Released: 2008, EMI Music
This project was announced well over a year ago but has been surprisingly low-key in terms of advertising and promotion. The concept of the band is essentially Hard Rock and Metal versions of Christmas songs. The concept is not especially new and some people fans and journalists alike have commented, that this idea is a rip-off of Trans-Siberian Orchestra. While these comments may or may not be justified there are many bands in many sub-genres that have the same musical and lyrical thrust. There are currently four (!) bands that use the actor/politician Arnold Schwarzenegger as the thematic focus. You can’t get more specific than that so, there I feel there is room for a few more rock-opera type bands using Christmas as a theme.
NLO is a massive project spearheaded by drummer Ken Mary, and unlike TSO which is a closed house, consisting of Savatage guys for the most part, NLO has everybody and their dog involved in this project. Making an appearance on this albums are past or present members of the following bands; Alice Cooper, Dio, Dokken, Firehouse, Fifth Angel, Guns ‘n’ Roses, House Of Lords, Kiss, Lynch Mob, Magdallan, Megadeth, MSG, Quiet Riot, Tyketto, Whitesnake, Winger and more. If that doesn’t give you an idea of the style then this might not be up your alley.
There are a number of original tunes sprinkled throughout the album as well as a few adaptations of familiar Christmas songs. Highlights among the original songs are the two songs that bookend the album, ‘Celebrate Christmas’ and ‘Bye Bye Bethlehem’. It is good to hear Robin McAuley on vocals again, he needs a full-time project to share his excellent voice with the world instead of being relegated to specialty projects and tribute albums. Doug Aldrich delivers a ripping solo on ‘Joy to The World’, easily faster than anything he has done in Dio or Whitesnake lately. There are many little highlights that fans of the aforementioned bands will appreciate.
The production is crystal clear, the delivery is great but the packaging and presentation are a bit lacklustre, almost understated to the point of being detrimental to the overall effect. Ultimately, this is an excellent addition to the rapidly growing pantheon of metal related Christmas albums. I’d stand this up against any TSO album with perhaps the added advantage of not being as ponderous and self-indulgent as a concept album with a complex story-line. You could play this at your company Christmas party and it would go down a bit better than a TSO album. This is still a bit harder to find in stores in North America and with Christmas 2009, now in the past you may want to snap this up for next year.