WANTED: Glenn Hughes – A Soulful Christmas (2000)

WANTED

Glenn Hughes – A Soulful Christmas (2000)

In keeping with the holiday season, I’m on the hunt for Christmas albums from Hard Rock & Heavy Metal bands. One of the greatest singers of all-time, and one of my favorites, Glenn Hughes, released this holiday album back in 20o0 on his own label – Pink Cloud Records. As with many independent releases, this CD was produced in limited quantities and it’s now out of print. The good news is that many of Glenn’s independently released albums, including A SOULFUL CHRISTMAS, is available for digital download at iTunes & Amazon. I’m a collector so I prefer to buy the actual CD but it ranges anywhere from $50-$150 on Ebay depending on the seller. That kind of price might force me to download my first album ever from iTunes! This isn’t a major priority to buy (yet!) so I can afford to wait and see if I can track down a CD at a decent price.

 

WANTED: Billy Idol – Happy Holidays (2006)

WANTED

 Billy Idol – Happy Holidays (2006)

It’s that time of year again…..Christmas time! I’m a sucker for holiday albums and holiday music so finding out that Billy Idol released a holiday album a couple years ago places it at the top of my holiday list! Who doesn’t want to hear Billy Idol sing ‘Frosty The Snowman’, ‘White Christmas’ or ‘Jingle Bell Rock’? The album has 17 holiday classics and it’s a definite if you are a fan of different holiday albums. Look at that album cover! It’s priceless…..worth the price paid just to see Billy in his suit jacket! Usually this runs between $15 -$25 depending on the seller and location. The international version has a different cover but the same tracklisting.

Halford III – Winter Songs (2009)

halfordIII - wintersongs

Halford III – Winter Songs (2009, Metal God Records)

  1. Get Into The Spirit
  2. We Three Kings
  3. Oh Come O Come Emanuel
  4. Winter Song
  5. What Child Is This?
  6. Christmas For Everyone
  7. I Don’t Care
  8. Light Of The World
  9. Oh Holy Night
  10. Come All Ye Faithful

Band Lineup:
Rob Halford – Vocals
Roy Z. – Guitars
‘Metal’ Mike Chlasciak – Guitars
Mike Davis – Bass
Bobby Jarzombek – Drums
Ed Roth – Keyboards

Producer: Roy Z.

Country: USA/U.K.

Total Time = 41:24

Halford
Halford MySpace page

Aside from my Heavy Metal collecting, I have this obsession with Christmas music. As soon as Halloween passes every year I wait impatiently for the two lite rock radio stations in my area to switch over to their holiday format of ’round the clock Christmas music. I know it’s sickening to drive around singing ‘Here Comes Santa Claus’ two months before the big day but I do it! The other thing I like to do is collect holiday albums from Rock and Metal bands. It started with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra but I’ve added many holiday albums from other bands, the latest being the third studio effort from Halford – WINTER SONGS.

Most Metal fans see the name Rob Halford and immeadiately think of Judas Priest…..somehow I can’t see the Priest doing renditions of Christmas songs! The other thing you think of when you talk Rob Halford is his soaring vocals that have carried him through almost four decades of Metal mayhem…..again, soaring Metal vocals and Christmas songs seem polar opposites. I’m sure many fans out there have been asking themselves what Rob and his band are thinking. The Halford band has been one of the best new Metal bands over the last 9 years and the two studio albums the band released (RESURRECTION in 2000 & CRUCIBLE in 2002) are extremely good. So it’s natural to wonder why Rob Halford would take time off from his current tenure in Judas Priest and take his solo band on a journey of holiday originals and covers. The answer is simple: because he wants to! I’ve read many interviews over the years with Rob and he has always said that he would like to try and do different styles of music so why not do a holiday themed album?

