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Monday, December 13, 2010

CD Review: We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year Special Edition

We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year Special Edition
2010 Armoury Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

One thing you can rely on to be there faithfully each year besides tax season and popcorn flicks at the beginning of summer is the obligatory flux of Christmas albums. Back in the day, it was considered essential to the serious performer to have a Christmas album in his or her catalog. Everyone from Bing Crosby to Barbara Streisand to Johnny Mathis, The Beach Boys and Elvis has a Christmas album. Even the Reverend Horton Heat has a Christmas album--and a damned cool one, at that.

Some musicians may record a signature holiday tune here and there like Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolph Run" and the Ramones' "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)." But nobody could've seen back in the eighties the potential for a metalhead's very own holiday platter. Somehow, it didn't seem right back then to even consider a heavy metal Christmas album. That was, until King Diamond broke from Mercyful Fate and broke all the rules with his hilarious "No Presents for Christmas" single. Speaking of hilarious, how about Spinal Tap's "Christmas With the Devil" and Fear's "Fuck Christmas?" Good times...

Then Savatage recorded "Sarajevo 12/24" on their uncelebrated classic Dead Winter Dead album, a song literally hijacked and credited to Trans-Siberian Orchestra, who have now become the ambassadors of loud holiday cheer.

In the metal revival, we've now had oodles of Christmas albums ala headbanger heaven including A Twisted Christmas, Rob Halford's Winter Songs, Monster Ballads Xmas and We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year.

The latter album was originally issued a couple years back and by today's sales standards, a mitigated success. Therefore, in 2010 we have the We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year Special Edition. C'mon, you didn't see it coming? Sheesh.

You know the format to this album: clusters of headbangers past and present assemble in collaborative efforts where you find Alice Cooper rubbing elbows with John 5, Billy Sheehan and Vinny Appice, and Lemmy Kilmister with Dave Grohl and Billy Gibbons of the mighty double Z. The big question of course is, what are you getting this time around? The answer is a four-song bonus disc of new tunes featuring Doro Pesch in league with Michael Schenker, Frankie Banali and Tony Franklin as well as Devildriver scorcher Dez Fafara teaming up with Doug Aldrich, Blasko and John Tempesta. For good measure, you get the entire Girlschool clan on "Auld Lang Syne" and a rubbery take on "Frosty the Snowman" led by Steve "Lips" Kudlow of Anvil.

Let's quickly recap the main crust of We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year. First, the good: a hell-yeah pounding doom version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," helmed by the late Ronnie James Dio with his rawk squad fortified by Tony Iommi, Rudy Sarzo and Simon Wright. "Little Drummer Boy" featuring dUg Pinnick of King's X, George Lynch, Billy Sheehan and Simon Phillips, who fuse the most soul out of any cut on this project. "Rocking Round the Xmas Tree" with an airtight Joe Lynn Turner and his glee posse of Bruce and Bob Kulick, Rudy Sarzo and Simon Wright. And who in their right mind can keep a straight face listening to Testament's Chuck Billy barf death growls all over a fast-as-hell (oxymoron, oxymoron) rip through "Silent Night."

The surprising not-so-good is "Silver Bells" featuring Geoff Tate, who has turned in better work vocally. Despite a wah-licious intro and some sparkling solos, "Deck the Halls" with Oni Logan, Craig Goldy, Tony Franklin and John Tempesta nearly hits the deck with a thud, but damn those solos from Goldy, wow... "Run Rudolph Run" with Lemmy, is hardly the event it looks on paper, but Uncle Alice takes not a lick of his task seriously on "Santa Claws is Coming to Town" and you buy into it, cheese factor and all. "Grandma Got Ran Over By a Reindeer" is a trash classic to some, but it's easier to lighten up to it with the shuck 'n jive hip shaker that Stephen Pearcy, Tracii Guns, Bob Kulick, Rudy Sarzo and Simon Wright dish up. And of course, the opening ditty "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" with Jeff Scott Soto and his gang sets the main album off with ampflied huck-a-buck.

As for the bonus disc on this special edition, Girlschool needs to be praised for turning a spiritual ohm like "Auld Lang Syne" into a sloshed bar medley...or scorned, if you lack a sense of humor. Doro Pesch can sing danged nearly anything except Britney Spears covers and we'll all listen, and her assemblage does a nice do-up of "O' Christmas Tree." Though Michael Schenker recorded his parts away from the core team, his solos really lift "O' Christmas Tree" past an ordinary cover.

As previously mentioned, however, the underdog champ of 2009, Steve "Lips" Kudlow and his partners Bumblefoot, Chris Chaney and Kenny Aronoff miss the mark with "Frosty the Snowman." There should always be a shoulder pat and atta-boy granted for Lips, but he shanks this one. "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" attempts to match Chuck Billy, Scott Ian, Jon Donais, Chris Wyse and John Tempesta's "Silent Night" with an over-the-top ralph-fest, but it doesn't work this time. It's merely over-the-top for shock value instead of going-for-broke hilarity. Dez's fans will still get a charge out of it, though. Somehow, you figure he wouldn't have been forgiven for doing it while in Coal Chamber.

In the end, you'll grab We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year Special Edition in case you missed it the first time around or if that stocking just seems too light to make an appearance on the mantle. It's mostly harmless and often fun, but if you really want to rip it up holiday-style, go to the Rev Horton and his We Three Kings album or Brian Setzer Orchestra's Boogie Woogie Christmas. Not metal, but guaranteed to move you in your pants.

And if MTV was still cool, they'd air the crap out of that famous animated Santa in the mosh pit which never failed to bust a gut on commercial breaks during the original Headbanger's Ball. Change is necessary why?

Ho fucking ho, ya'll...

Rating: ***1/2


Ed said...

Here is the Moshing Santa!

DPTH International said...

I bought the first release and love it. I saw the re-issue and got pissed. I don't want to pay full price for 5 extra songs. This kind of thing bothers me. Oh well.

One of my favourite Christmas albums is Brutal Christmas "A Season In Chaos". It's pretty awesome.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

AWESOME, thanks, Ed!

It's only four extra songs, Dpth, unless you have a different pressing up there? Yeah, from the consumer's POV, it's gnashing when products get reissued so quickly with new stuff, like movies coming out with special editions, director's cuts and missing footage after the original product's life cycle has run its course