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K.K. Downing, Rob Halford, Judas Priest

Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Judas Priest fans have another thing comin' all right—a new axe man.

K.K. Downing, a founding member and principal guitarist of the legendary British headbangers, has confirmed he's quitting after 42 years of metal mayhem.

In a statement posted on Priest's website this morning, the Birmingham-based quartet, which formed in 1969, declared the end of an era.

"It is with regret that Judas Priest announce that K.K. Downing has formally retired from the band and will therefore not be joining them on their forthcoming tour. The band respect his decision and naturally wish him well."

Not wanting to let the Priesthood dissolve with Downing, the three remaining members have decided to soldier on with their upcoming Epitaph world tour and have tapped 31-year-old guitarist Richie Faulkner as a replacement guitarist for all their live performances.

"He has blended into the band perfectly and is a great talent who is going to set the stage on fire," the statement added.

Judas Priest plans to play a series of dates throughout Europe this summer before hitting Brazil and Mexico later this fall. No word on a U.S. leg but the leather and spike-clad metal mavens plan to head back into the studio to complete work on a new studio album dropping next year.