Artist: Various Artists
Title: “We Wish You A Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year” Deluxe Edition
Label: Armoury Records
Release Date: 9/14/2010
Genre: Holiday Metal
A couple of years ago the folks over at Eagle Records gave the Metal fans a holiday album that was really something up their alley. Though not as much a story-telling enterprise as the Trans-Siberian Orchestra or as tongue in cheek a delivery as a Twisted Christmas, this really had some interesting and fun stuff to enjoy. Having reviewed the original CD and then its EP follow-up, I decided to combine and slightly rework those thoughts based on Eagle Records re-releasing these albums in time for the 2010 holiday season as one package.
“I’ve been a fan of the holiday juggernaut that is the Trans-Siberian Orchestra for several years now, but there was no way that my experience with that would have prepared me for how Twisted Sister would deliver their “Twisted Christmas” release. I bring them up as it originally hit me as one of the most absurd items in reviews to do pile but after several listens I found myself intrigued at just how well the conventional Metal vibe worked when crafted together with Holiday classics that they chose. It was an album that left you hungry for more and that made the arrival of the “We Wish You A Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year” release something I was eager to dig into. The players on this one are as vast as the Metal genre itself and as result finds legends like Alice Cooper and Ronnie James Dio performing along with the likes of diverse quality players like Steve Lukather and Ray Luzier and many, many more. The vibe of this release is rather heavy which was good and I admit it that it almost felt like a Motorhead track when Lemmy gave it a go at “Run Rudolph Run”. Shock master Alice Cooper and John 5 delivered the creepiest “Santa Claws Is Coming To Town” I’ve ever heard and believe me at the end of this one, the fact that he knows when you are sleeping and knows when you are awake will scare the Charles Dickens out of you. Winners come shining through during a few numbers like “Silver Bells” which has a powerful modern Metal drive to it and Geoff Tate singing and I felt the same way about the albums opening title track that gave us the magical voice of Jeff Scott Soto, a singer I have always been able to enjoy. Dio is at his ominous best with Mr. Iommi and company for “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and the best way to describe this one is as imagine the band Heaven And Hell doing the track. Weird huh, but it does work on some levels. I had to say that I was put off by the Death Metal growls of Chuck Billy and Thrash treatment given to “Silent Night”, as this is a track that I like to much to see given such a reworking. Of course there are some who might enjoy the chance to finally hit the circle pit to this one, so here you go folks. Former Judas Priest/Iced Earth front man extraordinaire Tim Owens hits it out of the park with “Santa Claus Is Back In Town” and he sounds like he is having a blast and the same can be said for King’s X vocalist Dug Pinnick during “Little Drummer Boy”. It wouldn’t be fair for me to ruin every single surprise on the album so I shall leave the remaining tracks to your own surprise as you unwrap this present with glee after you taking it from the spiked leather stockings that are hanging on your mantle. It does end with a rousing rendition of John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” and I love this tune and felt the guitarist/singer did a fantastic job of it. He is joined by Toto’s own Steve Lukather who can deliver the goods in any situation it seems.
