No Presents For Christmas!
A Very Brief And Incomplete History Of Hard Rock/Metal Christmas albums
As we hit the 50th anniversary of Heavy Metal this year (2020), as Managing Editor of Metal-Rules.com, one of my goals is to try to add more editorial content and technical information so people can use MR not only as a source of entertainment but reliable information as well. In our 30,000+ pages of content, we have written almost 14,000 CD reviews, 500+ book reviews, 400+ DVD reviews. Over 25 years we have conducted over 2000 interviews, and our international staff have reviewed over 1700 concerts and festivals world-wide.
We are also celebrating our 25th year as a website so to add even more value for our readers I would like to add a series of articles about various facets of Heavy Metal. Every year, I am increasingly happy to discover more and more authors, books, on-line publications, scholars and academic studies scouring our massive archives, citing and sharing our work.
Therefore, my modest goal is to continue to make Metal-Rules a resource and repository on a variety of (hopefully!) interesting topics and not just a shallow dumping ground of regurgitated press-releases, click-bait, pop-up ads, political posturing, countless lists and rankings of albums, and endless industry gossip. There are plenty of good sites that already do that well and they are all enjoyable in their own way.
Each feature in this series is named after a Metal band, album, song title or lyric. Feel free to go back and read the other articles in this series.
Mar 2020- Read All About It (Canadian Metal magazines)
April 2020- Gathered In Their Masses (American Supergoups)
May 2020- A Tribute to The Past (Tribute albums)
June 2020- Reborn In Blasphemy (Re-recorded albums)
July 2020-Still The Orchestra Plays (Metal bands and orchestras)
August 2020-Japandamonium (Live in Japan albums)
September 2020- Grandfather! Tell Me Story! (Concept albums)
October 2020-Gathered In Their Masses Part 2 (European Supergroups)
November 2020-Don’t Run For Cover (Covers albums)
If you have any suggestions, comments or ideas for future articles, please let me know. You can reach me at email@example.com. Thank you.
If you want to skip the long article, you can just scroll down and look at the list of bands!
This topic is pretty self explanatory so my introduction will be short for this fun and final entry into the series.
Unlike almost all the other essays in this series, this essay covers a type of song, not a type of album. Although Metal+ Christmas might seem diametrically opposed there are a surprising number of bands who have done their take on Christmas classics. The vast majority of these songs are cover tunes, but there are a handful of bands who have written new, original songs with Christmas as the theme.
It might surprise you to know that there are hundreds of Metal Christmas songs, many of them just singles, perhaps an EP, a joke or a bonus track but there are quite a few out there. With the rise of Youtube we are seeing more and more ‘one-off’ songs from artists.
However, there are not very many examples of full-length, Hard Rock / Metal Christmas albums, maybe 50 or so. The numbers are pretty evenly split between compilations where a bunch of artists contribute a song each and a band that actually does a full Christmas album. There are not too many Thrash/Death/Black Metal Christmas songs but there are a few and they are pretty amusing.
I’m focusing mostly on albums and I have featured a few of the more important and/or interesting singles and EP’s. As always these are listed chronologically and then alphabetically by band, with a few exceptions early on to present a lineage.
There is not too much more to say. I own 95% of these, I keep them apart from my main library and once a year, every year (on Dec 1st) I get out that box. It sure as hell beats listening to that Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton Christmas album.
Happy holidays everyone and I hope you enjoyed my series of 10 essays!
SPINAL TAP-Christmas With The Devil (Single)
(May, 1984, Enigma)
Why am I not surprised that Spinal Tap would be one of the first to exploit the comedic potential of Metal and Christmas? This two song single was one of, if not the first.
220 VOLT-Heavy Christmas (single)
(November, 1984, CBS)
One of the first Christmas Metal songs ever. This was a two-song single from the Swedes.
X-MAS PROJECT-Banging Around The Christmas Tree (EP)
This is the first Christmas EP and first all-star Metal band to do a Christmas project. This was a really wild, featuring a whole pile of German Speed and Power Metal guys from bands like Rage, Running Wild, Grave Digger, Stratovarius, Axel Rudi Pell, Mekong Delta, Tankard, Living Death and Holy Moses. It spawned two more full albums and it was all eventually collected and released as a set on CD in 1996.
KING DIAMOND-No Presents For Christmas (single)
I guess even Satanists have a sense of humour. King’s first solo effort was this two song single and it was released in a surprising number of formats including cassette and picture disc! Perhaps the first true Christmas classic.
X-MAS PROJECT-Volume I
(1986, Aaarrg Records)
The first full-length Metal Christmas album project. Basically an extension of the debut EP into a full-length. Followed by Volume II in 1995.
