Rob Halford - Celestial

Rob Halford Celestial cover
Rob Halford
Sony Legacy
I must admit that as an atheist, I don’t care about Christmas. I actually tend to not particularly like Christmas albums either, considering them to be an easy “solution” for the artist and a cheap way to cash in on those who actually feel festive. When Twisted Sister were in my eyes losing every last ounce of relevance, by releasing multiple lives and “Xmas albums” and trying to make excuses, I was thinking to myself, why not a Hanookah, Halloween, Easter, you name it album…
Halford was already a culprit for releasing another “seasonal” album, with 2009 “Winter Songs”… a rather weak collection of material. This time surrounded by actual family members (his brother on drums, etc.). “Celestial” seems to improve on the formula, by bastardizing the melodies of some songs and forcing them to sound more “metallic”. It tends to work okay until you realize that the Christmas tree is on fire!
“Celestial” is a nice ethereal intro that leads straight into the rocking “Donner and Blitzen” (translates roughly to “Thunder and Lightning” – the names of two of Santa’s reindeers); it actually sounds musically like something that could have been in Priest’s “Redeemer”…
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” for some reason gets done in a way that brought to my mind Demon and a bit of Satan/Skyclad, with the vocal melody interestingly twisted into something quite… interesting actually.
“Away in a Manger” is a simple electric blues piece that’s very timid, like an electric version of Priest’s “Here Come the Tears”, at least in terms of mood.
“Morning Star” is almost a slice of Hawaiian Christmas with its drawn out slides etc.
“Deck the Halls” done in a “Nightcrawler/Crucible”, sort of downtuned sinister and heavy hitting way, with just glimpses of joy during the verses; it’s oddly funny and enjoyable.
“Joy to the World” is sort of pushing it, but it has a nice 70s Queen-esque guitar tone and Halford singing like he did back in that era, that sort of makes it work.
“O Little Town of Bethlehem”, other than a mouthful of a title, has this lamenting ballad style that would land Priest some of its most dramatic epics, but it never resolves in the way they did. It only builds on melodies that would be intros to Priest songs… still it’s not too bad. And I suppose it does somehow resolve, via a short nice solo.
“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” tries to pull the “off the rails” rocker trick, but somehow the vocal is veering way off the beat to fit all the lyrics in there, that it ends up sounds “off its rocker” instead.
“The First Noel” is a melodic ballad. The closest Robert has sounded to a choirboy. Probably the choirboy with the leathers and the whip, but choirboy no less. Better than I expected.
“Good King Wencelas” sort of gets into obscure Xmas song territory at least for my locality, but it’s Jethro-esque charms are not lost on me. Nor is the pretty heavy handed solo in the middle.
“Protected by the Light” is another original, which sounds like something traditional, but ends up sounding like something Freddie Mercury might have done during his solo years, if Halford was singing it in a festive tone…
All in all, I had more fun with this than I had with “Winter Songs” that at the time, I found rather atrocious and even “IV: Made of Metal”, that I really thought featured some poor songwriting. I never expected to say this, but now’s the season to be jolly, kick some ass and shake some holly. A Christmas album that I kind of enjoyed… boy… I must be getting old!