Various Artists
We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year

Maybe it’s unmetal, but I love Christmas. When the end of November rolls around, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra records and a few others will hit my CD player, I’ll be putting up lights around the house and looking for a tree. Heck, I’ve got my TSO tickets in hand already. But when it’s sunny, 85 degrees outside and Halloween hasn’t even arrived yet, it’s a little hard to get into the spirit of things.

Still, the first interesting record of the season has arrived, and since sunny and 85 is sometimes the Christmas Day forecast around here, I guess I can’t let that stop me.

What we have here is a collection of metal renditions of Christmas songs both classic and campy with a lineup that features some legends of the genre. The compilation was put together by Wendy Dio, and features performances by, among others, Lemmy Kilmister, Billy Gibbons, Alice Cooper, John 5, Billy Sheehan, Tony Iommi, Rudy Sarzo, Geoff Tate, Doug Pinnick, George Lynch, Tim Owens, Steve Morse, Vinny Appice, Chuck Billy, Scott Ian, and, of course, Ronnie James Dio. Though, according to his wife, he was one of the toughest to convince because “he doesn’t sing Christmas songs.”

The performances here are remarkably good, beginning with the second track, a rowdy version of “Run Rudolph Run” featuring perhaps one of the strangest pairings here in Lemmy Kilmister, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and Dave Grohl on drums. A similar turn comes on “Santa Claus is Back in Town,” where Owens teams up with Morse to show a rawer hard rock vocal that we haven’t heard from him before.

Some play it straight, some put their own spin on it. Alice Cooper is most notable among the latter with his Christmas horror tale “Santa Claws is Coming to Town.” In his hands, it transforms from an innocent children’s song into something more than a bit disturbing. Dio and Iommi essentially turn “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” into a really dark Sabbath number. They’re not all as strong, though. Geoff Tate turns “Silver Bells” into a hard rocker, which might have worked, but his normally impressive voice sounds really, really bad here.

Of the songs that stick with the script, so to speak, one of the strongest is the grooving version of “Little Drummer Boy” featuring King’s X vocalist Doug Pinnick, George Lynch, Billy Sheehan and Simon Phillips. Phillips throws a little groove on the beat, and Pinnick’s vocals are just perfect. It’s easily one of the strongest offerings here.

There are a couple of head scratchers here, though. “Silent Night” featuring Chuck Billy of Testament, Scott Ian of Anthrax and John Tempesta of Exodus, Testament and White Zombie sounds like a train wreck on paper, and while the death metal take on the song would likely have fundamentalists running for their crosses, it’s, in truth, kind of interesting in an odd way. The strangest choice here, though, has to be “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” featuring Stephen Pearcy of Ratt and Tracii Guns. Yeah, it’s pretty much as bad as it sounds.

Of the other tunes on the album, none are bad but none stand out as much as the previously mentioned ones. Joe Lynn Turner’s take on “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” is lively and energetic, and “Deck the Halls,” featuring Oni Logan is enjoyable. Aside from “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” the only real miss Tommy Shaw and Steve Lukather’s take on “Happy Xmas (War is Over),” which is a bit bland.

It’s a bit of surprise, but this is actually a really, really good record. I’d recommend it for any classic metal fan looking for a little Christmas cheer (though, in truth, I’d probably wait until at least after Thanksgiving to throw it in the CD player.)

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Fred Phillips
November 29th, 2008

Comments

  1. Commented by: Cynicgods

    Christmas weirdness…

    Bring it on, I say!! :D


  2. Commented by: LoftComplication

    Im sorry but this album is horrible. Only Dio’s song is a keeper I think.


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