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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Various Artists

Monster Ballads Christmas

Review by Gary Hill

Discs like this are always kind of iffy. I mean, there’s definitely a certain gimmicky side to them. Add to that the fact that you never know what you’ll get in terms of performance and they tend to be risky. As Christmas music goes, perhaps this one comes a little short in terms of setting the mood. As a great rocking tribute to the holiday, though – it’s definitely a cool CD. I wasn’t blown away by everything here, but most of it is quite good.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 6 and Music Street Journal The Holiday Edition at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Jingle Bells - Skid Row
As bells start this off you might think we’re about to launch into a fairly typical version of the song. These slow down and give way to a punk rock take on the classic Christmas song. This is fun but perhaps not exceptional. There seems to be a new verse added to this track and we do get some tasty guitar soloing.

Happy Christmas (War Is Over) - Winger
The balladic opening section here is played pretty close to the original. They power it out after the first chorus, though and this just plain rocks. I have to admit that I’ve never been a huge fan of Warrant, but this might just get me rethinking that.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Jani Lane Of Warrant
The opening chorus is in an acoustic guitar ballad approach and the vocals feel tongue in cheek. After this the cut is fired out in a stripped down punk meets metal arrangement. I have to say, the vocals still feel a little like they are done in jest. This is OK, but definitely not as strong as the piece that preceded it.

I'll Be Home for Christmas - Twisted Sister with Lita Ford
This is definitely a highlight of the CD. It’s a slow moving metal grind. The alternating vocals of Dee Snider and Lita Ford are great and we get a killer guitar solo.

White Christmas – Queensryche
I’m a big fan of Queensryche, so I was really looking forward to this track. I’d have to say that to a degree it was a disappointment, but really that’s because I had such high hopes for it. It’s pretty much what you’d expect Queensryche to do with the piece and is a highlight of the disc.

Run Rudolph Run - L.A. Guns
Here’s another standout cut. This is punky and oh so fun. It’s got some killer guitar work in the midst, too. I like this one a lot.

Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree - Firehouse
Firehouse puts in a great version of this classic. It’s another highlight of the disc and it’s got just the right amount of metal in the mix.

Naughty Naughty Christmas - Danger Danger
Here we get a raunch and roll Christmas track. It’s OK, but not one of the highlights of the disc.

Blue Christmas - Tom Keifer of Cinderella
This is cool. It’s a very bluesy (isn’t that appropriate) take on the cut. There’s some metallic crunch here and there, but this is pretty purely blues oriented. It includes some tasty instrumental work including a smoking sax solo, retro keyboard textures and a great guitar solo. Some of the vocals on this remind me of the more rock and roll oriented singing from The Beatles.

Jingle Bell Rock - Nelson
Now, here we have a real surprise. I was never impressed with Nelson, but they give us a track that rocks out like crazy and yet borders on progressive rock. This is one of the most inspired and powerful cuts on show here and definitely a highlight of the disc.

Silent Night - Faster Pussycat
This is a rather techno jam. It’s got a lot in common with Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson. It’s alright, but not really exceptional. Still, it does provide some serious variety.

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town - Dokken
Here’s another great song. Piano starts this in a very traditional manner, but they quickly shift out into a killer metal jam. I like this one a lot. They even drop it back for a proggy balladic segment.

Happy Holiday - Enuff Z'Nuff
This track is one of the more impressive on show here. I say that because it’s got one of the more developed musical compositions. The performance is also top notch. It’s just not as fun as some of the other stuff. That makes it a good song, but not really a highlight of the disc.

Winter Wonderland - Stryper
A live performance, this one rocks out quite well. The vocal arrangement and guitar soloing both deserve special mention.

Christmas Love - Billy Idol
Now here’s a real surprise. This is a folky ballad type number that feels like The Beatles meet Bob Dylan. It’s a cool track and not what I was expecting from Billy Idol.

 
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