The opening song ‘Get Into the Spirit’ sounds exactly like a regular Halford song: plenty of guitar, pounding drums and those trademark Rob Halford vocals. If you put this on either RESURRECTION or CRUCIBLE it would fit in with no problem. The traditional ‘We Three Kings’ has turned metallic and works really well with some really cool guitars solos added in for good measure, Halford’s voice fits the song well. Same with ‘Oh Come O Come Emanuel’, the metallic version Halford puts on it really fits the song and Rob starts to stretch that voice out a bit. The best song on the album for me is ‘Winter Song’, a song written and originally performed by Sara Bareilles. Halford is backed by a piano, acoustic guitar and some subtle percussion…..and that’s it! There really isn’t much to the song at first but it builds up with some orchestration and it’s really just a love song. The Metal God doing a love song? Well…..yeah and it’s goo too! I immeadiately noticed how versatile and good Rob’s singing voice is, he can basically sing whatever he wants and do it well. I’m so used to hearing him sing ‘Victim Of Changes’ or ‘Painkiller’ but he really nails this track down with plenty of emotion and melody. It may not be Metal but it is one of my favorite performances of halford’s entire career and I have been a long time fan.

The next 6 songs are half original material and half holiday classics. ‘What Child Is This?’ stays close to the original and has a very Trans-Siberian Orchestra sound to it…..I wonder if TSO producer Paul O’Neill will consider Rob for a new TSO holiday album? I really enjoy the guitar in this song as well. ‘Christmas For Everyone’ is a rocked up original that has this Pop feel to it, like a ’60s Beach Boys feel. Sounds weird doesn’t it? It’s definitely something different. Same thing with ‘I Don’t Care’, it’s different and sounds like something from years past, almost a kinship with the Judas Priest cover of ‘Johnny B. Goode’ from RAM IT DOWN in 1988. The track has that early Rock ‘n’ Roll sound to it but with Metal guitars. The last original is ‘Light Of The World’ and this is another great performance from Rob and the band. It’s a ballad with orchestration and acoustic guitars mixed with subdued electric, a very Progressive Rock sounding song in the same style as a Lana Lane, Rocket Scientists, or Ayreon. I could see ‘Light Of The World’ fitting in somewhere on Judas Priest’s last studio record NOSTRADAMUS because of that Progressive sound. The last two songs are traditional holiday songs, ‘Oh Holy Night’ and ‘Come All Ye Faithful’. Both songs are performed pretty much like the originals just with a more metallic base…..Rob’s vocals really soar throughout both songs and, if you look at the whole album, the vocals are superb on all the traditional holiday covers as well.

Bottom Line:
This is definitely something different from the Metal God but it’s also a solid effort. Halford’s voice is as versatile as it is powerful and he really puts in a masterful performance on the entire album, it makes me appreciate his singing even more. The Halford band is tight as ever and they are able to go from pure Metal to quieter, more subtle tones for some of the quieter songs. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the album because I wasn’t sure just how it would turn out, the Halford band and holiday music isn’t something you normally put together. I like all the songs on the album with maybe two originals (‘Christmas For Everyone’ & ‘I Don’t Care’) falling short of the high standard. They work well within the contaxt of the album but they are the weakest songs when compared to some of the majestic performances surrounding them. If Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Billy Idol and Twisted Sister can pull it off then a band as talented as halford can too. This is definitely a winner as far as holiday albums go and as for Halford albums go. It may not be the Metal of RESURRECTION but there is plenty here to please Metalheads and Christmas music fans alike.

Favorite Songs:
‘Winter Song’, ‘Light Of The World’, ‘Get Into The Spirit’, ‘We Three Kings’, ‘Oh Holy Night’

We Wish You A Metal Xmas…And A Headbanging New Year (2008)

we-wish-you-a-metal-xmas-2008

We Wish You A Metal Xmas…And A Headbanging New Year (2008, Armoury/Eagle Rock)

