We Wish You A Metal Xmas…And A Headbanging New Year (2008, Armoury/Eagle Rock)
- We Wish You A Merry Xmas – (Jeff Scott Soto, Bruce Kulick, Bob Kulick, Chris Wyse, Ray Luzier)
- Run Rudolph Run – (Lemmy Kilmister, Billy Gibbons, Dave Grohl)
- Santa Claws Is Coming To Town – (Alice Cooper, John 5, Billy Sheehan, Vinny Appice)
- God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – (Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, Rudy Sarzo, Simon Wright)
- Silver Bells – (Geoff Tate, Carlos Cavazo, James Lomenzo, Ray Luzier)
- Little Drummer Boy – (Dug Pinnick, George Lynch, Billy Sheehan, Simon Phillips)
- Santa Claus Is Back In Town – (Tim Owens, Steve Morse, Juan Garcia, Marco Mendoza, Vinny Appice)
- Silent Night – (Chuck Billy, Scott Ian, Jon Donais, Chris Wyse, John Tempesta)
- Deck The Halls – (Oni Logan, Craig Goldy, Tony Franklin, John Tempesta)
- Grandma Got Ran Over By A Reindeer – (Stephen Pearcy, Tracii Guns, Bob Kulick, Billy Sheehan, Greg Bissonette)
- Rockin’ Around The Xmas Tree – (Joe Lynn Turner, Bruce Kulick, Bob Kulick, Rudy Sarzo, Simon Wright)
- Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – (Tommy Shaw, Steve Lukather, Marco Mendoza, Kenny Aronoff)
Executive Producer: Wendy Dio
Produced by: Bob Kulick & Brett Chassen
Total Time = 51:15
It seems that Xmas Metal records are the new trend of the last few years with releases from Bobnoxious, Twisted Sister and Helix. From the minds of Wendy Dio and Bob Kulick, now we have an all-star Xmas Metal record with such legends as Ronnie James Dio, Alice Cooper, Tony Iommi, Billy Gibbons and Lemmy Kilmister all bringing us holiday cheer.
At first glance, WE WISH YOU A METAL XMAS looks like many of the tribute albums that flooded the market in the late ’90s. You had the all-star lineups of diverse musicians, from different genres, collaborating on many of the biggest hits from the likes of KISS, Queen and Alice Cooper under the watchful eye of producer/guitarist Bob Kulick. Now that I think about it, tribute albums were a dime a dozen in the ’90s and Kulick produced many of them, the difference is that he seems to have the right touch when putting it all together.
‘We Wish You A Merry Xmas’ starts off the album and I have never liked this song because of the line about “figgy pudding” and sounds silly to hear Jeff Scott Soto (one of my favorite singers) sing it. If I put that line aside, the overall song is pretty good with solid guitarwork from the Kulick brothers but Soto does sound a little restrained. Up next is the Chuck Berry standard ‘Run Rudolph Run’ with Mr. Kilmister’s scratchy vocals and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons offering up his superb guitar. The track works well because it has that basic Rock ‘n’ Roll feel, the guys don’t try to do too much with it because it’s just a simple Blues-based tune. Best song on the album has to go to the Alice Cooper sung ‘Santa Claws Is Coming To Town’. It’s one of those simple traditional favorites that everyone knows but Alice makes it his own by changing a few lyrics and the arrangement to give it that eerie, sinister, tongue-in-cheek Alice Cooper vibe. There’s a great rhythm section here with Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big/DLR) and Vinny Appice (Dio/Black Sabbath).
‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ is Sabbath-ed up with Dio & Iommi doing their best to add the Doom to this traditional Christian song. Joing them in the task is Dio band alums Sarzo and Wright but all they really do is keep time. This cover is just plain awful. First, Dio sounds like he’s trying too hard to add his own style to it, especially with his inflection of the words. It works on ‘Children Of The Sea’ and ‘The Sign Of The Southern Cross’ but on this song? Second, the song just keeps going and you get the idea pretty quickly. Iommi’s heaviness actually fits the song well but it still seems out of place because of the vocal. Another subpar vocal shows up on ‘Silver Bells’ because Geoff Tate’s voice hasn’t sounded good since Queensryche released PROMISED LAND in 1994, it’s been obvious over the last 14 years that he has lost a lot of range in the higher register. I did like former Quiet Riot axeman Carlos Cavazo’s guitar solo though. Moving on to ‘Little Drummer Boy’, Simon Phillips puts in a solid performance on the skins and Sheehan is there to help keep it together while George Lynch shows some flash. I was a little worried about Dug (Doug?) Pinnick’s vocal because his voice sometimes puts me off. The cool thing is that he did a great job and put in a better performance than some of the more recognizable singers (Soto, Dio, Tate). I thought I would hate this track but it turns out it’s one of the ones I like the most.
‘Santa Claus Is Back In Town’ is metalled up with Ripper Owens hitting his trademark Halford highs and Agent Steel’s Juan Garcia ripping it on guitar. This an OK song, I don’t like it or dislike it, it just doesn’t stand out. The only thing I thought stood out was the backing vocals that sang “Christmas” over and over. For some reason, I thought that was cool. Now if this song didn’t stand out, the Thrash version of ‘Silent Night’ certainly does. Testament’s Chuck Billy adds his snarling Metal growl to Scott Ian’s (Anthrax) frenetic guitar while John Tempesta pounds his double bass kit. It’s definitely a different take on a religious classic. I liked ‘Deck The Halls’ even though it’s really just a simple interpretation of the original. I have always liked Craig Goldy’s guitar playing and he adds a little DREAM EVIL Dio-era playing to the song while Oni Logan (Lynch Mob) still sounds so smooth on the mic. Add the solid rhythm section of the legendary Tony Franklin and Tempesta and the performance sounds the most like a real band.
I have never liked the Elmo & Patsy version of ‘Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer so I knew that I wouldn’t like this song right off the bat. The weird thing is that the music is pretty good with Bob Kulick and Tracii Guns trading leads and former Diamond Dave cohorts Billy Sheehan and Greg Bissonette handling the back end but who is that singing? At first I had no idea it was Stephen Pearcy because he didn’t sound anything like his former Ratt ‘n’ Roll self. His voice is shot but the silliness of this novelty tune fits his personality…..I was right, I still don’t like it. ‘Rockin’ Around The Xmas Tree’ is sped up a bit with the Kulick brothers doing their thing and the Dio alumni rhythm section of Sarzo/Wright keeping time, the best thing about this song is Joe Lynn Turner’s smooth delivery. I’m not surprised by JLT’s performance, his vocals have always been top notch and he seems to just keep getting better. The closing song is the John Lennon classic ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ done by the team of Tommy Shaw (Styx), Steve Lukather (Toto), Marco Mendoza (too many bands to name) and Kenny Aronoff (more than Marco Mendoza). The original is overplayed and I get sick of the children’s choir, this simple remake is a little more to my liking. It’s good to hear Steve Lukather, he’s a great guitarist, and Tommy Shaw is a solid singer but the thing missing is some vocal harmonies. Tommy Shaw is always paired with another strong singer and that adds to his overall sound when is comes to harmonies and backing tracks. I think that this song would benefit from some contributions from another proven singer just to enhance things.
Overall, a good album. The music is very good on every song, that’s what happens when you get all-star musicians, but it’s the vocals and arrangement that make the songs stand out. I don’t like putting it all on the singers but the most identifiable part of any song is how it’s sung and that can make or break any musical performance. There are enough good versions of these holiday classics to make it worth checking out but be aware that there are a couple of duds. It’s a fun album and that’s the whole point.
Favorite Songs: ‘Run Rudolph Run’, ‘Santa Claws Is Coming To Town’, ‘Rockin’ Around The Xmas Tree’, ‘Deck the Halls’