Metal Christmas Carols: A Match Made in Hell
By Zachary Wenzel
It’s that time of year again! Christmas radio stations are playing the same dozen or so songs 24/7 from now until New Year’s Eve! The sad truth is that even when they throw in a new song or a reimagined version of an old standard it never really fits in well. The same can be said of heavy metal versions of Christmas songs. Metal carols bring to mind hanging pentagrams on the tree, and a different sort of roaring fire— things that don’t quite fit with the Christmas spirit.
Let me get one thing straight: I love metal, and I can at least tolerate Christmas music. However, this fact doesn’t mean they should mix. Yet there are dozens of albums out there featuring metal Christmas carols. One of the more interesting compilations is We Wish You A Metal Xmas And A Headbanging New Year because every song is done by a different super group of artists from famous metal bands. Some are borderline stupid, like a death metal cover of “Silent Night.” Honestly, why bother? There is no way anyone who actually likes Christmas songs is going to listen to this for more than 20 seconds in which they will just laugh and say to a friend: “Ha ha ha, hey come get a load of this crap.” There are a few interesting songs, like a somber rendition of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” sung by the late great Ronnie James Dio or Lemmy from Motorhead rocking out to “Run, Run Rudolph.” Who is this meant to appeal to if people who actually like Christmas carols probably won’t listen to it? Hardcore metal heads probably aren’t going to listen to this while hanging Cannibal Corpse ornaments on their tree or wrapping up Mayhem albums as presents for their friends and families.
Compilations are one thing, but why in the name of Christmas do artists decide that an entire holiday album is necessary? Yeah, I’m talking to you, Twisted Sister! What were you thinking? The same goes for Judas Priest’s front man, Rob Halford. Half the songs on his solo band’s third album, Halford III: Winter Songs are Christmas carols. The weirdest part about it is they sound like his typical style, so if I imagine him singing about leather, killing machines, and electric eyes, etc. then I probably wouldn’t notice they were Christmas Carols. It just makes me wonder: at what point does a metal band sit down and think, “You know what the world needs? Recordings of us, melting faces to traditional Christmas Songs! Wouldn’t that be brutal and rebellious?!” Or who knows maybe they thought it would be funny or be full of artistic merit.
Here lies the biggest problem with Metal Christmas songs: a lot of the time I can’t tell if they are serious or not. This is why my favorite Christmas metal song is “No Presents For Christmas,” released in 1985 by former Mercyful Fate singer and self- affirmed Satanist, King Diamond. Based on that information alone, it’s completely obvious what his intentions are.
One of the few exceptions where I think Metal carols kind of work is Trans-Siberian Orchestra. It features a classical orchestra overlapped with many hard rock and metal elements. One guitarist who has been featured in their music is Alex Skolnick from thrash band Testament. I think this is a rare exception that the blend of styles really works and not proof that it is a good idea.
So this holiday season, feel free to keep Christ in Christmas, but please keep Christmas out of our metal.