  1. We Wish You A Merry Xmas – (Jeff Scott Soto, Bruce Kulick, Bob Kulick, Chris Wyse, Ray Luzier)
  2. Run Rudolph Run – (Lemmy Kilmister, Billy Gibbons, Dave Grohl)
  3. Santa Claws Is Coming To Town – (Alice Cooper, John 5, Billy Sheehan, Vinny Appice)
  4. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – (Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, Rudy Sarzo, Simon Wright)
  5. Silver Bells – (Geoff Tate, Carlos Cavazo, James Lomenzo, Ray Luzier)
  6. Little Drummer Boy – (Dug Pinnick, George Lynch, Billy Sheehan, Simon Phillips)
  7. Santa Claus Is Back In Town – (Tim Owens, Steve Morse, Juan Garcia, Marco Mendoza, Vinny Appice)
  8. Silent Night – (Chuck Billy, Scott Ian, Jon Donais, Chris Wyse, John Tempesta)
  9. Deck The Halls – (Oni Logan, Craig Goldy, Tony Franklin, John Tempesta)
  10. Grandma Got Ran Over By A Reindeer – (Stephen Pearcy, Tracii Guns, Bob Kulick, Billy Sheehan, Greg Bissonette)
  11. Rockin’ Around The Xmas Tree – (Joe Lynn Turner, Bruce Kulick, Bob Kulick, Rudy Sarzo, Simon Wright)
  12. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – (Tommy Shaw, Steve Lukather, Marco Mendoza, Kenny Aronoff)

Executive Producer: Wendy Dio

Produced by: Bob Kulick & Brett Chassen

Total Time = 51:15

Eagle Rock Entertainment

It seems that Xmas Metal records are the new trend of the last few years with releases from Bobnoxious, Twisted Sister and Helix. From the minds of Wendy Dio and Bob Kulick, now we have an all-star Xmas Metal record with such legends as Ronnie James Dio, Alice Cooper, Tony Iommi, Billy Gibbons and Lemmy Kilmister all bringing us holiday cheer.

At first glance, WE WISH YOU A METAL XMAS looks like many of the tribute albums that flooded the market in the late ’90s. You had the all-star lineups of diverse musicians, from different genres, collaborating on many of the biggest hits from the likes of KISS, Queen and Alice Cooper under the watchful eye of producer/guitarist Bob Kulick. Now that I think about it, tribute albums were a dime a dozen in the ’90s and Kulick produced many of them, the difference is that he seems to have the right touch when putting it all together.

‘We Wish You A Merry Xmas’ starts off the album and I have never liked this song because of the line about “figgy pudding” and sounds silly to hear Jeff Scott Soto (one of my favorite singers) sing it. If I put that line aside, the overall song is pretty good with solid guitarwork from the Kulick brothers but Soto does sound a little restrained. Up next is the Chuck Berry standard ‘Run Rudolph Run’ with Mr. Kilmister’s scratchy vocals and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons offering up his superb guitar. The track works well because it has that basic Rock ‘n’ Roll feel, the guys don’t try to do too much with it because it’s just a simple Blues-based tune. Best song on the album has to go to the Alice Cooper sung ‘Santa Claws Is Coming To Town’. It’s one of those simple traditional favorites that everyone knows but Alice makes it his own by changing a few lyrics and the arrangement to give it that eerie, sinister, tongue-in-cheek Alice Cooper vibe. There’s a great rhythm section here with Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big/DLR) and Vinny Appice (Dio/Black Sabbath).

‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ is Sabbath-ed up with Dio & Iommi doing their best to add the Doom to this traditional Christian song. Joing them in the task is Dio band alums Sarzo and Wright but all they really do is keep time. This cover is just plain awful. First, Dio sounds like he’s trying too hard to add his own style to it, especially with his inflection of the words. It works on ‘Children Of The Sea’ and ‘The Sign Of The Southern Cross’ but on this song? Second, the song  just keeps going and you get the idea pretty quickly. Iommi’s heaviness actually fits the song well but it still seems out of place because of the vocal. Another subpar vocal shows up on ‘Silver Bells’ because Geoff Tate’s voice hasn’t sounded good since Queensryche released PROMISED LAND in 1994, it’s been obvious over the last 14 years that he has lost a lot of range in the higher register. I did like former Quiet Riot axeman Carlos Cavazo’s guitar solo though. Moving on to ‘Little Drummer Boy’, Simon Phillips puts in a solid performance on the skins and Sheehan is there to help keep it together while George Lynch shows some flash. I was a little worried about Dug (Doug?) Pinnick’s vocal because his voice sometimes puts me off. The cool thing is that he did a great job and put in a better performance than some of the more recognizable singers (Soto, Dio, Tate). I thought I would hate this track but it turns out it’s one of the ones I like the most.

