By Greg Maki
For us Americans, we haven’t yet gathered with family to stuff ourselves with turkey and the many (many) assorted side dishes. But Halloween has come and gone, and for an ever increasing number of people, that means the holiday season is in full swing. Retailers would have us believe the big day is breathing down our necks, as they allow Santa and his elves to kick the monsters out of their seasonal displays before the little ones make their rounds trick-or-treating.
These days, when most recording artists receive little to no income from their actual recorded music, merch is where the money is. With the holiday season now fully occupying one-sixth of the year, rock and metal bands are catering to the Christmas crowd just like any other business—and I’m all for it. Bring on the ugly sweaters, ornaments, wrapping paper—whatever you’ve got. Anything to make the season a little more metal and make me forget about Mariah Carey is A-OK in my book.
Our look at what rock and metal artists are offering for 2023, which will be updated as the season goes on, begins with that most festive of bands: Slayer. Though inactive since 2019, everyone’s favorite Satanic-but-not-really thrash act continues to pump out the merch, this year offering a sweater, T-shirt and ornaments. Also, while not specifically holiday-themed, you can treat yourself to a ridiculous skull tankard and, even better, a meat brander.
Megadeth just added an extensive holiday collection, including multiple sweaters, pajamas, a hoodie, wrapping paper and even a “Santa Vic” throw pillow—some of the best Christmas merch I’ve seen from a band.
Make it a zombie Christmas with a rather extensive holiday collection from Rob Zombie. The wide range of products includes a hoodie, T-shirt, holiday card, Krampus wallet, ornaments and, for something completely different, a tree skirt—a really cool item that I can’t imagine spending $120 (plus shipping) on, but maybe that’s in your budget.
Rising deathcore band Lorna Shore has its annual “A Lorna Shore Christmas” concerts scheduled for the week before Christmas and also has a Christmas sweater for sale that might be my favorite piece band-related holiday merch that I’ve seen so far this year. You also can bring a touch of deathcore to your tree with three different ornaments, and let Santa know which subgenre you’re into with this stocking.
UPDATE (Nov. 28, 2023): Lorna Shore has added a number of new holiday items to its store, including a hat, scarf Christmas sweater can cooler, socks, T-shirts and more.
Ghost has been a merchandising machine pretty much since its inception, which is why it’s a bit surprising that this very festive T-shirt is its only real holiday offering as of this writing.
Speaking of merchandising machines, Ice Nine Kills has turned merch into a booming full-time business with new, themed collections dropping on the ninth of each month (“Nightmare on the Ninth”). November’s holiday set includes a hoodie, a Grinch-themed crewneck, a Festivus-themed T-shirt, pajama pants, a beanie, wrapping paper and more. Don’t sleep on this one, because each month’s collection is only available for about a week.
UPDATE (Nov. 16, 2023): While the Ice Nine Kills Christmas Nightmare on the Ninth collection no longer is available, this suitably bloody Christmas sweater still can be yours.
Metalcore act August Burns Red has released some of the very best metal Christmas music to date, including the 2012 album “Sleddin’ Hill,” and is staging the two-day “Christmas Burns Red” event on Dec. 8 and 9 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The band’s latest holiday tune is an instrumental version of “Up on the Housetop” that’s just as good as all the rest of its Christmas material, and there’s a T-shirt to go along with it. You also can get your hands on two different ABR Christmas sweaters, including this gem with frontman Jake Luhrs in the Mariah Carey pose that’s been burned into all of our brains, and a “Merry Metalcore” T-shirt.
Trivium is going back to its 2008 album “Shogun” for this themed Christmas sweater—”Take their fucking heads” has never looked quite so festive—and you can trim your tree with your choice of two Trivium ornaments.
With his good-natured attitude and all around jolly demeanor, Zakk Wylde might actually become Santa if his beard ever goes white, so of course there’s some holiday Black Label Society gear for sale. Sadly, there are no sweaters available as of now—I got one a few years ago—but you can show off your allegiance to the “St. Nicholas Chapter” with this faux vest T-shirt or this slightly less tacky T.
UPDATE (Nov. 28, 2023): Santa Zakk is back! Get your choice of three BLS Christmas sweaters or a sweatshirt.
And that naturally brings us to Ozzy Osbourne. Let the Prince of Darkness help you celebrate the holidays with this Christmas sweater or this less festive but much more badass bat sweater, the latter of which is on sale for $40.
Ozzy’s former touring partner Mötley Crüe is in on the act, too, celebrating the holidays and its landmark 1983 album “Shout at the Devil” with this sweater. (I hope Mick Mars is getting a piece of the profits from this.)
We all know Gene Simmons is never one to let a merchandising opportunity pass him by, so of course there’s a KISS holiday collection, including the obligatory “Merry KISSmas” T-shirt, plus a doormat, along with the “snowflake” hoodie and a scarf.
The “Metal Gods,” Judas Priest, are getting on the action with this set of two ornaments guaranteed to make your tree more metal than ever.
Dio has been gone for over a decade, but he’s still got the holiday spirit, as evidenced by this sweater.
Lacking in wearable merch, AC/DC makes up for it with an array of ornaments, wrapping paper and stockings.
Stay warm this winter with a Killswitch Engage Christmas scarf.
Five Finger Death Punch’s “knucklehead” mascot is feeling the holiday spirit on this sweater.
Get a little more bang for your buck with these holiday bundles—each featuring a T-shirt, scarf and ornament—from Cradle of Filth, Coal Chamber and DevilDriver.
For some reason, Christmas and Steel Panther seem like a natural fit, and the band’s holiday merch includes a hoodie, T-shirt, mug, ornaments and cards.
More on the rock side but no less festive, there’s a Foo Fighters holiday sweater up for sale, and while it has no real Christmas connection, this “Studio 666” sleeping cap just feels right for the season.
There doesn’t appear to be much new rock or metal Christmas music coming this year, but former Nightwish frontwoman Tarja will release “Dark Christmas,” the sequel to her 2017 album “From Spirits and Ghosts (Score for a Dark Christmas),” on Nov. 10. Get it here.
Hard rock act Buckcherry also has thrown its hat into the holiday ring, dropping the new single “Tell ‘Em It’s Christmas.”
Meanwhile, Mark Tremonti (Alter Bridge, Tremonti, Creed) is toning things down quite a bit, working with the same team from his 2022 album “Tremonti Sings Sinatra” to bring us “Christmas Classics New & Old,” featuring standards such as “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and “Jingle Bells,” along with the new original song “Christmas Morning.” In addition to the album, you can get Tremonti Christmas T-shirts, a scarf and an ornament, all here.
And finally, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without Twisted Sister. The Dee Snider-led band, which officially called it quits in 2016, set the standard for hard rock/metal holiday music with its 2006 release “A Twisted Christmas” and, in addition to that album, T-shirts from various Christmas tours and a Santa hat are available.