Judas Priest guitarist K.K. Downing has stunned fans by quitting the band after 42 years – just weeks before they head out on a farewell tour.

The British rockers, who formed in 1969 and have sold 40 million records worldwide, announced in December (10) they plan to pack up their instruments for good after saying goodbye to their fans with a global series of dates.

But just weeks before the heavy metal legends are due to kick off their final tour with a concert in Tilburg, Holland in June (11), the band has announced Downing has quit.

In a statement on the official Judas Priest website the band announced “with regret” that Downing has retired and will not be joining them on their forthcoming tour. Downing will be replaced by a British guitarist called Richie Faulkner.