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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Halford

Halford 3 – Winter Songs

Review by Rick Damigella

There is something magical about heavy metal renditions of Christmas songs, especially when it is done right. I am going to try something different with this review. I am putting the disc on and listening to it for the very first time as I write my impressions of each song. No over thinking, no planning, just gut reactions and real-time, instant stream of thoughts. The next paragraph sums up the whole disc, but I’d recommend skipping ahead to the track by track review and then coming back to that paragraph at the end for the proper experience.

So, summing things up, that was 41 and a half minutes of awesome! I said at the beginning there’s is something magical about heavy metal renditions of Christmas songs, especially when it is done right. Rob Halford’s latest solo outing, Winter Songs, gets it right. The album is instantly listenable and enjoyable. You do not need repeated listens to appreciate it. Put it on, bang your head, have some mulled wine, deck the halls, repeat. Have a very metal Christmas.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Get Into the Spirit
Yep, this is the Metal God alright. Seriously crunchy riffs and pedal to the metal drums open the album. Kudos to Mr. Halford for not only recording an original song, but leading off the album with it! His voice is in a different mode than I am used to hearing from him, until the bridge, at which point it has a very Judas Priest quality to it. While I doubt you will hear many Christmas carolers adding this to their repertoire, it is a full-fledged slice of holiday metal.
We Three Kings

One of my favorite traditional Christmas songs, Halford keeps his vocal delivery firmly in the middle register of his extended vocal range. The performance of the music is in keeping with the previous song. This is metal, through and through. Roy Z and Metal Mike Chlasciak tear it up on the six-strings. This could be the quintessential metal version of this classic song.

Oh Come O Come Emanuel

Here is a rarely covered traditional piece, especially from the metal world. Once again, it is just oh-so awesome! Listening to Halford deliver the lyrics makes me believe that he could very easily put his Metal God voice on other types of music and make them sound just as good.

Winter Song

Another original piece, w get a gentler beginning from the guitars, followed by a very unexpected piano! There’s some light synths even! And I do not think I have ever heard Rob Halford sing at this octave nor in this style. We have gone from a trio of straight forward metal pieces into a very, I am not sure how to say it…a very straightforward delivery. This could play on 24 hour Christmas music radio stations easily. It is not metal, but man it is cool sounding.  A straightforward blues scale in the solo is a nice touch. It’s a power ballad! And a damn good one! This song does not have to be relegated to listening to only during the holidays. Do not listen to this with a closed mind and you will love it.

What Child is This?

Ok I just got chills down my spine. Dear. Mr. Halford, that second holiday music album you are considering doing next year, can you make it a double disc, please? Thanks! We are back to the metal style, though I will be honest, the arrangement reminds me what if Ritchie Blackmore (circa 1983) had formed Trans Siberian Orchestra. Bobby Jarzombek plays brilliantly here. There are some excellent bass riffs from Mike Davis too. It’s very dramatic as we near the end.

Christmas for Everyone

Another original, this has a much more fun and playful sound. It’s definitely metal, but the tone reminds me of Twisted Sister’s foray into holiday music. There’s a bit of bar room piano back there! There’s also plenty of jingle bells in the percussion. OK, this wouldn’t play on a straightforward 24 holiday radio station, but metal-gun shy programmers on AOR stations should add it to their own playlists. Steeple bells play us out!

I Don’t Care

Oh wow, this is fun! It has a very 80’s arrangement. If someone remakes “Planes Train and Automobiles” with a British sensibility, this has to the theme! The lyrics lament about running late, missing a train and being stuck in traffic with nothing but a desire to be back home by Christmas night but end with a note of impending bad a** pub brawling! It could definitely be played just about any time of year. It’s very unexpected and fun!

Light of the World

The title alone feels like something from a later day Priest album. Again, we have a bit of a love song/power ballad thing going on here at its core. Again this is something that doesn’t have to be relegated to just the holidays either. Mmmmm, there’s a bombastic Meatloaf-esque drum fill to set up the guitar solo - nicely done. If I had a lighter I’d hold it up.

Oh Holy Night

I will admit, South Park for the longest time ruined/made me laugh whenever I’d hear this song. Thankfully Mr. Halford reclaims it. The arrangement is the classic one - straightforward, but metalized. There are some synth flourishes which add a nice tone to the piece. Piano drives the song at first but it is soon joined by the full band for some crunch just before the “fall on your knees” lyric. Oh yes! Halford wails it out old-school style as the lyrics crescendo! OK, this is the best traditional song here now. Hey carolers out there, bring a guitarist and portable amp with you if you sing this one from now on! Halford is a one man choir. It’s big, dramatic and fun.

Come All Ye Faithful

With huge drums, melodramatic guitar arrangement, Halford is right in his sweet spot. Now he’s wailing! This is damn near operatic. While I highly doubt we are going to get a full-on Halford Christmas opera any time soon, knowing this would be in it would get me in a seat.

 
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