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A very metal Christmas

Jimmy Kemper | Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Christmas season is upon us.

As we drift toward the end of this semester and a much-needed break, our heads are filled with visions of sugar plums and … death metal? Bassist J.J. Hrubovcak of death metal band Hate Eternal has just released “Death Metal Christmas: Hellish Renditions of Christmas Classics,” which, contrary to popular belief, is exactly what it sounds like. 

Hrubovcak teamed up with his brother Mike, vocalist of hard rockers Monstrosity and Vile, and his Hate Eternal bandmate Erik Rutan, a guitarist and notable producer, in order to produce the most twisted Christmas album you will ever hear. Unlike those atrocious, terrifying novelty metal Christmas albums that no one enjoys, this EP is actually an excellently crafted piece of musicianship. Hrubovcak overlays primal growls, crushingly heavy guitar work and pounding drums on top of once innocent traditional melodies, and it surprisingly works, thanks to its wonderfully intense passion. 

With “Death Metal Christmas,” Hrubovcak has taken some of the world’s most cherished Christmas carols and ripped out the very soul of the songs, replacing those tired, overdone themes of the joy of the Nativity with messages of humanity’s impending doom at the birth and rise of Azrael, an angel of death in some Hebrew and Islamic lore. 

With the song’s opening track, “Unrest For Melancholy Men (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen),” Hrubovcak says, “At this stage in the story, the earth is in great turmoil, thus the melancholy men can get no rest from their suffering. Cultures from around the world are looking for answers. The song lyrics basically warn the human race that this demon is now born and will seduce every last mind on this planet into altering their morals and convictions to suit his purpose unless man refocuses. He is not at all direct but very insidious.” 

The record’s other four songs are not lacking in terms of intensity, either. The grim, down-tempo “Earthen Kings” retains the time signature of the original “We Three Kings,” but really highlights the concept of the album, painting a dark image of an unholy apocalypse. 

Nothing is safe from the spirited wrath of “Death Metal Christmas,” not even the kid-friendly “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker ballet. This instrumental track, which begins with the opening bars of the classic orchestral version, is sure to melt your face off with its epic death metal prowess and even puts Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s intense Christmas works to shame. The group even has a murderous rendition of “Greensleeves,” better known as “What Child is This?”

The album finishes off with “O Come, O Come Azrael,” based off “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” It tears the original apart in a violent, impressively brutal symphony of death metal bliss that is sure to leave you paralyzed by the end. 

What’s great about this album is that it manages to avoid making a mess of sillier Christmas songs such as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” instead focusing on more somber and sacred pieces to create a serious and disturbingly beautiful piece of work. If you’re looking for the most heretical and bloodcurdling renditions of old-time carols and vintage hymns ever recorded, want to hear one of the most fascinating death metal concepts ever recorded or even just want to terrify your roommates while they study for exams, you should without a doubt give yourself the gift of “Death Metal Christmas” this holiday season. 

“Death Metal Christmas: Hellish Renditions of Christmas Classics” is available now at the project’s Bandcamp page, but be sure to also visit DeathMetalChristmas.com, where you can read the original and updated song lyrics. 

Contact Jimmy Kemper at jkemper2@nd.edu