Various Artists - We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year
Record Label: Eagle Records
Release Date: October 13, 2008
What's the first word that comes to mind when you hear the word "Christmas"? If you're one of 98% of normal functioning human beings, the answer is of course headbanging.
We've all heard the traditional Christmas carols a thousand times over, and ten thousand again. In the Yuletide spirit, this is not necessarily a bad thing; however, Bing Crosby's legendary "White Christmas" and Chuck Berry's "Run Rudolph Run" can only be heard so many times before it gets a little repetitive to the ears. Even for most music fans here, the rock renditions of carols and collectively similar "original" tunes (which can be summed up with the following: "It's Christmas, baby, and I want you in my arms tonight") get a little old. That's where metal comes in to fill the void of originality.
Yes, metal music can be seen as the face of unoriginality. But let's face it: how often do you hear Christmas metal? As much as the two have a natural blend, it just for some reason never comes together. Perhaps it's the whole "worship Satan, praise the Lord of Darkness and his armies" complex going on, but that's just mere speculation. The lineup for this rollicking tale of Christmas death and destruction includes a ridiculous all-star cast, featuring Tony Iommi, Ronnie James Dio, Dave Grohl, Alice Cooper, Geoff Tate, Tommy Shaw, members from Testament, Motorhead, ZZ Top, Dokken, Kiss, Judas Priest, Anthrax, Ratt, Marilyn Manson, and others.
The record begins with a distant, peaceful chorus of "we wish you a merry Christmas" before steadily descending into a dark underrealm chant of "we wish you a metal Christmas." Clever! What a pun. After an energetic, phlegmy rendition of "Run Rudolph Run," Alice Cooper, completely in character, uses his usual campy horror-metal to turn "Santa Claws is Coming to Town" (another pun!) into a creepy stalker song. "He knows when your window is open. He knows when you're under your bed." Eventually it digresses into burning down decorated Christmas trees and breaking toys. Pleasant. Alice Cooper: scaring children away from Christmas joy one pine needle bonfire at a time. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" consists of a mix of Dio and Black Sabbath musicians (including Ronnie James and Tony Iommi themselves), and quickly becomes the album highlight with Dio's vocals. The vocals are immediately challenged, though, by the Freddy Mercury of metal, Mr. Geoff Tate (Queensryche). His trademark piercing-yet-pleasing holds ring out every 10 seconds or so in "Silver Bells."
Later on, we come to what is easily and without a doubt the funniest song on the completely serious record. What metal Christmas album would be complete without "Silent Night"? Not this one, that's for sure. After a 12 second onslaught of guitar, bass, and kickdrum, Chuck Billy (Testament) rips into the mistletoe microphone with the guttural roars that usually accompany the traditional headbanging carol. This continues for approximately four minutes, or until one simply cannot stand it any longer due to a) ear pain or b) rib pain resulting from ceaseless laughing. From there, "Deck the Halls", "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer", and "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" lead into the album closer, "Happy Xmas (War is Over)." Being my favorite Christmas song, I was ecstatic to see this track being played with minimal headbangage, because well, one can only take so much brain hemorrhaging until one is forced to bring the tempo and volume down. Tommy Shaw (Styx) croons out the classic John Lennon peace whore to acoustic guitar and melodic guitar play.
As a whole, this record is...interesting. The kick of wailing guitars and pounding drums was a smashing wake up from the serenity of fireside re-tellings of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" with the family. None of these songs may be spinning under the ol' needle come Christmas morning, but it was definitely a worthwhile use of my precious music time.