Years ago there Brutal Christmas, a compilation of metal bands covering mostly classic Christmas songs and many consider that to be almost a legendary collection. It is since out-of-print (as far as I know) and there really hasn’t been a similar collection released until now with Sanctus Gladius releasing Prophecy Foretold. This year has also seen Tooth&Nail/Solid State release their own Christmas compilation with bands like For Today creating heavy versions of Christmas songs as well as a “Best of” Fleas Naughty Dog from Rottweiler Records that features some heavy bands, but also some goth and punk bands. Incidentally, the Fleas Naughty Dog collection includes Frost Like Ashes version of Let Mortal Flesh Keep Silent/O Come Emmanuel from the aforementioned Brutal Christmas. So, while there are other collections out there, I doubt any will be as heavy as this one.
After listening again to Brutal Christmas and to this collection, my one main thought is that some songs just are not good candidates for extreme metal/black metal/death metal cover versions, while others can be adapted. On this album, Greensleves (What Child is This) by Vials of Wrath is one of the best songs on the album, and is very much in line with other Vials of Wrath material, which I also highly recommend. It has that wintry atmosphere and medieval tonal quality to it in the beginning, with the black metal guitars coming in later but continuing the song in a very recognizable fashion.
Terraphobia, chose “What Child is This” and adorned it with some Black Sabbath sounding riffs but keeping the clean vocals and traditional song structure with the vocals reminiscent of James Hetfield at times.
Blood Thirsty open up “O Come Emmanuel” with a child singing joined by a full chorus before some crunchy riffs and wild bass lines take over along with some death and black metal screaming. While the lyrics may be from the original song, it’s nearly impossible to tell and the overall structure doesn’t follow the traditional version, so for most of the song no one would know what it is until the end when the clean choir vocals come back.
These compilations often have new songs with holiday or Christmas themes as well and this album is no exception. Of course, they may not be entirely original but at least are not well-known songs, so that is also likely some of the situation. Forfeit the Untrue have “Slaviour” which starts out with a familiar Christmas tune riff before shifting into a galloping metal riff with growling death metal vocals carrying much of the song until it slows and shifts to clean vocals for a bit before abruptly reverting back to screaming death metal vocals and heavy guitars. Interesting song, in general.
For me, the “classic” Christmas tunes should be recognizable even when performed in black/extreme metal and this can be done and done well. The Frost Like Ashes version of Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent/O Come Emmanuel and Greensleeves by Vials of Wrath on this album are prime examples. For fans of the genre and other bands on Sanctus Gladius, this album may fill that gap in their collection since the first Brutal Christmas album. For less rabid fans of the genre, there are some standout tracks on the album that will be enjoyed as well.
Written by John Jackson
1. For All Mankind – Winter’s Dawn
2. Gloria In Excelsis Deo – Adorned In Ash
3. Christmas Time Is Here – Sit At My Right Hand
4. Greensleeves (What Child Is This) – Vials Of Wrath
5. Slavior – Forfeit Thee Untrue
6. What Child Is This – Terraphobia
7. The Other Side – Black Leather
8. O Come Emanuel (The One Foretold) – Blood Thirsty
9. Journey To The North Pole – Rotting Serpent
10. Lies Of Santa Claus – Krig
11. Flight Of Victory – Quest For Serenity
Record Label: Sanctus Gladius, Dec. 2014