Ever since my best friend introduced me to Trans-Siberian Orchestra in high school, I've been addicted to the idea of non-traditional Christmas music. For me, nothing is more magical than "Frosty The Snowman" jacked up on electric guitar. But while TSO beautifully crafts the elements of metal and a symphonic orchestra into something edible for my mother, I like something a little more tough to chew on. Thrown in the double pedal. Let me hear the breakdowns.
That is where August Burns Red comes in. I've had my ups and downs with ABR over the years, but I was genuinely blown away by Sleddin' Hill from beginning to end.
Opening the album is "Flurries," the perfect intro for a CD that might otherwise come across a bit intense to someone accustomed to "All I Want For Christmas Is You." It begins with a deep blur of bass before a steady steam of guitar and bass notes fade in over sleigh bells. A rumble of the drums later and the song transitions a tad heavier, with distorted guitars, intricate drums and a medium-paced breakdown.
"Frosty The Snowman" and "Jingle Bells" get a heavy makeover as well, with the familiar melodies crying out over a machine gun of drums. If you're typically hesitant to people screaming at you, this is not a record to shy away from. Songs like "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Little Drummer Boy" are as familiar as always, just with a bit more grit. All of the instrumentation, none of screaming.
That being said, I'm a bit disappointed with how "Oh Holy Night" turned out. I'm all for sleigh rides and jolly fat men, but I'm equally a sucker for something a bit more emotional. Maybe it's just that I'm still stuck up on the scene in Home Alone when Kevin walks into the church while the little girls are singing. The song could have benefitted greatly from toning down the metal and turning up the heart. For this particular track, I'm still turning to TSO.
As a whole, I'm left mostly in awe. Sleddin' Hill is beautifully written and expertly performed, and won't be leaving my car until December 26.