‘Santa Claus Is Back In Town’ is metalled up with Ripper Owens hitting his trademark Halford highs and Agent Steel’s Juan Garcia ripping it on guitar. This an OK song, I don’t like it or dislike it, it just doesn’t stand out. The only thing I thought stood out was the backing vocals that sang “Christmas” over and over. For some reason, I thought that was cool. Now if this song didn’t stand out, the Thrash version of ‘Silent Night’ certainly does. Testament’s Chuck Billy adds his snarling Metal growl to Scott Ian’s (Anthrax) frenetic guitar while John Tempesta pounds his double bass kit. It’s definitely a different take on a religious classic. I liked ‘Deck The Halls’ even though it’s really just a simple interpretation of the original. I have always liked Craig Goldy’s guitar playing and he adds a little DREAM EVIL Dio-era playing to the song while Oni Logan (Lynch Mob) still sounds so smooth on the mic. Add the solid rhythm section of the legendary Tony Franklin and Tempesta and the performance sounds the most like a real band.

I have never liked the Elmo & Patsy version of ‘Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer so I knew that I wouldn’t like this song right off the bat. The weird thing is that the music is pretty good with Bob Kulick and Tracii Guns trading leads and former Diamond Dave cohorts Billy Sheehan and Greg Bissonette handling the back end but who is that singing? At first I had no idea it was Stephen Pearcy because he didn’t sound anything like his former Ratt ‘n’ Roll self. His voice is shot but the silliness of this novelty tune fits his personality…..I was right, I still don’t like it. ‘Rockin’ Around The Xmas Tree’ is sped up a bit with the Kulick brothers doing their thing and the Dio alumni rhythm section of Sarzo/Wright keeping time, the best thing about this song is Joe Lynn Turner’s smooth delivery. I’m not surprised by JLT’s performance, his vocals have always been top notch and he seems to just keep getting better. The closing song is the John Lennon classic ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ done by the team of Tommy Shaw (Styx), Steve Lukather (Toto), Marco Mendoza (too many bands to name) and Kenny Aronoff (more than Marco Mendoza). The original is overplayed and I get sick of the children’s choir, this simple remake is a little more to my liking. It’s good to hear Steve Lukather, he’s a great guitarist, and Tommy Shaw is a solid singer but the thing missing is some vocal harmonies. Tommy Shaw is always paired with another strong singer and that adds to his overall sound when is comes to harmonies and backing tracks. I think that this song would benefit from some contributions from another proven singer just to enhance things.

Bottom Line:
Overall, a good album. The music is very good on every song, that’s what happens when you get all-star musicians, but it’s the vocals and arrangement that make the songs stand out. I don’t like putting it all on the singers but the most identifiable part of any song is how it’s sung and that can make or break any musical performance. There are enough good versions of these holiday classics to make it worth checking out but be aware that there are a couple of duds. It’s a fun album and that’s the whole point.

Favorite Songs: ‘Run Rudolph Run’, ‘Santa Claws Is Coming To Town’, ‘Rockin’ Around The Xmas Tree’, ‘Deck the Halls’

Twisted Sister – ‘Silver Bells’ & ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’ (featuring Lita Ford) (videos, 2008)

Time to get into the holiday spirit! Here’s two more Xmas videos from Twisted Sister’s A TWISTED CHRISTMAS. Look for Lita Ford’s husband, former Nitro vocalist Jim Gillette, in the 2nd video.

‘Silver Bells’

‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’

WANTED: .38 Special – A Wild-Eyed Christmas Night (2001)

WANTED

38-special-xmas-cd1

 

.38 Special – A Wild-Eyed Christmas Night (2001)

I’ve been a fan of .38 Special since 1982 when SPECIAL FORCES was released and ‘Caught Up In You’ was all over the radio and MTV. I stopped buying .38 Special albums in 1988 when Don Barnes left the band and Max Carl took over lead vocals on ROCK & ROLL STRATEGY. Over the years, I’ve seemed to acquire almost all the .38 Special albums except this holiday album. I’ve had this one on the list for a long time but I’ve only seen it once in the stores. About two years ago I saw this CD in a used bin for $15…..not worth it. I’m in the holiday spirit so I’m hoping to buy this before this Christmas.

Interview with Brian Vollmer of Helix

Helix has a new album out now called A HEAVY MENTAL CHRISTMAS and I had the opportunity to ask founding member/lead singer Brian Vollmer a few questions…..

