Take a good look at Santa Claus and you will see his dirty little secret. The dude is an old-school metal head. Just like Robert Plant, he’s trying to hide it, but all the tell-tale signs are there. Long white hair? Check. Monsterous ZZ Top-style beard? Yup. Beer gut? You betcha. And most tellingly of all, is he wearing the exact same clothes as the last time you saw him? Jackpot! Why it took the metal community so long to recognize a fellow traveler is beyond me, but the situation has been rectified with the new We Wish You A Metal X-Mas & A Headbanging New Year collection.
This two-disc, 16-song collection of Christmas classics gone metal is about as various as various-artist compilations get. Rather than choosing a bunch of different bands to submit their versions of the tunes, the producers took things a step further. With one exception, none of the line-ups on this set have ever previously recorded together. You may find that a couple of the individual musicians have played together before, but not the group as a whole.
In most cases, it is the signature vocals that define each cut. There is no mistaking Lemmy’s sandpaper growl on “Run Rudolph Run,” for example. And Chuck Billy from Testament shreds his vocal cords in trademark thrash style during the aptly chosen “Silent Night.” Even Hard-Hearted Alice (Cooper) joins the fun with “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.”
I was pretty happy to discover that the late, and truly great Ronnie James Dio was included. On “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,“ we not only get Dio, but the guitar of Tony Iommi as well. The group is rounded out with a couple of old friends and former Dio bandmembers, Rudy Sarzo on bass, and Simon Wright on the drums. The presence of Dio and Iommi is too powerful to sound like anything other than Heaven And Hell, making it something of an exception to the rule. For me, this track alone makes the collection a must.
There are plenty of other highlights as well. Another memorable grouping goes the classic power-trio route. On the aforementioned “Run Rudolph Run” Lemmy is joined by ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons on guitar, along with the guy who used to drum for Nirvana, Dave Grohl. Probably the funniest (or saddest) combination finds former Ratt-man Steven Pearcy teamed with professional Sunset Strip gargoyle Tracii Guns on “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.”
While there are plenty of egg-nog-sipping Christmas songs present, there is only one headbanging New Year’s one. But it is a great choice, and could be set on auto-repeat for hours if need be. We’re talking about the one and only Girlschool, who lay into “Auld Lang Syne” with a vengeance.
The executive producer is Wendy Dio, and there is information in the liner notes about the “Ronnie James Dio Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund.” It does not say whether the proceeds of this collection will go to the fund or not, but my guess is that at least some of them will.
Turn the volume up to eleven for We Wish You A Metal X-Mas’ screaming guitars and louder-than-God vocals. That too old to rock ’n roll, too young to die Santa dude will appreciate it, even if your neighbors won’t.