BAD NEWS-Cashing In On Christmas (single)
England’s answer to Spinal Tap! Bad News was the parody band developed by a comedy troop / sitcom, The Young Ones. The Bad News project had staying power with albums, videos and of course a Christmas single. This single was on a major label too!
AC/DC-Mistress For Christmas (single)
This might have been a rather unremarkable throw away track for the band if THE RAZOR’S EDGE hadn’t gone multi-platinum world-wide. Accordingly, it got pushed out as a single and is now a staple of classic rock radio every Christmas season. By sheer numbers it is probably one of the best known Hard Rock Christmas songs.
PRETTY MAIDS-In Santa’s Claws (EP)
A fun little EP from the Danes, featuring two Christmas cuts, both originals, and three LP tracks.
FIGHT-Christmas Ride (single)
Rob Halford’s first experimental dip into Metal and Christmas. This one-off single was more of a radio promo thing at the time and came with a spoken word, seasons greetings message from Rob. Halford would revisit the concept in 2009 with a fun album of Christmas songs.
TED POLEY-A Letter To Santa (From a Horny 12 Year Old Boy) (single)
This is quite a fun little rarity. Vocalist, Ted Poley (ex-Danger, Danger) did this one-off, cassette only, single. As you can guess from the title and album cover the lyrics are typically sleazy but it was all in fun and the proceeds went to a charity he was supporting at the time. It goes for big money on Discogs these days.
VARIOUS ARTISTS-Santa Claus Goes Heavy Metal
Originally released only in Japan, this is the very first ‘various artist’ Hard Rock/ Metal Christmas Collections. Featuring a bunch of NWOBHM dudes, and prominently features Paul Di’Anno. This has been reissued a few times with alternate art and titles. This various artist style of Christmas compilation would become much more poplar as time went on.
X-MAS PROJECT -Volume II
(1995, Cream Records)
The saga continues…
TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA-Christmas Eve and Other Stories
What more can be said about this iconic, Savatage side-project that spawned several multiplatinum albums, two touring productions, and half a dozen imitators? Savatage does an album of Christmas cover tunes and figures out they can make way more money and off they go into music history. This debut becomes one of the best-selling Christmas albums of all time. Followed by three sequels and a handful of non-Christmas albums as well.
(1997, Pony Canyon)
A bit of a rarity, this Japanese speed Metal band busted out a Christmas album which also included Karaoke versions too!
VARIOUS ARTISTS-Merry Axemas: A Guitar Christmas.
This assemblage of guitar heroes doing Christmas classic was on a major label and a pretty big seller. Spawned a sequel.
X-MAS PROJECT -Vol I & I
(1997, ABS Records)
Everything the band did on CD for the first time.
TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA-The Christmas Attic
TSO wasted n0 time capailtizing on the multi-platinum success of the debut. More of the same.
VARIOUS ARTISTS-Merry Axemas Vol. 2: More Guitars For Christmas
Back for more!
NOTRE DAME-Nightmare Before Christmas
A very dark and unique take on Christmas from the gothic mind of Snowy Shaw. A mix of Christmas originals, a soundtrack like presentation and a underlying 1999, ‘End of the world’ theme. Brilliant! Depending how you define TSO (as a band or something else) Notre Dame might be the very first Metal band to do a full-length Christmas album.
Check out this cool video from Snowy!
ONKEL TOM ANGELRIPPER – Ich Glaub’ Nicht An Den Weihnachtsmann
Uncle Tom’s (Sodom) fourth solo album was a Christmas album. The title translates roughly to, “I Don’t Believe in Santa Claus”. Ripping thrash versions of Christmas classics.
TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA-The Ghosts Of Christmas Eve (DVD)
TSO took songs from the first two albums and filmed this one hour television special. It is a mix of concert hall footage interwoven with a dramatic storyline about a runaway little girl finding redemption on Christmas Eve.
VARIOUS ARTISTS-We Wish You A Hairy Christmas
A fun, major label collection of the stars of Hard Rock and Glam doing seasonal cuts. Danger Danger’s original tune, ‘Naughty Naughty Christmas’ is a highlight harkening back to Ted Poley’s earlier foray into naughty Christmas songs and a slight parody of their own earlier hit, ‘Naughty Naughty’ .
RASKASTA JOULUA -Raskasta Joulua
(2004, T2 Produtions)
This is basically the Finnish version of The Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The band consists of the elite of Finnish Power Metal; members of Sonata Arctica, Nightwish, Charon, Tarot, etc. Raskasta Joulua means ‘Heavy Christmas’. This was their first entry into the market and it worked as the band quickly became a phenomena.
TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA-The Lost Christmas Eve
This one wrapped up the original Christmas trilogy and the band has essentially become a touring entity ever since doing annual Christmas tours.
VARIOUS ARTISTS-The Glam That Stole Christmas
Second and third tier glam bands do a Christmas album.