12 Questions with Brian Vollmer of Helix

Santa Vollmer

HMA — Helix has a brand new album out called A HEAVY MENTAL CHRISTMAS, please tell us about the new record.

Brian Vollmer — The idea for the CD came about while I was out to dinner with Mitch Lafon of Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles when we played in Montreal last summer. When I bounced the idea off Gord Prior (my business/writing partner) he took the idea to Wal-Mart, and from there to the recording studio.

helix-xmas-cd

HMA — The Trans-Siberian Orchestra has enjoyed great success with Christmas themed Rock operas since 1996 and Twisted Sister has also released a highly successful Christmas Rock record and DVD in the last couple of years. Did those bands’ success with this concept influence you to follow the same idea?

BV — Personally, I think it’s a great idea! Yes. Really though, the idea has been around since Bing Crosby, etc. One of my favorite CDs of all time is James Brown’s Christmas CD.

With our CD we’ve tried to keep the “Christmas Spirit” in the tracks as well as the Helix “sound”. On the surface the songs sound very simple, but if you listen closely to what the guitars, bass, and drums are doing and compare that to the original songs, there’s a hellva lot going on. Paul McCartney’s original ” Wonderful Christmas Time” for instance, really doesn’t even have a rhythm section. Gord says the original rhythm is based on “wishes and bubbles”. The John Lennon song “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” is another example of a song which we’ve stripped down and presented as a metal power ballad of sorts. I’m singing John’s part and Yoko’s part. At first I didn’t even want to touch the song (John Lennon is sacred in my eyes) but when I heard the final result I was happy with what I heard. Ditto for every song on the CD.

HMA — A HEAVY MENTAL CHRISTMAS is available through your website, PlanetHelix.com, and will be available for purchase at Wal-Mart stores throughout Canada. Is there distribution set up for the U.S. and Europe? Are there any plans to tap into the downloading market through sites like iTunes, CD Baby, etc.?

BV — Usually we distribute outside of North America through mail order companies or through the Planet Helix website. I like to keep control over whatever I do. Anytime you give away rights to press to someone else you’re taking the chance you’ll never see any money from them. Take the case of Sanctuary, on our last CD “The Power of Rock and Roll”. Universal bought them out shortly after, and no one from Universal has even bothered to contact me or send me a statement since. It’s almost been two years now!

HMA — Helix regularly gigs across Canada, any plans to tour in support of the new album in Europe and, most importantly, down here in the States?

BV — It’s hard to tour Europe because of the overhead costs. We did however play Sweden Rock Festival in 2005 and hope to return again in 2009. The States is another situation entirely. Clubs are a dead end deal; fall fairs, concerts, or tours are the way to go if you can get them. I would rather play one gig in a concert situation in the States than 20 shitty bars. Next August we’re booked to play in Des Moines, Iowa for a flood relief concert. That will be a high profile gig just like when we played last summer at South Texas Rock Festival, which drew 30,000 fans over 3 days.

HMA — PlanetHelix.com is your official website and it’s really a great hub for fans of the band and the music. You regularly update the website with plenty of news and information but you also keep it interactive: people can come and listen to all the Helix albums, they can purchase CDs and merchandise, and you keep an open line of communication with the fans. When I discovered PlanetHelix a few years ago, I was psyched to see that you could listen to every album. Not many bands are willing to do that. How important is it to have that connection and communication with the fans?

BV — Everything. It’s the grassroots following that has kept us going all these years. I spend a large part of every day just sending emails to fans and keeping in touch with people in the business.

HMA — In December 2005, you published your autobiography, Gimme An R!, and there was a lot of critical acclaim. I read a lot of reviews on Rock websites and I noticed a lot of positive comments from people like Sebastian Bach so I bought my copy in the Fall of 2006. I’ve read it about 8 times and I always marvel at how personal it is, you really get into detail about your life and all the highs and lows of being in a Rock band. How has the response been almost 3 years after the book’s release?

BV – The book still sells. I was standing at the merchandise booth the other night and someone bought 5 at once! Since I’ve written it a lot more has happened to us, so who knows? Maybe book # 2 isn’t too far in the future! The nice thing about the book is that when you cram 30 years of your life into a couple of hundred pages it all sounds so fucking exciting! LOL. In reality there’s a lot of boring days in between.

