Halford III: Winter Songs

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At first glance, Halford's entry into the crowded holiday market looks like a parody. Heavy metal and Christmas make for strange bedfellows, and Winter Songs' pastoral cover art -- which depicts Rob Halford staring wistfully (with a goatee and shades) into a soft, snowy pine forest -- screams Spinal Tap. That said, the Judas Priest frontman approaches yuletide standards like "We Three Kings" and "What Child Is This?" with the same conviction that he applied to Priest classics like "Electric Eye" and "Freewheel Burning" -- it probably helps that most traditional Christmas hymns tend to fall into the same brooding minor keys that serve as the foundation for most, if not all, heavy metal songs. While Winter Songs, like Twisted Sister's excellent 2006 Twisted Christmas collection, may not be mainstream enough for the department store Santa kiosk, it's a surprisingly cohesive and listenable addition to the genre -- and if skillfully disguised in a Mannheim Steamroller jewel case, it could make Christmas morning truly joyful.

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