Review Summary: Who knew the most solid effort of original holiday songs about Jesus and the celebration of his birth would come from a gay metal singer? Take that, Catholic church.
Announcing his Christmas album might have been the second hardest confession Rob Halford had to come out with to the public. Showing your season spirit through the art of song has not proven well for rockers in the past (Twisted Sister, anyone?). He said it with this sort of confidence, though - a twinkle in his eye, perhaps - and his belly jiggled like a barrel full of hard liquor. We now spot the the album's cover at Walmart. The snow is fluttering all around Rob and the sunlight beams through the crunchy branches. Could Halford III
really be as personal and honest as the titan of metal said it would? Oh yes, the leather rebel promised genuine tracks of only the most beautiful and true classics for the tiny metal tots to trot down the trail to Tinseltown to, head banging all way. It’s not all bells and whistles, however, Rob will never let us forget how he once fronted the famous metal act Judas Priest. There must be volcanic guitar solos, epic song structures, blasting drums, and most importantly that snarling voice to top off a pretty damn solid effort to force us to “Get Into the Spirit”.
What we have on Halford III - Winter Songs
is a shocking collection of well-produced and honestly cheerful songs: half of them covers of Christmas favorites and the other half originals coming from the Metal God’s fiery yet flamboyant heart. There is no cheesy attempt at remaking the lovable renditions into badass versions like “Rudolph the Dead Nosed Reindeer”, or “Jingle Hell Rock” nor a poke at his homosexuality like “All I Want For Christmas Is My Assless Jeans”. Halford reminds us what Christmas is all about - Christ. Waking us up to the semi-demonic brutal potential this album can have while covering the purest of traditions, “We Three Kings” has always been a Christmas classic that begs to be transformed into a metal masterpiece (much like how Steve Ouimette has done it) and Halford wastes no ferocity tending to it. This energy and heat also carries over to “Oh Come O Come Emanuel“ keeping up the stinging guitar work by Roy Z.
works and I’ll tell you why: it takes it’s time and it actually moves, unlike previous rock holiday albums believe it or not. Halford, the band, know how to work their dramatic atmospheric arrangements that they've used before on ballad-type songs into the softer season songs like “What Child Is This?”. You cannot sense their pressure or uncertainty about making a finely timed and moving Christmas song, which is very reassuring.
The strengths of Winter Songs
are not even close to hiding in the covers. The band’s originals slyly fill the gaps unsuspectingly with innocence so apparent it’ll have you digging up your favorite sweater with a mug of hot cocoa. “Christmas For Everyone” puts on its “Living After Midnight” snowsuit and steadies itself on a hard rock rhythm granted by drummer Bobby Jarzombek while Rob sings a friendly winter hook with church bells sounding in the back. A playful piano line is played most likely to honor the attempts of previous X-mas caroler Billy Joel. His next original, “I Don’t Care” then tells the story of a man who’s headin’ for a world of hurt from his ol’ lady by being home late on Christmas Eve night. The guitar and vocal’s relationship is very Van Halen-y with the guitar chugging in the back so you can hear the story, and then takes over for a fill in between verses. It's almost comical how precise and dynamic the instrumentation is. Closing the album with “Come All Ye Faithful”, it may start to dawn on you that maybe… Halford can create better holiday songs than the ones they’ve covered… The track is a fine cover, but brings nothing new to the table or emphasizes anything that other acts have already underlined.
This leaves us with the final conclusion that Winter Songs
success as a metal Christmas album laughs and dances around the 1 in a million odds. Who knew that what it took to make an enjoyable Christmas album was a serious passion and focus? The original works stand with the rest of Halford’s solo material while the Halford III
easily rises to the top of excellent metal holiday releases.
“Get Into the Spirit”
“We Three Kings”
“Oh Come O Come Emanuel”
“Christmas For Everyone”
“I Don’t Care”