Death Metal ChristmasHo ho ho! The Christmas season is upon us, and as the holiday draws nigh, thoughts turn to chestnuts, eggnog, peace on Earth and… death metal??? Apparently Hate Eternal bassist and man of good cheer,  J.J. Hrubovcak felt Trans-Siberian Orchestra weren’t stuffing enough metal in the stocking, so he decided to craft a short, vicious collection of harrowing carols. Since Christmas is a time for family, it’s appropriate that J.J. handles bass, guitar and drums and brings in his brother Mike (Monstrosity, Vile) to provide death croaks. While clearly a novelty and easily dismissed as such, the five classic Christmas songs that get deathified are done so seriously and sound so sincere that it actually becomes a worthwhile, if unusual listen.

This admittedly tenuous concept works as well as it does largely because they avoid hokey, cornball tunes like “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” or, Heaven forbid, the execrable “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” Instead, they wisely went with darker, more somber choices like “We Three Kings” and “Greensleeves.” These classics are then whipsawed into broootal death metal along the lines of Morbid Angel, Massacre and naturally, Hate Eternal.

J.J. HrubovcakThe very fact these ancient ditties work so effectively in this new light is a tribute to the musical skills of Mr. Hrubovcak. “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” becomes a slow, slithering and malevolent work, quite like Morbid Angel‘s “God of Emptiness” mixed with Massacre‘s “Corpsegrinder.” “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” alternates between a Nile and Immolation approach and “We Three Kings” flits between quasi-funeral doom and brutal blasting. Even their take on “Nutcracker” cracks plenty of nuts and I find it more enjoyable than the over-the-top, symphonic silliness T.S.O. brought to bear when they attempted it. Hell, even the newly evil lyrics work after a fashion.

J.J.’s performance left me very impressed on several levels. His guitar-work is sharp and manages to be both crushingly heavy and tastefully melodic. I especially enjoyed his Rick Rozz-esque whammy dives. His drumming is even more of a revelation and I’m quite taken by the brutal, yet oddly technical kit session he turns in. His fills and rolls are slick and help make the songs pop and his penchant for festive blast beats is admirable. Mike Hrubovcak’s death roars are solid too and he delivers the same kind of super low, deep belch that David Vincent once made so compelling.

bad-santa-dancenturyThe production (courtesy of band mate Erik Rutan) is good, the vocals sound huge and oppressive and the drums have a ton of power. The guitar tone is ugly enough to punish, but clear enough for the melodic, somewhat techy moments to be appreciated. The only downside is the largely inaudible bass, which is weird, since J.J. is a bassist first and foremost.

At the end of the day, this is still a seasonal novelty album, but it’s worth a listen due to the surprising quality of the music. If you miss it, yule be sorry! Hail Santa.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
Websites:  |
Release Dates: Out Worldwide 11.29.2013

Share →
  • Satanic Royal Court Jester

    A 3.5?! I don’t even know how to respond to that. I think this means you really love Christmas or really hate it. Say what you will about black metal, Mr. Druhm, but this right here proves why black metal is fundamentally a superior art form to death metal. Can you imagine Sigh doing this? Actually, that would be really cool, but I can’t see it ever happening, and don’t want to.

    On the other hand, I did once write a song called “Rudolph the Red-Eyed Zombie”.

    • I do love Christmas and this is surprisingly well done and festive…yet broootal. I’m not out to argue black vs. death metal, I just think this is enjoyable and well done.

    • OraclePigWater

      The original Norwegian black metal bands started off as death metal bands. The war between those two genres is pointless.

      • Satanic Royal Court Jester

        If you read my entire original comment, it should be clear that I was only half serious.

        However, the part of me that was serious now says that I thought they taught in Black Metal 101 that the genre didn’t originate in Norway. Venom was from England, Mercyful Fate was from Denmark, Celtic Frost (and Hellhammer) was from Switzerland and the great Bathory (who those nutty Norwegians most emulated) was from Sweden. Whatever Bathory was at the beginning, it wasn’t death metal.

        You are right that a war between metal subgenres is pointless, though. Really, all metal subgenres are a bit ridiculous, but some are a bit more ridiculous than others, and this here Christmas album is a good case in point.

  • Zadion

    Pretty much everything about this is hilarious: the picture of Santa flipping the bird, the fact this album even exists, and, of course, the review itself! Thanks for the heads up!

    • The bad Santa was my own inclusion for added festive fun.

  • Tanuki

    Were they inspired by Deathklok?. May never know, but I agree with the sentiments of that episode. In an extended family that doesn’t drink any alcohol, and frowns upon anyone who does, coupled with an endlessly replayed vinyl of Daffy Duck singing Christmas carols makes Xmas plenty brootal already…