As expected with releases like this, when one finds success at it we also find an extended amount of similar products or re-issues and special editions of the same album coming out for public consumption. That was originally the case with the albums companion EP which was originally only available as a digital download but now the fans can own a physical version. It continues the premise that was begun on the previously discussed album and gives us four additional songs by a diverse grouping of artists. Considering that all of these songs are the bona-fide holiday classics I had a high expectation of how they would be done in a Metal sense and yet when it came down to it, two were superb while the other two made me wish I had those few minutes of my life back. The winner by far comes from Doro Pesch who sings a nice rendition of “Oh Christmas Tree” and is accompanied by guitar God Michael Schenker. Yes we do get a ripping lead break from the mad axe man that makes the tune worthy of ownership on its own. The second winner is the ladies of Girlschool who offer up a rousing version of “Auld Lang Syne”. It’s more a New Year’s Eve song than a Christmas one, but I liked it and will not complain and instead leave that for the other two tracks. “Frosty The Snowman” is delivered by Anvil who are now stars of their documentary film and as result are the topic of conversation among many in the Heavy Metal community. Musically this is a plausible version but Lipps voice is just horrific for the classic tune and to me sounds off key and out of the proper register from what he excels at as the lead singer for Anvil and their crushing brand of Metal. I am sure that he was asked to participate to help cash in on the movie’s vibe and reach. Next up and a must bypass at all costs is Dez Farfara who guttural growls his way through “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer” with Whitesnake guitarist Doug Aldritch. Don’t get me wrong, as I like what Dez does in Devil Driver, but I love this song since a child and absolutely hated what his voice does to it. The idea probably sounded better on paper than it did to me as a finalized track. I had initially mentioned that this downloadable EP might be best served as a half purchase but now that you get it in the one package you are also stuck with the songs that might cause you a little audio pain.
At the end of the day this is much more of a fun release than it is not and the packaging might interest those who enjoy a nicely presented issue. Packaged in a standard jewel-case, there is a cardboard slipcase that showcases an ominous reindeer skull and this lifts up to let you access the EP. I didn’t check the full running time of the main CD, but I think that they should have tried to make this a single disc. There is a booklet loaded with photos of the cast that is delivering the tunes but there are no real liner notes about any of the process involved with such an undertaking. This was an issue I had with the original, so I must say that I was disappointed that they didn’t choose to change this for the Special Edition. The cover of said booklet gives you many images of a Santa Claus hat wearing skulls and it doesn’t get much more Metal than that if you asked me. I guess it is still safe to say that if you enjoyed what Twisted Sister left under the tree for you with their holiday album then I am pretty certain that this holiday head banging treat will be just the kick that your eggnog needs to inspire a little more festive a celebration.
The Players: “We Wish You A Merry Xmas” (Jeff Scott Soto, Bruce Kulick, Bob Kulick, Chris Wyse, Ray Luzier); “Run Rudolph Run” (Lemmy Kilmister, Billy E. Gibbons, Dave Grohl); “Santa Claws Is Coming To Town” (Alice Cooper, John 5, Billy Sheehan, Vinny Appice); “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” (Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, Rudy Sarzo, Simon Wright); “Silver Bells” (Geoff Tate, Carlos Cavazo, James Lomenzo, Ray Luzier); “Little Drummer Boy” (Dug Pinnick, George Lynch, Billy Sheehan, Simon Phillips); “Santa Claus Is Back In Town” (Tim “Ripper” Owens, Steve Morse, Juan Garcia, Marco Mendoza, Vinny Appice); “Silent Night” (Chuck Billy, Scott Ian, Jon Donais, Chris Wyse, John Tempesta); “Deck The Halls” (Oni Logan, Craig Goldy, Tony Franklin, John Tempesta); “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” (Stephen Pearcy, Tracii Guns, Bob Kulick, Billy Sheehan, Greg Bisonette); “Rockin’ Around The Xmas Tree” (Joe Lynn Turner, Bruce Kulick, Bob Kulick, Rudy Sarzo, Simon Wright); “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” (Tommy Shaw, Steve Lukather, Marco Mendoza, Kenny Aronoff), Frosty The Snow Man (Anvil & Company), Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (Devildriver Dez & Doug Aldritch), Oh Christmas Tree (Doro Pesch & Michael Schenker), Auld Lang Syne (Girlschool)
1. We Wish You A Merry Xmas
2. Run Rudolph Run
3. Santa Claws Is Coming To Town
4. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
5. Silver Bells
6. Little Drummer Boy
7. Santa Claus Is Back In Town
8. Silent Night
9. Deck The Halls
10. Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer
11. Rockin’ Around The Xmas Tree
12. Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
13. Frosty The Snow Man
14. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
15. Oh Christmas Tree
16. Auld Lang Syne
Official Website: http://www.myspace.com/metalchristmas