We Wish You a Metal Christmas and a Headbanging New Year
There is something in the structure of Christmas songs that lends itself particularly well to heavy metal interpretations, as it turns out. Not only do Christmas songs structurally have the necessary flourishes and crescendos that make a good metal song, but the thematics of Christmas songs are great double entendre fodder for heavy metal, i.e. coming down your chimney, got a Christmas tree for you, backdoor Santa, etc. So this compilation of familiar faces of ’80s metal/cock rock isn’t nearly as much of a reach as you’d think. A host of familiar faces — Lemmy from Motorhead, Ronnie James Dio, Alice Cooper, Mark Slaughter — let rip on holiday chestnuts from both Christmas and New Year’s. This leads to the unwittingly funny side effect that once you’ve read the song title and the musicians who banged it out, you pretty much know how most of the songs go. I challenge you not to predict how Alice Cooper’s “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” goes (creepy crawly vocals, fairytale style riff), Tommy Shaw/Steve Lukather’s power ballad take on “Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” or how about Chuck Billy/Scott Ian’s “Silent Night”? And yet, that’s part of the fun of it — singing along, making faces, etc. But there are disappointments, too. Geoff Tate’s vocals on “Silver Bells” are strained, sounding more like a flat Axl Rose than the firebrand of Operation Mindcrime. Ditto with Chuck Billy’s (Testament) sub-death metal performance on “Silent Night.” And why couldn’t you have just paid the extra money and gotten Rob Halford for Elvis Presley’s salacious “Santa Is Back in Town” instead of Tim “Ripper” Owens?
The album’s biggest highlight is Motorhead’s Lemmy, Dave Grohl, and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons doing a volcanic take on Chuck Berry’s “Run Rudolph Run,” which is as much a present that Chuck Berry worshipper Lemmy gave himself as it is anything else. And Ronnie James Dio’s iron-lunged Sabbathian reading of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” is just impressive. This is easily the best “metal” Christmas comp yet. (Until they make one that includes Nocturnus’s “Destroy the Manger”.)
Armoury/Eagle Rock: www.eagle-rock.com