Thursday, September 11, 2014
Repossession: A Christmas Album (2014)
Christmas music is one of those things that you either love or hate, there's generally no middle ground. Some people, like my boss, can't wait for the day after Thanksgiving, because they can break out the vast array of Christmas-themed CD's and play them to their heart's content without anyone thinking they're strange because of it. Playing those CD's in the middle of June, however, will usually elicit strange looks. But for those who love Christmas music, there are hundreds of albums and compilations to choose from to whet the appetite. For the metal fan, however, there's very little Christmas-themed metal, aside from the occasional single, some Trans-Siberia Orchestra, or the occasional full album of metal by an artist, like Rob Halford's "Winter Songs".
I'm a bit picky when it comes to Christmas music. If I'm in the mood for it, I really like it and enjoy listening to it, even if it's kind of cheesy. But I gravitate toward either classics like Mannheim Steamroller's 1st 2 albums, some good old Bing Crosby, or some of the other Christmas-themed music I grew up with. The idea of hard rock and metal Christmas music is one that I like, but very few bands have done much with the idea, other than a few modern acts like Theocracy or August Burns Red. There have been some attempts at gathering this material together in the past, like the 2002 Sound of the Dead Records' "A Brutal Christmas - The Season In Chaos" compilation. That was a good collection of songs, but this new collection takes things to the next level by further diversifying the mix of genres and bands, as well as offering two full-length, long CD's chock full of fun tunes. We have Metal Blessing Radio to thank for bringing all this goodness together.
This compilation brings together a number of familiar metal Christmas songs, as well as a handful of relatively obscure tracks. In part, a large percentage of the tracks from "A Brutal Christmas" appear here, as well as tracks previously released as free downloads or EP/album tracks like Theocracy, Grave Robber, Paramaecium, Frost Like Ashes, and Deliverance. Then there are some bands/artists I've never heard of, like Derek Close, Jonathan Simpson (who gets to open and close the album), Anschluss Amor, and Forfeit Thee Untrue. Stylistically, this is fairly diverse. We have everything from shredding hard rock/metal like Pastor Brad or Derek Close, to the gothic rock of Leper, the horror punk of Grave Robber, and the grooving sounds of Faithbomb, to the more extreme, such as the doom death metal of Paramaecium, the melodic death metal of Immortal Souls, the brutal death metal sound of Tortured Conscience, the metalcore of Second Thief, or the black metal of Erlosung or Flaskavsae, or the grindcore of The Right Wing Conspiracy. There's some more experimental stuff here as well, like Kekal's awesome take on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen", Amelioration's "Redirection Christmas", Anschluss Amor's industrial "Christ's Mass", or the always bizarro Frank's Enemy with "Coventry Carol". You certainly won't be bored listening to this release.
One thing I noticed immediately is that the volume level is quite low. That's probably due to the various volume levels these tracks were recorded and mastered at from various sources, so it was a smart decision to "normalize" the songs to a lower volume to accommodate that divergence, and make the listening experience a bit more even across the board. If you want to crank it, just turn he volume up a little higher and jam out. One thing I'd suggest to anyone thinking about assembling a compilation of this type in the future - mix up the tracks a bit more if you have multiple tracks by a single band. It's a bit distracting to hear all 6 Erlosung tracks all in order, even though I know they're all quite short and similarly constructed. It would have been more interesting to hear those songs interspersed throughout the entirety of the compilation. Same goes for Second Thief or Pastor Brad - they only had 2 tracks, but it might have been nice to have 1 of each from both respective bands on each disc, just to help improve the flow and keep things interesting. It's a minor complaint, however. Also, I have to mention the packaging for the limited first edition digipak - it's a quality double-fold digi with nice hard cardstock as its base, and a nice matte finish. The cover artwork, as you can see above, is a nice parody of Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night, and doesn't overwhelm the original work with changes, just subtly gives it a humorous Christmas theme. The first pressing is hand-numbered, and limited to 300 copies.
The other nice thing here is that the proceeds from the sale of these CD's will go to benefit an organization called MPact Events. They will be using the money (100% of it, according to the press release I received) to purchase Christmas gifts for kids via the CASA program (Court Appointed Special Advocate) - so these gifts will be going to foster kids who may not get any gifts from their birth parents. Being that my wife and I spent several years doing foster care and have a heart for kids, I'm on board with this, and this worthy cause is dear to our hearts. I was blessed to get a review copy of this compilation, but I would encourage anyone out there who is a metal fan and wants some Christmas-themed metal to jump on this, because it's a good cause, and a great deal. You get 37 tracks of awesome Christmas music for $13 in a stunning digipak that will no doubt become a collectible in the years to come. I'm not one to push my readers into buying stuff, I just try to give my opinion on a band when I review their CD. But this is the exception to the rule - fans of metal should be checking this out post haste, and anyone else looking to support a good cause and/or for a Christmas music curiosity for their collection, go buy a copy from the Metal Blessing Radio website. Highly recommended!