Hard Rock Holidays

Santa Claus is a proudly blue-collar, salt-of-the-earth kind of guy who never leaves the house without his black leather boots and who never fails to get the job done in the toughest of circumstances. So when he’s hurtling from house to house with a bunch of amped-up reindeer on a sled full of Hatchimals and Marvel action figures — all traveling at a velocity that would be dangerously reckless on any other night of the year — you can most definitely believe he needs to hear something harder than Michael Bublé to get through his shift.

Thankfully, there’s a legion of metal dudes and hard rockers who know that no season is complete without a very different kind of holiday music. They’re responsible for a valuable counter-tradition of Christmas songs, the kind that combines long-loved tidings of joy and fellowship with the sounds of wicked guitar solos, monster riffs, and blast-beats. Twisted Sister, those legends of Long Island-style mayhem, have arguably been the most enthusiastic purveyors of hard-rock holiday action. After all, the band’s reliably frank frontman, Dee Snider, was always quick to fess up that their biggest hit — 1984’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” — was partly inspired by the tune for “O Come, All Ye Faithful.”

Snider and his bandmates made the somewhat unlikely connection between the two songs perfectly clear when they opened 2006’s A Twisted Christmas with a rowdier version of the 18th-century carol than you’ll ever hear at midnight mass. Just as much fun are Twisted Sister’s gnarly takes on “White Christmas” and “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” which Snider and Co. revamped to include such rocker-appropriate gifts as skull earrings, quarts of Jack, cans of hairspray and, of course, “a tattoo of Ozzy” in place of the lame-ass partridge. As sacrilegious as they may seem to those who believe the holidays can only be shiny, bright, and holy, Twisted Sister’s assaults on the holiday-music canon actually do something very worthy. They bring the sounds and sentiments of the season into lives and households that may not fit any cookie-cutter conception of seasonal good times.

As such, Dee Snider’s tidings get pride of place in this playlist of songs that range from exuberant (Skid Row’s “Jingle Bells,” Cheap Trick’s “Christmas Christmas”) to sinister (Venom’s “Black Christmas,” Apocalyptica’s “Little Drummer Boy”) to irresistibly crashing (Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Wizards in Winter,” Kamelot’s “We Three Kings”). All get the job done on a cold winter’s eve lit only by cheap strands of electric lights.