Forty-some years into his life as a verified metal god, it probably seemed like as good a time as any for Rob Halford to make a Christmas album. As the singer for Judas Priest, Halford's distinctive and versatile voice screamed, growled and wheezed through some of the most recognizable hard rock anthems of all time. Instantly recognizable, Halford's singing came to embody all the danger, rebellion, and hedonism that heavy metal itself strived for. There's an hefty dose of self-awareness and irony in Celestial, a collection of metalized Christmas carols and traditional holiday tunes, and a few Halford originals in the holiday vein. The raging and sinister "Donner and Blitzen" is one such original, and its over-the-top production, heavy-handed delivery, and retro riffing come dangerously close to parody. Halford's multi-tracked vocals are as powerful as ever, and save the song from devolving into camp. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," "Joy to the World," and others get the full-on Judas Priest treatment, complete with chugging guitars, guitar whiz solos, and cowbell keeping time in tandem with sleigh bells. Digesting an entire album's worth of this kind of hard rock holiday fare is a challenge, but taken a song or two at a time, Celestial is a fun reimagining of holiday and metalhead traditions alike.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas