Death Metal Christmas—Hellish Renditions of Christmas Classics”. Composed and produced by J.J. with vocals and artwork, by brother/Monstrosity throat Mike Hrubovcak, Death Metal Christmas – Hellish Renditions of Christmas Classics was engineered by Hate Eternal mastermind Erik Rutan and J.J., mixed and mastered by Brian Elliott all at Mana Recording Studios in St Petersburg, Florida and boasts five deformed Christmas classics.”
J.J. Hrubovcak is the current bass player for Hate Eternal.
I had planned on taking a short break from reviewing my 195 metal CDs collection for Christmas until I received an email from my good friend, and solo bass player Steve Lawson with a downloadable gift from Bandcamp. It was this album…
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
Probably because they were shit-scared by this god-forsaken noise, if the truth be told.
It would be easy to simply dismiss Death Metal Christmas as yet another Christmas-themed money-spinner. I mean, aren’t there enough Christmas albums?! But the thing is this has been done really very well.
This isn’t just a cheap attempt at playing a handful of Christmas tunes in a metal style. There is an integrity to the songs here. These are true death metal songs, that just happen to draw inspiration from more popular and well-known Christmas-ish songs. (More about that in a moment.)
The lyrics have been reworked and reshaped into true death metal style. Take for example:
Unrest for melancholy men
Who wallow in dismay
For Azrael, the lone Butcher
Was born upon this day
To steer us all toward Satan’s ends
And lead us all astray
There’ll be absence of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
There’ll be no more comfort or joy
Azrael, the archangel of death—he of folklore legend, rather than Christian tradition—will, of course, be familiar to many who partake of the death metal genre and entirely unfamiliar to those who know Carols for Choirs from cover to cover.
The music is bona fide death metal complete with blast beats, glorious double kick drums, wailing death metal guitar solos, dis-chords aplenty, and the goriest, throatiest vocals spitting out the darkest, bleakest lyrics you could hope for. If indeed you were left with any hope by the end of the 19 minutes and 23 seconds. It’s really clever stuff.
My only real criticism of this album are tracks three and four which are not strictly Christmas tunes.
Track 3, “Nutcracker: dance of the sugar plum fairy” comes from the Tchaikovsky scored ballet The Nutcracker which is about as Christmas-y as Morbid Angel. In just happens to be a ballet that since the 1960s has been performed primarily during the Christmas holidays. However, Hrubovcak addresses this on his website:
I debated on whether to include this song because it so ubiquitous during the season and almost played out, but I thought it needed to be heard in a death metal context. Much of the music produced by the late 19th/early 20th century Russian composers was basically the death metal of its time. It was passionate, aggressive, bleak, dark, unconventional and open-minded, reviled and revered at the same time, disturbing and shocking to convention.
Again, “Greensleeves” (track 4) is an English folk song, and not strictly Christmas-y, even though a number of carols have been put to the tune, most ending with “On Christmas day in the morning”.
My only criticism: there are so many other obviously and overtly Christmas tunes that could have been given the death metal treatment.
This is clearly a death metal album first and foremost, and a Christmas-themed one second. It is beautifully played, produced, and mixed. If you like death metal then you will love this and will have something to put on over the Christmas break to counter the endless repeats of Slade, Jona Lewie and Cliff Richard.
Oh, I realise that I do have another minor criticism: this album is clearly not long enough. More of this please.
Review score: 95%
Listen to the album on Bandcamp, then do yourself a favour and buy it! It’s only US $5.98. Thanks, Steve! This has been one of my best presents this Christmas.
And if you’re in the mood for buying new music, do also check out Steve Lawson’s Bandcamp page.