Many of you might have noticed—If you listen to radio that is, but that’s another blog entirely—on Black Friday many U.S. radio stations flipped from their respective formats to Holiday. All across this great (not so great if you follow Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity with any seriousness) land of ours Adult Contemporary and Pop stations are now broadcasting Holiday music 24/7. That’s right non-stop Burl Ives, The Ronettes, Ray Conniff, Thurl Ravenscroft (yes, he of Mr. Grinch theme fame), Brenda Lee, Leroy Anderson, Andy Williams, Wham…You get the drift.
If you don’t get the drift, turn on a radio—in the car probably, as that’s radio’s last stronghold—turn the dial up/down and find yourself a Holiday station. Listen. For how long is up to you. Prolonged exposure, I must warn you, is equivalent to the Rack (hello Asphyx), the Iron Maiden (hey, dudes) or waterboarding (I hear Dick Cheney thinks waterboarding is a lot like the Log Ride). Nevertheless, the synapses of Americans for one long month are fried and re-fried by Christmas cheer. Not sure how it works in other countries (Canada is part of the U.S., right?), but we Americans are Christmas flagellants, eager to bombard every atom with the red, the white and the (very) glittery/shimmery.
To celebrate America the Flagellant (or Flatulent if you’ve already had the ‘mystery meat’ at the company Holiday Party), we bring you The Top 13 Most Metal Holiday Songs Ever. Well, until next year. It’ll probably be the same list, except Burzum’s cover of “Carol of the Bells” will be on it. If you know the origins of “Carol of the Bells” it all makes sense, given Varg’s recent Russophile leanings.
13. Halford — “We Three Kings”
Halford III: Winter Songs hit the streets in 2009. Largely curious renditions of holiday classics filled Halford’s stab at Christmas gold. To be frank, we’re not entirely certain what prompted heavy metal’s greatest vocalist to plunk down coinage to record songs like “We Three Kings” and “Come All Ye Faithful”, but he’s done it and the metal faithful, as dutiful servants of cool, have greatly ignored it.
12. Cranium — “Satanic Holiday”
OK, this song isn’t about Christmas per se. It’s about fucking up beach goers and watching volcanoes erupt on resorts. But not every Hesser spends the Holidays with the family. Some travel to exotic locales to sunbathe nude and get some Christmas action (on the beach or in a volcano). Right on!
11. Dream Evil — “December 25th”
‘Why, Why Santa? / I can’t give her what she wants / Why, why Santa? / You’re to blame / Please, please Santa!’ Well, Dream Evil dudes. If you didn’t work at Burger King you might be able to afford your girls some cool presents—like all-the-rage Big Hugs Elmo—but just think five years from now you’ll be assistant managers. Then you can make it rain, bros!
10. KYPCK — “Rozhdestvo V Murmanske (Christmas in Murmansk)”
Formed by ex-Sentenced guitarist Sami Lopakka, KYPCK, or Kursk in English, ain’t an obvious choice. There’s nothing festive or holly jolly about “Rozhdestvo V Murmanske (Christmas in Murmansk)”. This song is as gray as a Soviet apartment block and as dismal as the Chernobyl sky. Not every sleigh has bells a jinglin’.
9. Gehennah — “Merry Shitmas!”
These malcontent, Motörhead-influenced Swedes had good ‘ol Santa in their sights. Wanting nothing more than Santa dead, his reindeer flayed (and dried for jerky) and his sack of presents destroyed into wee bits, Gehennah’s ode to Christmas browns even the cheeriest of dispositions. As they said back in 1995, ‘Merry Shitmas, you bastards!!!’
8. Spinal Tap — “Christmas with the Devil”
Remember the Arsenio Hall performance? Who’s Arsenio Hall? Some actor who used to pair up with Eddie Murphy. Anyway, I hated it. I was into serious metal not this parody junk. Years and many unserious metal moments later, it’s pretty hard to not dig Spinal Tap’s full-on, rock-competent Christmas song. Even if it sounds like it was written at the back end of the short bus.
7. August Burns Red — “Carol of the Bells”
The version of “Carol of the Bells” on radio is more than likely by Canadian songwriter David Foster, but this Ukrainian folk song turned money maker is now indelibly tied to Christmas. Pennsylvania’s own August Burns Red transforms the tune into Scandi ear candy, adding distorted guitars and quicker tempos, creating what could be an In Flames B-Side.
6. Trans-Siberian Orchestra — “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24”
What?! Where’s my Savatage? Well, Warner Bros. have blocked Savatage’s music on YouTube, so we’ve opted for the next best thing…sort of. Trans-Siberian Orchestra is Savatage only with bigger bank accounts and a much better light show. To be fair, this is pretty heinous, but sets the mood right. Bring on snow-capped mountains and dudes in oiled leather armor!
5. Erlösung — “Carol of the Bells”
Were on a theme here. But this time we’ve unearthed a true black metal Holiday treasure. This duo from Augusta, Georgia have trumped every band (even Therion!) on Nuclear Blast Records by recording a lo-fi black metal version of Ukrainian folk tune “Carol of the Bells”. Erlösung are destined for viral greatness! See August Burns Red for another version.
4. Tankard — “Fuck Christmas”
Ah, Tankard. The German joke-thrash band that just won’t/can’t quit. Never, ever inconspicuous in songcraft or lyric-making, Tankard’s storied career of redneck anthems to drinking and other gluttonous behavior will always have a little place in our hearts. But “Fuck Christmas” is, strangely, a socially aware ditty the recession-hit/anti-capitalists can identify with.
3. Type O Negative — “Red Water (Christmas Mourning)”
Lots of goth types had sex to this song in summer 1996. The lilting, waltz-like pace, the soothing sonic layers and Peter Steele’s smooth vampiric croon was tailor-made for Hot Topic bumps and grinds. For the sexless and the cheerful, it’s a subtle reminder that, yes, everything dies and winter is long and cold (and sometimes hard).
2. Venom — “Black Xmas”
Cronos + Christmas = anti-good! “Black Xmas” is a December backyard boogie waiting to happen. The scene: A gaggle of your cultest f(r)iends around a fire pit, plenty of Holiday brew, a yummy pig on a spit and Cronos wailing, “When the snow turns black / I’ll be back – I’ll be here”. Someone’s gonna cut rug and make not black but yellow snow.
1. King Diamond — “No Presents for Christmas”
What Christmastime would be complete without the ineffable king of darkness, King Diamond? “No Presents for Christmas” is classic and is a must for any self-respecting holiday party that involves Schlitz, wreathes made of barbed wire and inverted Christmas trees (it’s hard to do, I realize, but try it).
** If you’re still a glutton for Yuletide punishment, check out Hate Eternal’s J.J. Hrubovcak’s Death Metal Christmas – Hellish Renditions Of Christmas Classics. It’s brutally brutal.