If you take a moment to think about it, Santa Claus is kind of metal. He’s an interpretation of Odin, Norse god of battle and wisdom, who uses enchanted deer to fly around the world judging kids according to whether or not they’ve been good. At his behest is an army of elves and, if you live in Austria, a shrieking demon who flails naughty little bastards. In many ways, he represents all of the aspects of the holidays that the Christians once stole from the pagans. Santa doesn’t belong in the Nativity, he soars above it wielding black magic and gruffling cookies on his way to leave fuel with bad children. Dude is raw.
Anyone who’s ever watched movies and TV specials at Christmas knows that part of being Santa is hiding in plain sight only to later surprise oblivious children (and occasionally give Fonzie a kimono). Metal is no different, with several figures among its ranks looking and acting questionably like Kris Kringle himself. One wonders if during the off season, Santa leaves the North Pole, slips on a leather jacket, and loses his shit over a song about the Devil. We can only hope.
Here are 11 metal musicians who might make you softly mumble, He IS real…
Tom Araya (Slayer)
If anyone has the look for Metal Santa, it’s Slayer frontman Tom Araya. Some time a few years ago, the thrash metal vocalist traded his usually scraggly fuzz for a full-on beard. Immediately, people began to wonder if perhaps Araya was moonlighting as Christmastime’s favorite breaker-and-enterer. If you hear the words “INFAMOUS! BUTCHER!” on the wind this Christmas Eve, you’ll know that a Slayer action figure set isn’t too far behind.
Kirk Windstein (Crowbar)
It’s not just that Kirk Windstein has a big ol’ beard and plays riffs that sound like avalanches. It’s also that the Crowbar frontman has a salty but always good-natured attitude that one sort of imagines Santa as having. You can really picture Kirk with his boots up on a desk, nursing a milk and scanning the list for who’s been a bastard. Existence is punishment, but hey, if you’re an asshole, coal works too.
Ethan Lee McCarthy (Primitive Man)
Not only is Ethan Lee McCarthy of Denver’s Primitive Man a big dude who works his ass off, he’s also great with kids — when he’s not making harrowing sludge metal, he’s a substitute teacher who helps kids with developmental disabilities. As for his music, imagine if you spent each year poring over the sins of every human being on earth in order to determine them naughty or nice. Imagine venting all that naughtiness in one place. That’s Primitive Man right there — the sonic equivalent of coal.
Only the truest black metal bands have a Santa, and 1349 are by all means true. One glance at bassist Seidemann and you’ll notice he seems especially poised to be Kris Kingle in disguise. Not only does he have the lengthy beard, he rocks a the hooded robe, which gives him an old-world pagan Santa kind of vibe, the kind of Finnish Christmas spirit who’s more winter wizard than kindly elf. Could that pitch-black garment be disguising a belly that shakes when he laughs like a bowl full of jelly? Maybe, though it’s hard to imagine this dude laughing.
Sure, Rob Halford wrote a metal Christmas album, and often wears a long (albeit heavily studded) coat onstage that could easily support a white fur trim. But the truth is, Rob Halford has what the job of Santa requires more than anything: cheer. The Judas Priest frontman is just perpetually positive, always supporting bands and helping out everyone he can with the power of music. Those high spirits make him a shoe-in for the role of Saint Nick himself.
Doc Coyle (Bad Wolves)
We hear you — Bad Wolves guitarist Doc Coyle is clean-shaven, not even chubby, and only occasionally cheerful. But he’s fuckin’ everywhere. Whether he’s promoting his Ex-Man Podcast, co-hosting our metal talk show Last Words, appearing on someone else’s online show, or chewing folks out on his Twitter, Doc is somehow in a million places at once. You might say it’s hard work, or hustle, but it’s equally possible that he’s some sort of magical pagan spirit who brings toys to children once a year. Prove us wrong, Doc!
Any metalhead knows that Dee Snider is obsessed with Christmas. The Twisted Sister frontman borrowed the melody of the band’s legendary hit “We’re Not Gonna Take It” from a Christmas carol (“Oh Come All Ye Faithful” — yeah, you can hear it), and the band even released a Christmas album back in 2006 following several successful holiday shows. So if we snuck downstairs on Christmas even and found Dee’s make-up-slathered face screaming, “HERE’S A TRAIN, MOTHAFUCKA!” at us, we wouldn’t be all that shocked. Well, maybe a little.
Al Cisneros (Sleep, Om)
Obviously, Sleep and Om frontman Al Cisneros definitely has the Santa Claus look down with his massive beard and unkempt hair. More so, it’s the mixture of positivity and weirdo spirituality throughout his music that feels appropriate for a dude who just flies around giving presents away. You might argue that Al’s main band is known for its adoration of weed, and that’s rather naughty — to which we say, well, how do you you think Old Saint Nick deals with the stress of the holiday season? Most depictions of Santa include him smoking a pipe, but no one ever wants to talk about what’s in it…
George “Corpseginder” Fisher (Cannibal Corpse)
Now, hear us out! Yes, Corpsegrinder is the vocalist of Cannibal Corpse, arguably the most brutal death metal band of all time. But first of all, George is a devoted dad, whose love of his family is widely known via his social media posts. More importantly, he might be the one human whose bellow could be heard over the whipping gale of snow that Santa rides through, which helps when you have reindeer to rally. On Dasher! On Dancer! On DEATH WALKING TERROR!
Let’s get right down to it: Bruce Dickinson can fucking fly. The Iron Maiden frontman may not by the typical Santa Claus figure, but since he’s the pilot who takes the band on tour via his Ed Force One jet, he’s got the kind of work experience that would be useful if you’re, say, delivering toys to the world’s children. He’s also the head of an aeronautics company in which he’s trying to build the next great generation of airships, which seems like a solid cover for a company perfecting a flying sleigh. Keep an eye out for him around two minutes to midnight.
We hear you — Doro is neither hairy, nor fat, nor a man, all attributes normally assigned to Santa. But let’s be real, if any figure in heavy metal looks like the embodiment of European pagan winter, it’s Ms. Pesch. Not only that, but she’d just look so damn awesome in a heayily-studded red cloak with fur trim that one wonders if she’s got the outfit stashed away somewhere. If that weren’t enough, she’s a beacon of positivity within metal, preaching support and togetherness within the scene for decades. We’d give her the job any day.
Words by Chris Krovatin