Gimme An R! (The Story of Brian Vollmer, lead singer of Helix)

HMA — You’ve made Gimme An R! available for purchase through the website along with other Helix items like hats, t-shirts, DVDs, and CDs and it’s been a success. How has having a good online store changed the way you do business? I’m sure it’s still a lot of hard work but I’ll bet it’s a lot easier than depending on others to keep products in the retail racks.

BV — I do my own merchandise and publicity. In regards to the merchandise I try to come out with different t-shirts on a regular basis as well as a few Helix collectables, like the Heavy Metal Christmas coffee mugs. It all helps fund the next Helix project. The biggest reason I don’t let other people run the merchandise however is because there isn’t enough money to go around for a “3rd slice of the pie”.

HMA — I noticed that BREAKING LOOSE and WHITE LACE & BLACK LEATHER are sold out at PlanetHelix. Is there any chance that you might produce another pressing and make them available again? They are great albums!

BV — Yes, but right now it’s not a priority for me. Maybe later next year.

HMA — What do you think of the Hard Rock/Heavy Metal scene today?

BV — I worry about young bands having a venue to develop their skills as performers and to make money to finance their recording. Back in the day we had a healthy bar circuit where we could cut our teeth as performers and get a taste of “the life”. Nowadays bands do not enjoy the same luxury and music is suffering as a result. Regardless, there are still some great bands coming out, ie. Airbourne.

HMA — If Helix were starting out today, how do you think the band would do?

BV — Fucking terrific.

HMA — What is you all-time favorite album? Why?

BV — Love it to Death by Alice Cooper. It’s a great rock album.

HMA — Is there anything you’d like to say to the fans?

BV — Thank you for all the support. Please check out our new Christmas CD A HEAVY MENTAL CHRISTMAS and look for brand new Helix material in 2009.

*** Special thanks to Brian for taking the time to answer my questions and thanks to Nick from Two Side Moon Promotions for setting everything up.

Helix – A Heavy Mental Christmas (2008)

helix-xmas-cd

Helix – A Heavy Mental Chistmas (2008, independent release)

  1. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
  2. Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree
  3. Santa Claus Is Back In Town
  4. A Wonderful Christmas Time
  5. Jingle Bell Rock
  6. Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
  7. Sock It To Me Santa
  8. Jingle Bells
  9. Silent Night
  10. Christmas Time Is Here Again

Band Lineup:
Brian Vollmer – Lead Vocals
Paul Fonseca – Bass
Jim Lawson – Guitars
Brent Niemi – Drums
Rick VanDyk - Guitars

Total Time = 25:26

Helix official website

For most people, it’s way too early to start thinking about Christmas but for Helix mainman Brian Vollmer, Christmas began over this past summer. The idea for a Helix Christmas album was conceived, a deal was made with Wal-Mart in Canada, and the album was recorded. A HEAVY MENTAL CHRISTMAS was released in early October exclusively through Wal-Mart and online through Vollmer’s website PlanetHelix.com. The album follows the successful formula laid out by Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Twisted Sister: Rock bands creating their own seasonal album by taking old-time Christmas classics and adding their own hard-edged sound.

The album breaks down to nine holiday classics and a new Helix song, ‘Christmas Time Is Here Again’. The band stays pretty true to the originals but they are rocked up and heavy! A few cool guitar solos are added in to add a little punch and some length but there isn’t much else added in to make these songs any different. This album is basically a holiday covers album and, even though I’m not big on cover tunes, it’s definitely a lot of fun. I like hearing the Helix versions of ‘Jingle Bell Rock’, ‘A Wonderful Christmas Time’ and ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’, these are some of my favorite Xmas songs and I am one of those people that tune into the Lite Rock stations November 1st to hear the holiday music. I really enjoyed the acoustic/power ballad version of ‘Silent Night’, it sounds great with the electric guitar coming in for the instrumental section. The new Helix original, ‘Christmas Time Is Here Again’, is a pretty cool song and has more energy than the classics. Obviously the difference is that this song was written as a Rock song while the others aren’t and Helix always does a great job putting out new Rock songs.

