The Metal God is blessing us all this holiday season. Judas Priest legend Rob Halford is set to release a new Christmas album called Celestial, and the LP is a family affair.
Halford’s holiday collection features a mix of original songs and covers of classic Christmas tunes. The album arrives this Friday, October 18th, and was preceded by the the original “Donner and Blitzen” and a thrashy punk rendition of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”.
Celestial features contributions from Halford’s brother Nigel on drums; his nephew Alex (who is also the son of Judas Priest bassist Ian Hill) on bass; and his sister Sue on bells.
Halford recently checked in with Heavy Consequence to discuss the holiday LP, working in the studio with his family members, and progress on the next Judas Priest album.
He also talked about his admiration for Ozzy Osbourne, as Judas Priest were slated to join the Prince of Darkness on a rescheduled UK and European tour in the new year. Unfortunately, a few days after Halford spoke with us, Ozzy postponed the tour once again as he still recovers from injuries he sustained in a fall earlier this year.
Read our interview with the legendary Rob Halford below:
On working with his family members on the holiday album Celestial
It is a little bit different, isn’t it? To bring this kind of family side of what I’m about to my music into an album. I’ve always wanting to do something with my brother Nigel and my nephew Alex, Ian Hill’s son, because they’re really talented musicians. And it was in the back of my mind whether there’d be an opportunity to make any kind of music with them. But a couple years ago, we were at one of our respective homes in the UK at Christmastime and we were listening to the Winter Songs album, the release I did 10 years ago. And I just said, “Wouldn’t it be great to just get together and maybe do a Christmas song or two?”
We’d always wanted to do something I think, as a family, musically like this, so it was just the great that the stars were aligned, celestially. And that’s how we set the whole thing up, and it was a blast. It was really cool, and it’s very special.
On the original song “Donner and Blitzen”
The original tracks [on the album] are really important. They come from the ground up. When you make an original song, it’s always an accomplishment because you’ve just made something that’s unique. And that was certainly the case with “Donner and Blitzen”.
We wanted the have a strong rock and metal edge to this album. It’s important. It has to be balanced. It has to convey, “This is Rob Halford, the Metal God,” and that has to come through in this music. I love writing stories that kind of put pictures in your head, and it’s a little bit reminiscent to a song I did with the band Fight many, many years ago called “Christmas Ride”. It’s got that same kind of storyline texture. And the chorus has got a great hooky multi-vocal harmony going for it. A very cool compact a song that sends out a great message. A lot of fun in that particular track.
On the punk-inspired rendition of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”
I think the guys [in the backing band] were thinking more thrashy than punky, but I agree. When I heard their arrangement, I thought of the Ramones, I thought of Blink-182, I thought of Green Day. I thought, “You know, man, this is great.” In all my career, I don’t think I’ve done this kind of texture. So I loved it, I just dived in. It’s just a real belter, and it’s just got so much energy.
On recent stats that show heavy metal was the fastest growing genre in streams and downloads from 2017 to 2018
It makes my metal heart swell with pride because I’ve been supporting and loving this music for as long as I’ve been alive, it seems. But to hear those statistics, it’s fantastic man. Everybody’s got a dream when you’re in a band, and you need support. So when you hear about these things, it makes you feel good and it gives you the strength to carry on.
On the next Judas Priest album and whether there’s pressure in following up the acclaimed Firepower
[Guitarist] Glenn [Tipton] is always noodling away, even though he doesn’t tour that much now. He’s always noodling away in the studio in the UK. He’s always putting riifs down. We have vaults of so many riffs. It’s just incredible. So it all starts with the riff, mostly, in what we do. We start with the riff and a melody, some hooks and we build it, as most bands do. Firepower is going to be quite difficult to top, but we’ll do everything we can to cut another great record and that’ll happen at some point.
On Judas Priest supporting Ozzy Osbourne on his rescheduled UK and European tour
[Editor’s Note: Interview was conducted right before Ozzy postponed the rescheduled 2020 tour]
First of all, we love Ozzy to death, and we’ve known him forever. He’s a very good friend to Judas Priest. We’ve gotta look after Ozzy. One of the best ways to look after Ozzy is to go and see him, because he’s unique. He’s like Elvis. Ozzy is a remarkable man in many, many ways, and musically what he’s done is incredible. If you really think about the music that Ozzy’s done over his lifetime, it’s remarkable. And people sometimes lose track of that because of all the other things that go on around his life that are non-musical. As a singer, I’ve always admired Ozzy., He’s got a great f**king voice.
People don’t say that much about his voice. I’ve always said that Ozzy Osbourne has got a fantastic voice. Nobody else sounds like Ozzy. I love to stand on the side of the stage when he’s onstage, and watch him work, because he always gives 1,000 percent. He loves fans passionately. To see Ozzy now, it’s an event. You’ve got to see Ozzy Osbourne when you can because it’s an event.
Our thanks to Rob Halford for taking the time to speak with us. His holiday album Celestial is available for pre-order.
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