There are some originals on there as well, starting with the first single Donner And Blitzen. Why did you decide to write a metal song about flying reindeer?
“The lyrics and the story came last. The guys banged out the music first but the story’s great because that’s what we think about at Christmas, no matter how old you are – a heavy metal Santa blasting around the planet and doing his job at the speed of metal! It’s important to have a strong start. Celestial itself is like a sound effect track that sets up the atmosphere, then my brother comes roaring in with the opening of Donner And Blitzen. It’s important to convey that strength because, you know, I’m on it (laughs). They call me the Metal God so it’s got to have some welly! We keep that vibe going with God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, then it takes a bit of a breather with Away In A Manger. It’s got those dynamics running through the album and that’s important. All through my career I’ve made albums that work as whole pieces of work, rather than individual tracks as a playlist.”
Closing track Protected By The Light is all about family and positivity. Do you think metal has a tendency to dwell on the negative side of things?
“I don’t think so, I think metal’s brilliant in all its shapes and forms. I love how it’s grown from its early roots in Birmingham to this big display we have now. It’s like a big metal selection box! I’m a big fan of Amon Amarth, Emperor, Immortal, Dimmu Borgir… I love all that kind of stuff and I don’t think any of it’s negative. They’re just talking about what they believe in and having a blast doing it.”
Talking of belief, is there a religious or spiritual side of this music for you?
“Yeah, there is for me personally. Some of those messages are in the songs but then some of the songs are hundreds of years old. And I do agree with a lot of those messages. It’s me singing and belting out some of those sides to myself that are very important.”
Finally, how do you usually spend Christmas and can we picture you belting out some of these songs on the day?
“I’m the last-minute Christmas shopper. I leave it all ‘til the last three days and then there’s that mad excitement and energy of getting everything done. I like to get the tree up, I just go mad for the whole Christmas thing. I love it and especially as I’ve gotten older, I seem to be going through a second childhood. I thrive on it. It’s a magical time of the year and metalheads love it as much as anyone else.”
Rob Halford's new album Celestial is out now via Legacy Recordings.