KK Downing, the 42 year veteran axe slinger for metal legends Judas Priest has called it quits. The guitarist was a founding member of the Birmingham, UK band in 1969, but won’t be taking part in the band’s upcoming Epitaph tour. The band released a terse statement saying “It is with regret that Judas Priest announce that KK 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.”

His abrupt departure seems odd considering the band are about to embark upon a ‘farewell’ tour around the globe, however Downing has released a statement on his own website suggesting not all has been well in the band. His version says:

“Dear friends,
It is with much regret that I will not be with you this summer. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your concerns about my health. Please rest assured that I am O.K. There has been an ongoing breakdown in working relationship between myself, elements of the band, and the band’s management for some time. Therefore I have decided to step down rather than to tour with negative sentiments as I feel that this would be a deception to you, our cherished fans. However I would urge you to please support the Priest as I have no doubt that it will be a show not to be missed.
All my love and respect.”

No Australian dates for the tour have been announced so far.