Metal God, 2009
Since it’s holiday time, I’m going to break with tradition here and feature an album despite no plans to promote it here in the Twin Cities. Rob Halford has resurrected his Halford band for an unexpected Christmas-themed album that succeeds in delivering a serious album suitable for any fan of Judas Priest. Winter Songs features five original songs and five Christmas standards. My favorite aspect of the Christmas standards is that these aren’t tongue-in-cheek joke versions. Halford treats these with respect (not reverence, like Trans-Siberian Orchestra) while arranging them into enjoyable, rocking songs. “We Three Kings” gallops along with a classic heavy metal rhythm, and “Oh Come O Come Emanuel” sounds like it meant to have guitar solos all over the place. “What Child Is This?” and “Oh Holy Night” are treated to a more traditional, grand interpretation, while “Come All Ye Faithful” is a bit subdued to wind the album down. The original song “Get Into The Spirit” opens the album with a speed metal intensity that reminds of Virgin Steele with its unrelenting, driving rhythm. “Winter Song” is the clear highlight of the album, a sad ballad about experiencing the emptiness of a lost love during the holiday season. It’s hard not to be touched by this song, and it’s probably the greatest ballad Rob has written. The remaining three originals are enjoyable, but frankly don’t hold up as well as the other seven tracks. Everything Rob Halford touches oozes with quality, and one listen to Winter Songs tells you that this isn’t a quick, slap-dash affair in the quest for a quick buck. The band performing this album is outstanding, including Roy Z. and “Metal” Mike Chlasciak on guitars and Bobby Jarzombek on drums. If you enjoy Christmas music this time of year and aren’t sickened by the thought of Halford performing a diversionary release, you should thoroughly enjoy Winter Songs. This has turned out to be one of the most pleasantly surprising releases of the year.