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Who would have honestly thought that a Rob Halford holiday album would be superior to his latest effort with Judas Priest? When I first heard about this release, I cringed, as it seemed like an awkward and poor decision. I was expecting Rob to lend his voice to more traditional versions of these songs, but it turns out that he has metalized each of the covers, more or less successfully.
Winter Songs features a mix of classics and new originals, and at the very least, you could say Rob's voice is still in fine form. Most of the traditional tunes like "We Three Kings", "What Child is This", and "Come All Ye Faithful", sound much like you'd expect a metal cover to sound like. The vocal melodies remain the same as ever, but having Halford's cutting shriek atop them is not a horrible interpretation. As for the originals, it's a mixed bag. "Get Into the Spirit" features some good melodic lines and the more aggressive vocal edge ala Painkiller, all dowsing the low end groove and chug of the Halford solo albums. "Winter Song" is a passeable ballad with a 70s atmosphere, Rob's voice wavering over bells and bluesy solos. The rest of the album is hardly worth mentioning.
On paper this idea may have seemed corny, but the finished product is not nearly as bad as it could have been. The mix seems a little lo-fi, but I wouldn't expect much effort for an album of this sort, released largely for fun and probably, because Rob always wanted to lend his voice to these tunes. Do the songs live up to the great pair of solo albums he's released, or the Priest discography up to and including 1990? Absolutely not. But it's a lot less disappointing than Nostradamus.
Highlights: Get Into the Spirit, We Three Kings, What Child Is This