RASKASTA JOULUA -Raskaampaa Joulua
Now on a major label the band really started to take off. Massive popularity ensued and they released several more Christmas albums. Now they have big tours, big videos, and have even reissued some of their material (in English) for the North American market. The title means ‘Heavier Christmas’.
The very first thing Tarja did when she got the boot from Nightwish was to do a quick solo album of classical music Christmas songs. It is not as shocking as you might expect, she had always said she was a classical music girl trapped in a metal band. When it was all over she returned to her roots, which is admirable. Not really a Hard Rock/Metal album but an honourable mention considering her past. Henkäys Ikuisuudesta means ‘Breath Of Eternity’.
TWISTED SISTER -A Twisted Christmas
(2006, Razor & Tie)
Although Metal and Christmas mash-up’s had been around for almost two decades by this point, Twisted Sister was still one of the first actual well known bands to do a full-length Christmas album, as compared to collections, complications, solo albums, or all-star projects. This has high comedic value and Dee admitted he stole the main musical idea of ‘Oh Come All Ye Faithful’ and adapted it for ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’.
PSYCHOSTICK-The Flesh Eating Rollerskate Holiday Joyride
Totally off the wall EP and one of the best Metal Christmas album titles of all.
VARIOUS ARTISTS-Monster X-Mas Ballads
(2007, Razor & Tie)
Quite decent Hard Rock versions of the classics.
HELIX-A Heavy Mental Christmas
(2008, GBS Records)
Canuck Hard rockers provided their take on Christmas but for some reason it did not include their best known Christmas/hockey song, “All I Want For Christmas Is The Leafs To Win The Cup.”
VARIOUS ARTISTS-We Wish You A Metal Christmas
Star-studded affair of Metal heroes doing the classics. Dio, Alice Cooper, Lemmy, and more. Some deluxe version came with a bonus EP. Also released in Japan with alternate art. This is one of the better known and more successful Metal Christmas albums.
(2009, Metal Gods Records)
Halford’s third solo album was a nice mix of original songs and carols. He would do Part 2 a decade later.
NORTHERN LIGHT ORCHESTRA-The Spirit Of Christmas
The first of several TSO imitator or spin-off bands. The NLO consists of the small but close-knit West Coast/L.A. Christian Hard rock scene. Considerably more faith-based than TSO, this top-notch project features past or present members of House of Lords, Guiffria, Quiet Riot, Fifth Angel, Hurricane, Whitesnake, Megadeth, M.S.G. Firehouse, Joshua, Magellan and more. This spawned two sequels.
NORTHERN LIGHT ORCHESTRA-Celebrate Christmas
A quick follow up to the debut featuring more epic, bombastic, symphonic type rocking Christmas tunes, originals and classics.
KINGS OF CHRISTMAS-365 Days A Year
This is pretty mellow but notable for being a TSO spin-off project. Apparently back in 2010 or so there was (allegedly) a fairly unhappy split with a handful of the touring members of Trans-Siberian Orchestra. They formed their own band called The Kings Of Christmas and released a solitary album called 365 DAYS A YEAR.
TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA-Dreams OF Fireflies
A short little Christmas EP from TSO.
A HERO FOR THE WORLD-Winter Is Coming (A Holiday Rock Opera)
This is a bit of an odd project, a singer from the Philippines and a multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist from Sweden combine forces to do ultra-clean, Power Metal albums with lots of themes and cover tunes. This, their second album, tackles as you might expect from the title, Christmas themes. Followed by a sequel in 2018.
LORDS OF THE TRIDENT-A Very Lords Of The Trident Christmas (EP)
American comedy/Power Metal act LOTT released a neat little EP of Christmas cuts. Very clever album cover.
DEATH METAL CHRISTMAS-Hellish Renditions Of Christmas Classics
This is by far the heaviest Christmas + Metal project I’ve heard. The Hrubovcak brothers (Mike and JJ) from bands like Death Metal acts like Hate Eternal, Monstrosity, Divine Rapture and Vile. It’s only 20 minutes long but man is it brutal. In a good way.
PELLEK-Christmas With Pellek
Pellek’s third solo album is very cool, Power Metal-ish presentation of various carols. Top notch album cover too!
RASKASTA JOULUA-Raskasta Joulua
This is where the RJ catalogue gets confusing. This seems to be some sort of reboot or reworking. Carries the same title as the debut back in 2004. I hate it when bands have two albums with the exact same name. It takes me out of the Christmas spirit.
RIUL DOAMNEI-A Christmas Carol
Normally I would not bother with a digital-only single, but this is really worth mentioning. This Italian blackened Death Metal band released a 36 minute long re-telling of the Dicken’s classic short story, ‘A Christmas Carol’. What’s more is they shot a very ambitious full-length, lyric video as well.
