Halford - "Halford III - Winter Songs" (CD)
"Halford III - Winter Songs" track listing:
1. Get Into the Spirit
2. We Three Kings
3. Oh Come O Come Emanuel
4. Winter Song
5. What Child Is This
6. Christmas for Everyone
7. I Don't Care If It's Christmas Night
8. Light of the World
9. Oh Holy Night
10. Come All Ye Faithful
Reviewed by darkstar on December 9, 2009
Like many metal fans, I was admittedly skeptical when I heard that Halford was releasing a Christmas album. The last metal Christmas disc I listened to was Twisted Sister’s “Twisted Christmas,” which was amusing but quickly became a novelty item that I pulled out for a laugh when friends were over. Therefore, I was surprised with the quality of “Winter Songs” as Halford has produced a decent album with minimal cheesiness.
The album kicks off with “Get Into The Spirit,” a song that really doesn’t reference Christmas at all and could have gone on any other Halford or Priest albums. Halford’s "Painkiller"-esque vocals are in full force backed by chugging metal riffs and squealing lead guitars. The next two tracks are traditional Christmas carols, which Halford sings straight up. There is enough fast riffage and use of minor keys to keep these songs “metal.” The “We Three Kings” intro even has a pretty satifsfying Iron Maiden style intro and Roy Z and Co. provide a great galloping rhythm to “Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel,” which transforms a rather somber carol into a solid rocker.
“Winter Song” is a cover of a Sara Barreilles song, which is faithful to the original with a piano backing up Rob Halford’s vocals. It’s a slow ballad but after blasting through the first three tracks, the change of pace makes sense. “What Child Is This” is also sung respectfully with primarily acoustic guitar accompaniment.
The middle of this disc consists of three Halford originals that stray from the traditional songs and I was worried he couldn't pull it off. “Christmas for Everyone” starts of with chimes and jingle bells and doesn’t pretend to be anything but a Christmas song. It has a 1950s rock ‘n’ roll vibe to it that reminded me slightly of George Thorogood and the lyrics deal with the joys of Christmas. It’s actually a pretty solid tune, but if you hated the idea of Halford recording a seasonal album, this track will definitely piss you off. I got a similar impression from “I Don’t Care,” which deals with the hassle of getting home for Christmas and is punk-tinged rock.
“Light of the World” is another ballad, which makes heavy use of strings and is eerily reminiscent of “White Album”-era Beatles. Black metallers and Satanists beware – I believe this song is about Jesus, but it’s up for interpretation. Finally, we come to the last two tracks in the album “Oh Holy Night” and “Come All Ye Faithful.” This is where Halford really shines as these songs are truly suited to his vocal style and he nails the high notes. I might actually consider attending midnight mass if Halford would rise from the pulpit belting out these songs.
Overall this album is a pleasant surprise, although with only 10 tracks it is somewhat short. That might be 10 tracks too many for some, but I would have liked to hear what he can do with “Angels (of Retribution?) We Have Heard on High.” Essentially, if you love Rob Halford’s singing and you don’t mind Christmas music, pick up this album, grab a rum and eggnog and kick off the season with the Metal God himself.
Highs: Rob Halford makes the most of the soaring choruses in these traditional songs.
Lows: It’s Rob Halford doing Christmas songs so if you’re a Grinch and hate Christmas music, you won’t like this disc.
Bottom line: Halford puts in a strong effort to make a metal Christmas album that’s pretty tasteful and fun at the same time.
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