By Renee Trotier
Christmas carols, aren’t they swell? Exorbitantly covered, syrupy sweet jingles purposefully used to fuel the fires of holiday commercialism and ignite the jolly old soul in all of us. Usually by this point in the season they have gnawed their merry way into our ear holes enough times to make dousing ones head with kerosene and setting it ablaze seem like a reasonable response. Now I know Christmas and metal have never really been synonymous, but how many mediocre pop renditions of “Santa Baby” does the world honestly need?
Thankfully someone from Armoury Records had the decency to throw us a bone in the form of We Wish you a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year. A compilation of holiday classics tailored to the needs of the neglected metal masses, it boasts an impressive collaboration of artists including Tony Iommi, Lemmy Kilmister, Chuck Billy and Ronnie James Dio to name but a few. One glance through the track listing and my curiosity was officially piqued. “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” featuring DevilDriver’s Dez Fafara? There was no way I hadn’t already heard worse.
As it turns out, the combination of heavy metal and Christmas songs is as entertaining and hilariously ironic as it seems. It truly is testament to what tempo and style can do to inform the way a listener interprets a song. Here, a piano driven boogie like “Run Rudolph Run” becomes a nicotine-stained party song in the hands of Lemmy and his signature rasp. Girlschool’s cover of “Auld Lang Syne” isn’t much different; a slow and reflective tune turned into something you can’t help but drink to. In terms of authenticity and sincerity however, it is the religious themed “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” that (surprisingly) stands out the most. The opening passage is unmistakably Tony Iommi; a slow and doomy guitar riff that sounds more much more sinister than it does joyful. Coupled with Dio’s powerful vocal performance, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they were singing from Satan’s point of view. It almost makes me wish Heaven & Hell had released a full length Christmas album when they had the chance.
While not every track can boast the same impressive quality, We Wish you A Metal Xmas… offers a bit of sonic relief from the repetitive soundtrack that normally accompanies the Christmas season. If you take it with a grain of salt and pinch of irony, you might even find yourself enjoying a carol or two.