas Priest.
But, the question of whether or not Tim Owens just copied Rob Halford’s style is a little unfair to Owens.
To say that he simply copied Halford’s style is a copout and delegitimizes this guy’s impressive skill. First off, as I mentioned, he was the lead singer of a Judas Priest cover band.
Obviously, this guy dedicated himself to learning the extensive JP catalog and carefully studying Rob Halford’s style. He spent the early part of his career dedicated to adding his own personal twist to recognized and groundbreaking music.
But nobody who hears Owens sing will deny that he has phenomenal talent. He is a trained singer with impressive control of his voice.
K.K. Downing, when comparing Owens to Halford in a recent interview with Allthatshreds.com, is quoted as saying:
¨Tim was always in tune, he was always in key. I mean, Rob was good. Rob got better after he started to wear in-ear monitors. But Tim was stronger. He still is. I mean, the guy is a powerhouse.¨
Downing continues by saying:
¨Tim would absolutely murder the show, and we would still come offstage, and the fans would be saying, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah. I enjoyed the show. But when’s Rob coming back? Is Rob coming back?’ And it was hard.¨
And that is the real root of the matter.
It doesn’t matter if Tim “Ripper” Owens is a better singer than Rob Halford. He is not Rob. He is not the signature voice of Judas Priest. And that Halford is what most Judas Priest fans prefer.
Ironically, though, as I mentioned, Halford wasn’t the original vocalist for the band either.
Check out the history of the band, including the hilarious answer to the question of how many original Priest members are still in the band, in a recent article.
Just click that link to read it on my site.
— metalhammer (@MetalHammer) December 19, 2019
Can Rob Halford Still Hit the High Notes?
Rob Halford can very much still hit the high notes despite his age and the amount of wear and tear on his voice. But the band does choose their setlist based on the condition of his throat at that time, and a few songs such as Victim of Changes have been lowered in key to make it easier to sing.
Rob Halford was a groundbreaker in the world of heavy metal.
His incredible falsetto and gravelly tenor had never been heard before. With a vocal range that expands nearly four octaves, Rob Halford was a pioneer.
This Metal God has a natural talent that has been developed and refined over time.
Tim “Ripper” Owens has an incredible capacity to hit the high notes – it comes naturally to him in a way that never did for Halford.
Now that Halford is getting up there in age (he is nearly 70 years old!), there has been some speculation that his range has shifted down a bit. Some fans have even noted that during live shows, he seems to struggle to hold the high notes.
But honestly, does it matter?
If you listen to his solo works or any of the music he has recorded with Judas Priest since he rejoined the band in 2003, I think his voice speaks for itself.
Having seen Halford live in 1992 (with Fight) and again in 2015 (with Priest), I can attest, he still sounds pretty damn good after all these years!
— Krzysiek 🇵🇱 DEUTSCHER MEISTER!!🏆❤ (@Krzysiek77_FCB) May 7, 2021
Why Did Rob Halford Leave Judas Priest?
Rob Halford left Judas Priest back in 1992 because of what he described, at the time, as ¨communication issues¨. But there was also a lot of stress at the time, including him breaking his nose on stage, the band being sued for encouraging 2 fans to shoot themselves, and Halford still being in the closet.
So Halford had a great deal of stress going on around the time of his decision.
Original guitarist, K.K. Downing has hypothesized other, more personal issues had led to Halford’s departure. In the same All That Shreds interview, K.K. said:
¨I believe Rob left thinking he could be like Ozzy, go it alone, and have all the fame and glory to himself.¨
The real reason and the root of all those “communication issues” and accusations of ego was the fact that Rob Halford wanted to do a solo album.
After an already impressive career with Judas Priest, he wanted to step away and create music that was not laden with the expectations fans had come to have for Judas Priest.
The problem was that the other members of Priest did not give their blessing for the solo project. Tensions mounted. Eventually, Halford had no other option but to quit the band if he wanted to pursue his dreams of a solo career.
Personally, I’m not sure I buy that as many singers put out solo albums without having to leave their main band.
— Music Beat (@MusicBeat5) September 13, 2020
Why Did Tim “Ripper” Owens Leave Judas Priest?
Tim “Ripper” Owens was asked to leave Judas Priest when singer Rob Halford asked to rejoin Judas Priest in 2003. Ripper was probably always aware of the possibility of Halford’s return.
And despite Ripper’s talent, most fans wanted Halford back. Ripper said:
“I’ve always said it this way: Judas Priest needed Rob Halford back and Rob needed to come back. He needed Judas Priest. I mean, he can have a very successful solo career, he still can do his Halford thing. But the money doubled with Judas Priest and Rob Halford. So they needed each other.¨
In 2016, Owens stated in an interview with The Metal Voice that he was actually quite pleased to be leaving the group:
“I wanted out of Judas Priest, ’cause I wanted to do other stuff, but I never would have quit. ‘Cause I was great friends with them, and I was the singer of Judas Priest. But to make more money and to do more things, I had to branch out and do other things.”
It sounds like he was happy to turn the mic back over to the one and only Rob Halford.
But let’s be honest, being in Priest was probably the highlight of Ripper’s career, and he’ll never be that visible or popular again. So I’m sure it’s bittersweet.
But who knows?
With Ripper and K.K. starting the new band K.K.’s Priest, a lot can happen!
Deciding if Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens is a better singer than Rob Halford or not is such a subjective matter.
It really boils down to our personal opinion and preferences.
For many fans, most of them, it seems, Rob Halford is the better singer for Judas Priest. That being said, not a single person out there, especially the other members of Judas Priest, will deny the remarkable talent of Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens.
For me, I love Halford and will always want him in the band as long as they are around.
But listen to the rehearsal video on YouTube of Ripper doing “Dessert Plains” in London I posted above. Damned if that isn’t actually the ultimate version of that song!
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