Metal Hammer (UK)
ROB halford gets into the Christmas spirit, with a little help from his friends.
The Metal God gets into the festive mood
If your first reaction on seeing this was, “Gah! Another metal Christmas album? Bah humbug!” then move along; there’s nothing here for you. But yes, this is another metal Christmas album, released by the Metal God himself with the help of his family (brother Nigel on drums, nephew Alex on bass, sister Sue on bells), and friends Robert Jones and Jon Blakey on guitar. A formula has emerged for this sort of endeavour, where bands transform traditional holiday carols into rousing, guitar-powered bangers, usually with mixed results. Halford states, “I wanted [Celestial] to… be a little bit more different than the regular rock’n’roll Christmas album.” In that sense, it succeeds; while some tracks do feel formulaic, others reveal a gratifying sense of ambition and downright cheeriness.
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and Deck The Halls take on a new, lighter-raising vitality, with sledgehammer riffs and driving, 4/4 tempos. More inventive moments emerge in the bluesy slide guitar and haunted vocals of Away In A Manger, which feels more like a death row requiem than a Christmas carol.
O Little Town Of Bethlehem and Good King Wenceslas take on proggy acoustic textures and captivating melodic progressions.
Most interesting are the originals. Morning Star
serves up a sugary slice of holiday pop, with a traditional vocal and country-tinged verses. Closer Protected By The Light is a sweetly affecting and unapologetically sentimental ode, complete with organs, bells and whistles.
Is Celestial a gimmick? Absolutely, but that doesn’t detract from its charms, fitting the joyful optimism of the originals into a polished modern metal framework. Celestial will delight metalheads while not scaring off the kids as they open their presents on Christmas morning. Ho ho ho!
FOR FANS OF: Trans Siberian Orchestra, Dio, Santa Claus