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Twisted Sister - "A Twisted Christmas" (CD)

Twisted Sister - "A Twisted Christmas" CD cover image

"A Twisted Christmas" track listing:

1. Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
2. Oh Come All Ye Faithful
3. White Christmas
4. I'll Be Home For Christmas (featuring Lita Ford)
5. Silver Bells
6. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
7. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow
8. Deck The Halls
9. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)
10. Heavy Metal Christmas (The Twelve Days Of Christmas)
11. We Wish You A Merry Christmas

Reviewed by on November 16, 2009

"Best appreciated with a sloshing mug of eggnog (or maybe after throwing back a few eggnogs), Twisted Sister's 'A Twisted Christmas' is just the thing to put the happy in a headbanger's holidays."

As we look forward to lifting a mug of eggnog to Rob Halford's "Halford III: Winter Songs" this holiday season, it's probably a good idea to take a look back at the album that spawned the current wave of heavy metal Christmas albums.

Twisted Sister was basically twisting in the wind in terms of coming up with anything creative since their mid-1980s heyday. Sure, those European festivals and nostalgia tours pay well, but in terms of coming up with anything new, the well had been dry for a while. Then came the announcement that in 2006, Dee Snider and the guys were going to release a Christmas album. What in the name of Frosty the Snowman were they thinking? Most metalheads I know shook their heads sadly when they heard the news. After all, how could an album that married the happiest of holidays with the hellish harmonies of metal actually be any good?

With "A Twisted Christmas," Twisted Sister showed us that it could be done simply by (mostly) taking the songs seriously. And that means that there's plenty of space among the mistletoe and merriment for some serious rocking out.

The disc's weakest track by far is the opener, "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," which begins with a "serious" rendition of the song that naturally comes to a grinding halt when Dee Snider has to be reminded that Twisted Sister plays things "nice and twisted!" Then of course the song gets cranked up to 11, particularly in a punky segment at the end. Granted, the sheer fury of the punk part was fun, but the jokey opening is, frankly, terrible.

"Oh Come All Ye Faithful" gives Snider the chance to prove his statement that "We're Not Gonna Take It" was in fact based on the old Christmas hymn. It works amazingly well, with Eddie Ojeda playing the "We're Not Gonna Take It" tag at the end of his guitar solo. Any metalhead not smiling during this one is a Scrooge, I say.

"White Christmas" gallops along at a speed that would have Bing Crosby holding on for dear life. This song has two of Ojeda's best solos, but Snider struggles to hit a few notes at the end. But hey, that's metal for you.

"I'll Be Home For Christmas" comes perilously close to 80's power ballad territory — as it should. Lita Ford guests here and gives the track just the right amount of "Close My Eyes Forever" vibe. It's mournful enough for those who'll be sleeping off their office party hangovers while Santa makes his rounds.

My favorite song on the disc, "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow," marries the old Christmas chestnut to a riff borrowed from Black Sabbath's "Children Of The Grave" to great effect. If you never thought you'd be headbanging to the sound of sleigh bells, this is the track that'll put that thought to rest.

One thing that I found somewhat curious about the disc was how free Twisted Sister felt to "borrow" riffs from other bands in creating these metal versions of Christmas favorites. "Deck The Halls" is very much Sabbath's "Never Say Die" mixed with "War Pigs" (though Mark Mendoza's bass part in the slightly creepy "God Bless Ye Merry Gentlemen" interlude is good enough to forgive the thievery). "Silver Bells" sounds very close to AC/DC's "Problem Child," and I don't think there's a metalhead out there who won't recognize the opening to Judas Priest's "You've Got Another Thing Comin'" when it serves to open "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus." I'll leave it to the reader to determine whether it's a homage or a rip-off.

Trust me when I say that you won't hear anything funnier this year than "Heavy Metal Christmas," which exchanges pentagrams, hairspray and "a tattoo of Ozzy" for the typical partridge in a pear tree. By this time, the band has built up enough goodwill that the joke doesn't feel forced.

That said, everyone in the band puts in a stellar performance, with bassist Mark Mendoza particularly shining. His bass licks slither through most of the songs in ways that remind me quite a lot of Black Sabbath's Geezer Butler.

I've yet to hear Halford's Christmas album, but I did listen to the "We Wish You A Metal Xmas And A Headbanging New Year" disc that came out a year ago, and this towers over everything on that disc with the possible exception of Tony Iommi and Ronnie James Dio's doom metal take on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," and Lemmy Kilmister, Dave Grohl and Billy Gibbons' rollicking "Run, Run, Rudolph."

Best appreciated with a sloshing mug of eggnog (or maybe after throwing back a few eggnogs), Twisted Sister's "A Twisted Christmas" is just the thing to put the happy in a headbanger's holidays.

Highs: "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow," "I'll Be Home For Christmas," and "White Christmas."

Lows: "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas;" a tendency to "borrow" riffs from other bands' hits.

Bottom line: A superb headbanging holiday album.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)