JUDAS PRIEST singer Rob Halford has released his version of the Christmas carol "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing". The track will appear on his all-new album, titled "Celestial", which will arrive on October 18 via Legacy Recordings.
Without question, Halford is one of heavy metal's all-time great vocalists — as heard through his highly influential and groundbreaking work with JUDAS PRIEST. But over his career, he has also proven able to master a variety of other styles vocally — including holiday-themed music.
"Celestial" is also available for pre-order on Rob's artist store — with exclusive merchandise and a limited, autographed metallic-gold color version of the vinyl.
Credited to ROB HALFORD WITH FAMILY & FRIENDS, the album mixes holiday classics with all-new compositions, and will appeal to lovers of traditional holiday music and headbangers alike.
"The great thing about heavy metal is it's got these kinds of multiple dimensions," explains the man also known as the Metal God. "I think when you look at it from an outside point of view — if you're not really familiar with the metal scene — it can look pretty intimidating. And it is a very strong, powerful experience. But it comes at different levels. I think the music that we've made on 'Celestial', for example, gives a display of that. Metal maniacs — as we call ourselves — are just as ready for the holidays as everybody else. And what we've tried to do with this music is to reach out to as many of those metal dimensions as we possibly can."
And judging from the ROB HALFORD WITH FAMILY & FRIENDS banner, "Celestial" sees Halford joined by a supporting cast of those very close to him — his brother (Nigel) on drums, his nephew on bass (Alex, son of PRIEST bassist Ian Hill), has sister (Sue) on bells, and twin guitar tandem of Robert Jones and Jon Blakey.
Once all the contributors were in place, Halford "went away and listened to a lot holiday music and Christmas carols. Traditional stuff. 12 tracks — including original tracks that I'm particularly excited about. And in that way, because of the dimensions of each song and the messages of each song, I think we cover a really broad platform. To me, more than anything, I wanted it to have its own characteristics and be a little bit more different than the regular rock 'n' roll Christmas album."
Halford has certainly accomplished this goal, as evidenced by such standout originals as the album-opening title track, "Donner And Blitzen", and "Protected By The Light", as well as reworkings of such holiday standards as "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen", "Joy To The World" and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing", among other standouts. "'Donner And Blitzen' gets the snowball rolling for 'Celestial' — a song full of excitement, love and hope," says Rob. "You can hear and feel the power of Christmas time — energy roarin' with rockin' reindeers haulin'!
"I think the holidays for any family are a mixture of fun and excitement and apprehension of the whole event," he continues. "The magic of it more than anything else. It's just a beautiful time of year — which a lot of us wish would be for every day of the year. It's a beautiful thing as far as bringing families together. So, what better way to celebrate it than with your family, friends...and music. You must have music at Christmas time."
"Celestial" track listing:
01. Celestial [new song]
02. Donner And Blitzen [new song]
03. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
04. Away In A Manger
05. Morning Star [new song]
06. Deck The Halls
07. Joy To The World
08. O Little Town Of Bethlehem
09. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
10. The First Noel
11. Good King Wenceslas
12. Protected By The Light [new song]
HALFORD's first holiday CD, "Halford III - Winter Songs", came out in 2009. The disc was a collection of new Halford-penned tracks plus traditional holiday favorites presented with original arrangements by HALFORD (Rob Halford on vocals, Roy Z. on guitar, Metal Mike Chlasciak on guitar, Mike Davis on bass and Bobby Jarzombek on drums).
In a 2009 interview with Exclaim.ca, Rob stated about his decision to record a Christmas album with the HALFORD band: "Just by association, I think that when everybody heard that the Metal God was doing a Christmas album, they had a sharp taking [in] of breath. But that's to be expected. The fact of the matter is that I've the luxury of a solo career that lets me do the unexpected. Having said that, like everybody else, I just love the Christmas holidays. I do the same things that everyone else does. In my mind, it's not that much of a stretch.
"I did this for a few reasons but the main genesis was a moment for me personally to express myself in a way that I've never done before," he continued. "I just want to do what's important to me. As a musician, that's the way it should be. You stand by your choices. It just took a while to get to the point where we all wanted to do it. Once that decision was made, we ran with it.
"When you're covering such great composers, it's inspiring to have the opportunity to cover work that's already established and given various kinds of treatments," he said. "And for you to enjoy the challenge of putting your distinctive approach on the arrangements. That was important for us when we put this together: to make sure we could give it the HALFORD band stamp."
Regarding the band's ability to pen some thematically similar yet equally epic and raucous originals for the Christmas record, Rob said: "When we first agreed to do this type of record, there wasn't any inclination to go into self-composing mode because there's so much great material already out there. But the ideas started to flow forth and we were all so excited and inspired by the music we were covering that it was natural to be motivated and noodle around with ideas that came. You feed off each other's creativity. It was unexpected but it was great. It was a treat to show that as a band, we can also step forward in the spirit of the season and make music that fits with everything else we've done."