Bottom Line:
The band sounds real tight and at the top of their game and lead vocalist/founder Brian Vollmer sounds exactly like he did when I discovered Helix back in 1983, a solid vocal performance. Production is flawless, everything is crystal clear and the album sounds great. The best song on the record is the new ‘Christmas Time Is Here Again’ but that’s because I prefer original material but all the classics are done very well. My favorites from the classics are: ‘Silent Night’, ‘Happy Xmas’, ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ and ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’…..they’re all a lot of fun!

CD Scavenger Hunt – Catching up again!

Here we go again, another update on my neverending CD hunting! As I mentioned in my last safari update, money is tight and the economy is getting worse so my disposable income for music has taken a huge hit. The good news is that I’m so far behind in listening to CDs that I have enough new music to last until 2009! There are a few albums I picked up when they came out that I haven’t updated you on and I went out today and picked up a few discs at the record store today. Here’s what I’ve had for a few weeks…..

Venom – Hell (2008) – $13: This came out back in August but got overshadowed by other new releases. I grabbed this at the sale price when I actually saw this in the record store’s main display! The store got 2 copies: one went to me and the other to the guy who runs the Metal section at the store. I remember him telling me that he figured I’d be in for it.

DragonForce – Ultra Beatdown (2008) – $17: I picked this up the same day as the venom CD and I ended up dropping the extra $4 for the album with the bonus DVD. The deluxe set also had two bonus tracks so I guess I made the extra 4 bucks worth it! I’ll be honest here, I’m not the biggest DragonForce fan in the world, I have VALLEY OF THE DAMNED (2003) but I never bothered to pick up the rest. With all the hype the band has received from their appearance in the video game Guitar Hero III with ‘Through The Fire And Flames’, I figured I’d pick up the new record and listen to the debut. For some reason, DragonForce reminds me of Rhapsody (now called Rhapsody Of Fire) but the music is very different.

Here’s what I picked up today…..

Tesla – Forever More (2008) – $9.99: Can’t pass up that price! FOREVER MORE came out last week and I forgot so when I saw the promo poster on the front door of the record store, I added it to my list. I had a short list anyway so I didn’t mind adding this one in. This album has been streaming online for a couple of months but I haven’t heard any of it, if it’s as good as INTO THE NOW (2004), I’ll be happy. It doesn’t seem like it’s been 4 years since the last Tesla studio album…..

Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force – Perpetual Flame (2008) – $12.88: This was the only album on my list today. I ran right out to pick this one up because I have to hear how Tim Owens does working with Yngwie and if this is going to be a train wreck of an album. I haven’t enjoyed an Yngwie album since 1997′s FACING THE ANIMAL (Mats Leven on vocals) but I seem to keep buying his albums. I checked on this when I got home from the hunt and it seems that I have every Yngwie album except for ATTACK!! (2002). I have that soft spot for Yngwie, he’s made some solid albums but everything after 1997 has bored me. I skipped ATTACK!! because I was unhappy with ALCHEMY (1999) and WAR TO END ALL WARS (2000) but I did pick up UNLEASH THE FURY (2005). The Metal guy at the record shop says it’s a good album, we’ll see…..

We Wish You A Metal Xmas And A Headbanging New Year (2008) – $9.99: A late addition to today’s buying! I had heard about this project featuring Lemmy, Geoff Tate, Dio, Alice Cooper and a whole bunch more. This is another one of those albums produced by Bob Kulick that features all these Heavy Metal heroes doing covers. Usually it’s for a tribute album but I’m getting sucked in to the Xmas albums. I’ve always been big into Trans-Siberian Orchestra, I changed my tune on the Twisted Sister Xmas album, and Helix has one coming out too! I figured for ten bucks it would be a cool holiday spin.

On to Ebay…..

Gothic Knights – Kingdom Of The Knights (1999) – $6: Finally! After 10 years I finally pick up this album! I have had this album in my favorite searches on Ebay for a long time and it always comes up, I just never pull the trigger. I was watching another album and I went to view the seller’s other items and this showed up at the top of the seller’s list. I ended up being the only bidder. Now I have to update this album’s WANTED.

