"Angel of Retribution" and *gulp* "Nostradamus". So when he finally got the time to create another album with Halford, he gave us another great curve ball, by making a Christmas album instead. That is right, Rob made a freaking Christmas album. I guess I should be glad that the rest of Judas Priest did not tag along for this ride, but still, weird as hell.
"Halford III: Winter Songs" consists of half original material, written either solely by Halford or together with guitarist Roy Z and producer John Baxter, and metalized versions of classic Christmas songs. All of this brings up one single question. Why? Why would he want to do this? It is pure fact that metal and Christmas rarely go along, especially not for an entire album. During my life, I have heard some good renditions of Christmas songs, like King Diamond's "No Present For Christmas", or a black metal version of "Silent Night", but when someone tries to bring metal into this jolly holiday, it usually ends in a crash that is worse than a Christmas light tangle.
As it turns out though, "Winter Songs" is not completely horrible. By all means, it is not a great record, but it does stay afloat. In fact, if you just listen to it, not thinking about the lyrics or the theme at all, you barely would notice that this is a Christmas record. Halford made sure that the heavy attitude were in the front, and that the jolly spirit would get its space, but not take over completely, making this a true metal record. Sure, we have some slip ups here and there where Christmas takes over too much, but they are few, especially when compared to what others have done. So this is indeed a Christmas record, but the music does not suffer because of it.
Let us start with the re worked songs, which all 6 are more or less well known christian psalms that is often heard of during the holiday. Who has not heard of "Oh Holy Night", "Come All Ye Faithful" and "What Child Is This?"? Not surprisingly, these re works are fairly dull, just the same songs with some heavy guitars added to them. The only one I really dig is "We Three Kings", a song that Steve Ouimette already proved could be metalized brilliantly. Only differences between these two versions are that the Halford version has vocals, and that it has a lot less shredding, but it is still really enjoyable when Roy Z and Mike Chlasciak battle it out. Clearly the front runner among the re worked songs.
When it comes to the original songs, we got a really mixed bag of different styles and sounds. There are only 4 original songs, but they are all completely different from each other. "Get Into The Spirit" starts off the album, and is the heaviest song of the album, only utilizing Rob's patented falsetto in a fairly slow, but heavy, tempo. A cool song that does what the name suggests. Skipping to "Christmas For Everyone", and we got a complete rip off of classic, christian Christmas music. It is hard to believe that this is an original song, but it is, and it is so weird. "Light of The World" could also be considered as a classic Christmas tune, but it is more normal, more modern, and it suits the band much better. Finally, we have "I Don't Care", which could be best described as Alice Cooper in a Santa suit. Yep, not what you would expect from Halford.
If you are tired of "White Christmas", "Do They Know It's Christmas", or that Christmas song by The Darkness, then "Halford III: Winter Songs" might be a suitable substitute for you, but just like any other Christmas themed album made by a rock or metal band, it is kind of meh. Sure, it is one of the better albums I have heard, but it is still far from a master piece, especially since there is no sensible reason to even make it. Maybe Rob tried to play Santa and give everyone a lovely gift, and the thought really counts here, but I am sure that we all would have loved a real album underneath our Christmas trees instead.
So from all of us here at Forsaken At The Gates, to all of you, a very merry Christmas... 5 months in advance.
Songs worthy of recognition: We Three Kings, Get Into The Spirit, Light of The World
Rating: 6/10 Faithfuls