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Music Review: We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year

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Yes, it is that time of year again. Halloween is a memory, Thanksgiving has just passed, and the New Year looms on the horizon. In between the now and the next is a little holiday called Christmas, and with it come all of the familiar trappings. Insane shopping, endless mall Santa's, charities looking to help the needy, holiday themed movies, and a string of annual Christmas television specials culminating with a twenty-four hour run of the timeless A Christmas Story.

Beyond all of that, for better or worse, there is another element of the season that is even harder to get away from, that's right, Christmas songs. No matter where you go or what you do you are bound to come across a tune or a jingle that will do one of two things: 1. awaken your inner child or 2. make your eyes bleed as you yearn for the season to be over already. Well, relief may be in sight for the metal fan, maybe, in the guise of Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year.

A couple of years ago Warcon records got a bunch of their emo/screamo/post-hardcore acts together to put out a Christmas album called A Taste of Christmas. I am not a fan of most of the acts on the disk, but I picked it up in the hopes that it would fill the need for some rocking Christmas tunes. Unfortunately, it failed to do so. It had a couple of cool tunes, but it had a few depressing numbers that I just did not care for. Last year Twisted Sister put out a collection of Christmas tunes the only way they know how, and it paid off. It is no classic by any stretch, but Twisted Christmas went a long way towards providing some rocking holiday fare topped by their take on "The 12 Days of Christmas."

Now we have another metal tinged collection of Christmas songs. This one is a little different in that it does not feature a band or bands to provide the music, rather it is a collection of musical luminaries in various combinations. It is a different take that I have seen work for tribute albums, but tackling Christmas music is a different story. Could they come together and bring new meaning to Christmas classics? The answer is yes, although not overwhelmingly so.

The release is littered with such names as Alice Cooper, Lemmy Kilmister, Ronnie James Dio, Chuck Billy, Tim 'Ripper' Owens, Geoff Tate, and Dug Pinnick. And that is just the singers! Take a look at the instrument side and you will find the likes of Bob and Bruce Kulick, Billy F. Gibbons, Dave Grohl, Vinnie Appice, Tony Iommi, George Lynch, Billy Sheehan, Tracii Guns, and Greg Bissonette, among others. It is quite the awesome assemblage of talent and experience. How can you go wrong?

In all honesty, I only found one way to go wrong. That one blemish on an otherwise exquisite collection of metal Christmas songs is Geoff Tate (yes, he of Queensryche fame) singing "Silver Bells." He just sounds awful. I don't know what it is, but he just has not been sounding all that good of late, just listen to the last Queensryche album, Take Cover. His voice is not what it was, and he had an absolutely phenomenal voice. Aside from this one song, which features a strong instrument performance from Carlos Cavazo, James Lomenzo, and Ray Luzier, this is a definite keeper.

Yes, the songs are traditional, but they all have that distinctive stamp from the artists involved. Now, this is not for metal purists who will look down on artists lending their talents to common Christmas carols, nor is it for those who like their traditions to be, well, traditional. This is not Bing Crosby or Nat King Cole, this is metal style.

Aside from "Silver Bells," here are a few of my favorites:

"Santa Claws is Coming to Town" – That's right, "Claws" with a W. Alice Cooper lends a darkly dramatic turn for the coming of the bearded one. Alice has been doing this sort of thing for a long time, and he does a fine job here. Joining him are John 5 on guitar, Billy Sheehan on bass, and Vinnie Appice on drums.

"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" – Here is a Christmas classic turned on its ear. While it still has the seasonal content, it is presented in a way that makes it sound purely evil. I guess that is what happens when you let Ronnie James Dio and Tony Iommi loose on a holiday. Pure brilliance.

"Little Drummer Boy" – Featuring King's X frontman Dug Pinnick on vocals, this has an amped up traditional sound. Pinnick's unique voice sounds great leading the likes of George Lynch and Billy Sheehan.

"Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" – For a little of that 80's hair metal style we have this comic Christmas staple. This features the union of Ratt's Stephen Pearcy and LA Guns Tracii Guns for a fun old school ride through a song that you have to sing along to.