RASKASTA JOULUA-Raskasta Joulua 2
Their fourth album is called RJ 2 for some reason.
RAGNAROK JULETIDE-Ragnarok Juletide
The English version, now dubbed Ragnarok Juletide (which ya gotta admit is pretty cool) seems to be a mix of songs from the other four albums. It was meant to serve as an introduction to the North American market but not too many people noticed because TSO has a pretty good stranglehold on that market.
THE WIZARDS OF WINTER-The Wizards Of Winter
Yet another TSO type project. Bombastic rock mixed with Christmas music. You can’t blame them for trying their version of the uber-successful formula. They bill themselves as a TSO tribute act and much of the proceeds go to local charities. The band has done three albums.
RASKASTA JUOLUA-Tulkoon Joulu – Akustisesti
Acoustic versions of their songs from the previous albums. Tulkoon Joule – Akustisesti roughly means ‘ Let’s Celebrate Christmas Acoustically’.
SONATA ARCTIC-Christmas Spirits (single)
(2015, Nuclear Blast)
Another favourite of mine, the band issued this little single that tells a tale of Christmas Eve. It is Christmas Eve and Santa has gone off to work to deliver the presents and the elves are done their hard work for the year and it is time to party! The elves break into Santa’s liquor cabinet and pandemonium ensues… This three song single has three versions of the funny song including the epic narration version and orchestral version.
WIZARDS OF WINTER-The Magic Of Winter
A quick follow up to the 2014 debut.
Kind of a fun one from the Swedish Death/Thrash band. It is a three song X-mas, digital only, EP with two originals and a cover of the Spinal Tap classic, ‘Christmas With The Devil’.
RASKASTA JUOLUA-Raskasta Juolua IV
The album naming confusion continues as the band decided to call their seventh release IV for some reason.
TARJA-From Spirits And Ghosts (Score For A Dark Christmas)
For her seventh solo album, Tarja revisits the Christmas theme. This is a very dark collection of somber versions of Christmas carols. Kinda creepy but really good.
ACID WITCH – Black Christmas Evil (single)
Acid Witch has usually stick to Halloween and horror themes but took a slight detour and did this dark, two-song, vinyl-only Christmas single.
A HERO FOR THE WORLD-Winter Is Here (A Holiday Rock Opera Pt. 2)
The aforementioned follow-up to Winter Is Coming, called Winter is Here. Will Part 3 be called Winter is Going? Only time will tell.
GRIM CHRISTMAS-Grim Christmas
A very rare example of a black Metal band, (well, solo performer) doing Christmas carols. Cassette only!
THOR-Christmas In Valhalla
This started as just a one-off single but it quickly expended into a fairly spontaneous album of original Christmas themed songs.
For his fifth solo album, Halford revisits Christmas again. If back in 1984, you told the fourteen year old me that one day, The Metal God himself would have not one, but two Christmas albums and that I would own both of them, I would have said you were insane.
WIZARDS OF WINTER-The Christmas Dream
BLACKMORE’S NIGHT-Here We Come A Caroling
LARS ERIC MATTSON-Silent Night: The December EP
(2020, Lion Music)
The Finnish guitar god and founder of Lion music has a shot at some seasonal guitar driven tracks.
LEE AARON-Almost Christmas
Canadian Hard rocker and the original Metal Queen, Lee Aaron, for her 12th solo album (excluding her jazz stuff) does a Christmas album.
MAJESTICA-A Christmas Carol
(2020, Nuclear Blast)
The band, formerly known as Reinxeed, rebranded a couple of years back as Majestica. Their 2019 debut album , ABOVE THE SKY had a well-received comedic Christmas song on it. (As a side note: the song is called ‘Father Time’ in which Mrs. Time, while Father Time is out at work, has an affair with the Sandman on Christmas Eve. However, Father Time comes home, catches them in the act and dispatches the Sandman with a shotgun and just at that moment Santa comes down the chimney. Well, Father Time can’t have any witnesses so things get ugly and he takes out Santa and the reindeer too…) This time around, the Christian, Swedish, Speed Metal band decided to do something a bit more serious, their version of ‘A Christmas Carol’.
SCHAFFER/BARLOW PROJECT-Winter Nights
The two Iced Earth men reunite for a neat 7 song Winter/Christmas EP including a few females of Iced Earth songs.
You can never have too much Christmas crossed with Metal guitar!
Merry Christmas everyone!
APPENDIX A -ORION’s REIGN
Over the past decade or so, this Greek Power Metal band Orion’s Reign, has become associated with Christmas. Each year they release a digital single based on Christmas themes. Normally I wouldn’t bother with ‘digital-only’ stuff but they are building quite a little catalogue. It would nice if they pressed it onto CD one day.