Halloween – No One Gets Out (1991/2001 reissue) – $13.50: It certainly is the right time of year for buying Halloween albums! I’ve been meaning to pick up all of Halloween’s albums for a couple of years now, especially the band’s own reissues with bonus tracks. Unfortunately, this album is out of print and the band isn’t making anymore for sale at their website so I had to grab it. The price the band was selling it for was $15 so I saved $1.50, the shipping is also discounted because I bought the Gothic Knights CD from this seller too. (Total shipping is $4 for both discs, I didn’t include that in the price.)

Helix announce new album, A Heavy Mental Christmas, to be released mid-October

From Brian Vollmer of Helix:

The day after Halloween we will be releasing the first-ever Helix Christmas CD entitled HELIX-HEAVY MENTAL CHRISTMAS. The CD will be available in Walmart stores across Canada, and we have been told it will be front racked, along with the soon-to-be-released AC/DC & Metallica CDs. The CD will be distributed by Fontana/Universal.

We are very excited about this project, and with good reason. We’ve done some different versions of traditional Christmas songs, as well as taking a few contemporary numbers and jazzing them up, ie. “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time” by Paul McCartney. We also found a gem in Bob Segar’s “Sock It To Me Santa” and even penned one of our own, a Motorhead-sounding ditty entitled, “It’s Christmastime Again”. The CD is being recorded at “A” Studios in London, Ontario. Gord Prior is producing with Aaron Murray engineering.

The release of Heavy Mental Christmas will coincide with a western Canadian tour in November. We also hope to play our hometown of London around the same time period. We will announce our tour dates as we get them.

Christmas Week Playlist 2007

Busy, busy, busy! That’s how I’d describe my holiday season so far. It hasn’t been that bad actually, I planned ahead at work to make it easier and my wife handles the family stuff. A lot gets crammed into the month (from Thansgiving to Christmas) and it always seems like more is going on than usual. I think a lot of it has to do with other people rushing and panicking.

It’s even been a little harder to sit back, relax, and listen to some Metal but I’ve managed to go through all the 2007 releases I bought this year for my upcoming Top 15 Albums of 2007 & Top 5 Worst Albums of 2007 lists. Here’s what’s in the rotation:

Roadkill – God Bless America (2007): The band just sent me this CD so it’s only had the initial spin. I’ll be reviewing this album in January.

Armory – The Dawn Of Enlightenment (2007): Always good to hear a band from New England. Armory is from Massachusetts and this CD is a re-recording of the original album from 2004. Like Roadkill, I’ve only given this one spin so I need more time to get into it. Another review for January.

Sebastian Bach – Angel Down (2007): I liked BRING’EM BACH ALIVE (1999) even though it only had 5 new songs. It’s hard to believe Sebastian Bach has done virtually nothing as far as recorded material but has maintained a huge profile with his other activities. ANGEL DOWN is getting heavy rotation because I really want to like it.

Icarus Witch – Songs For The Lost (2007): I’m a big Icarus Witch fan and I have been playing this since it came out. I’ll have a review this week and…..will it make the Top 15? Wait and see…..

Iced Earth – Framing Armageddon (Something Wicked Pt.1) (2007): With all the changes at the mic, this album as been resurrected in my CD rotation. Tim Owens outs in a solid performance so I’m still scratching my head as to why the change was made to bring Matt Barlow back. I like the move, Barlow is Iced Earth and the band hasn’t been the same without him.

Masterplan – MK II (2007): I’ve given this the most spins of any album lately because I’m trying to figure out why I’m not getting into it. Is it the switch at the vocalist slot? Not sure…..

Great White – Back To The Rhythm (2007): Comeback of the year! Solid record and completely unexpected to be that good. I hope they continue to make new albums, Great White was a favorite of mine for a long ime until the tragedy happened.

Mob Rules – Ethnolution A.D. (2007): I haven’t given this enough spins and I’ve had this for most of the year. I’ve been into Mob Rules since their first album and I’m a little surprised I’ve shelved this CD for other new releases.

Rush – Snakes & Arrows (2007): I’m trying to like this album. I like Rush a lot but I’m not getting into this record.

Ozzy Osbourne - Black Rain (2007): I’m trying to give this album a second chance but my review stands so far.