While I really enjoy this whole collection, there is one song that stands out above the rest:

"Silent Night" – Yes, this sedate staple of the door to door carolers is given a truly metal makeover. It has been taken from that lullaby melody and transformed into and out and out heavy metal thrasher with the demonic growl of Testament's Chuck Billy to guide us and Anthrax' Scott Ian to shred the way. I was caught completely off guard for this piece of brilliance. The moment Chuck's voice is first heard I knew I was in for something special.

Bottomline. If you have a desire for some Christmas tunes, like metal, have a loud stereo, and have a little bit of a sentimental side, do yourself a favor and get your hands on this. It is a must have.

Highly Recommended.

Now, this is quite long, but considering the talent involved, I thought you may like to see the complete track list and the artists on each track:

Tracklist
1. We Wish You A Merry Xmas
- Jeff Scott Soto (TALISMAN, YNGWIE MALMSTEEN, JOURNEY)
- Bruce Kulick (KISS, UNION)
- Bob Kulick
- Chris Wyse (THE CULT)
- Ray Luzier (KORN, DAVID LEE ROTH, ARMY OF ANYONE)

2. Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
- Alice Cooper
- John 5 (ROB ZOMBIE, MARILYN MANSON)
- Billy Sheehan (DAVID LEE ROTH, TALAS, MR. BIG)
- Vinny Appice (DIO, HEAVEN AND HELL, BLACK SABBATH)

3. Run Rudolph Run
- Lemmy Kilmister (MOTÖRHEAD)
- Billy F. Gibbons (ZZ TOP)
- Dave Grohl (FOO FIGHTERS)

4. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
- Ronnie James Dio (DIO, HEAVEN AND HELL, BLACK SABBATH)
- Tony Iommi (HEAVEN AND HELL, BLACK SABBATH)
- Rudy Sarzo (QUIET RIOT, WHITESNAKE, DIO)
- Simon Wright (AC/DC, DIO)

5. Little Drummer Boy
- Dug Pinnick (KING's X)

- George Lynch (DOKKEN)
- Billy Sheehan (DAVID LEE ROTH, TALAS, MR. BIG)
- Simon Phillips (THE WHO, TOTO)

6. Santa Claus Is Back In Town
- Tim "Ripper" Owens (YNGWIE MALMSTEEN, JUDAS PRIEST, ICED EARTH)
- Steve Morse (DEEP PURPLE)
- Juan Garcia (AGENT STEEL)
- Marco Mendoza (WHITESNAKE, TED NUGENT)
- Vinny Appice (DIO, HEAVEN AND HELL, BLACK SABBATH)

7. Silent Night
- Chuck Billy (TESTAMENT)
- Scott Ian (ANTHRAX)
- Jon Donais (SHADOWS FALL)
- Chris Wyse (THE CULT)
- John Tempesta (ROB ZOMBIE, THE CULT)

8. Silver Bells
- Geoff Tate (QUEENSRŸCHE)
- Carlos Cavazo (QUIET RIOT, RATT)
- James Lomenzo (MEGADETH, WHITE LION)
- Ray Luzier (KORN, DAVID LEE ROTH, ARMY OF ANYONE)

9. Deck the Halls
- Oni Logan (LYNCH MOB)
- Craig Goldy (DIO)
- Tony Franklin (THE FIRM)
- John Tempesta (ROB ZOMBIE, THE CULT)

10. Grandma Got Ran Over By a Reindeer
- Stephen Pearcy (RATT)
- Tracii Guns (L.A. GUNS, BRIDES OF DESTRUCTION)
- Bob Kulick
- Billy Sheehan (DAVID LEE ROTH, TALAS, MR. BIG)
- Greg Bissonette (DAVID LEE ROTH)

11. Rockin' Around the Xmas Tree
- Joe Lynn Turner (RAINBOW, DEEP PURPLE)
- Bruce Kulick (KISS, UNION)
- Bob Kulick
- Rudy Sarzo (QUIET RIOT, WHITESNAKE, DIO)
- Simon Wright AC/DC, DIO)

12. Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
- Tommy Shaw (STYX)
- Steve Lukather (TOTO)
- Marco Mendoza (WHITESNAKE, TED NUGENT)
- Kenny Aronoff (TONY IOMMI, SMASHING PUMPKINS)

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About Draven99

  • Nutty Swede Runholm

    This is, buy far, the “best” Christmas album released. I almost laughed myself to death reading the lineups on the different songs.

    Being a hibernated metal head I will certainly make sure to spread this around the office :-)