15 Metal Christmas Songs for Unsilent, Unholy Nights
Stevie Wonder once said “Everyone’s a kid at Christmas,” and the thrashers set are no exception. Over the years, metal bands have turned their inverted crucifixes around and cut some of the heaviest, loudest, most rip-roaring odes to the holiday season. Here are 15 of the most fist-pounding, throat-shredding, head-banging, heavy metal Christmas tunes ever recorded.
AC/DC – ‘Mistress for Christmas’
While most people spend Christmas wishing for goodwill on Earth, Brian Johnson of AC/DC just wants some secret nookie. On “Mistress for Christmas,” he asks Santa for a little side action, and from the fun that he sound likes he’s having, he was definitely on the “naughty” list that year.
Twisted Sister – ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’
Who would have guessed that Twisted Sister, the band that shocked households in the Eighties and went toe-to-toe against the Parents Music Resource Center, would release something as wholesome as a Christmas album? Surprisingly, the band played it relatively straight on "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus."
Type O Negative – ‘Red Water (Christmas Mourning)’
Brooklyn's finest gothic-metal sourpusses are haunted by ghosts of Christmas past on this typically glum and gloomy dirge. His voice rumbling sepulchrally, Peter Steele sighs over dearly departed friends and family, while still keeping tongue firmly planted in cheek: "My table's been set for but seven/Just last year I dined with eleven." Don't miss the song's humorously somber quotes of "Carol of the Bells" and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" – nor the awesome fan-created video the tune inspired. –BRANDON GEIST
Spinal Tap – ‘Christmas With the Devil’
A giant Santa skull, Harry Shearer in leather pants with a devil’s tail, and a three-way solo: Must be a Spinal Tap Christmas. The funny part is they aren't too far off from the guys who are being serious.
Manowar – ‘Silent Night’
Manowar love bombast. They have any number of songs about medieval combat that start quietly, only to build to an explosive, face-melting climax. For "Silent Night" (in German!) they put the swords away but keep the crescendoes — a finale fit for a king.
Halford – ‘We Three Kings’
Judas Priest's Rob Halford loves Christmas so much that his third solo album, Halford 3: Winter Songs, is composed entirely of Christmas songs. On "We Three Kings," the metal god calls out to the Judeo-Christian one as only a metal legend can.
Korn – ‘Kidnap the Sandy Claws’
As well as kilts, dreadlocks and baggy pants, Korn's list of favorite things apparently also includes the Yuletide season. Over the course of the nu-metal progenitors' 20-year career, they've put their downtuned spin on "Jingle Bells" (reimagined as the death-metal-ish "Jingle Balls") and the classic holiday poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (which they bastardized into the sophomoric throwaway track "Christmas Song"). But their most generous gift to the holidays has to be their cover of Lock, Shock and Barrel's Nightmare Before Christmas chant-along "Kidnap the Sandy Claws," which Jonathan Davis and Co. turn into a menacing serial-killer freakout. –BRANDON GEIST
Amon Amarth – ‘Viking Christmas’
On "Viking Christmas," the melodic death-metal band Amon Amarth make an argument against revisionist Christian history. Or are they admitting that despite their lust for blood, they also like gingerbread cookies? It's open for interpretation.
King Diamond – ‘No Presents for Christmas’
"No Presents for Christmas" opens with a Muzak-style rendering of a few Christmas classics before King Diamond tears the whole thing apart with demonic laughter. Could it be King Diamond became a Satanist because Santa skipped his house when he was a little boy?
Dio with Tony Iommi – ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’
It's a testament to the power of the Sabbath that even the centuries-old "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" is turned from an amicable carol to a crushing tune with the slightest rearrangement. Iommi turns in riffs heavy enough for Vol. 4, while Dio delivers a performance nothing less than operatic.
Lemmy, Billy F. Gibbons, Dave Grohl – ‘Run, Rudolph, Run’
"Run, Rudolph, Run" is now a Christmas standard, played by everyone from Chuck Berry to Keith Richards, Billy Idol, Sheryl Crow and Cee Lo. But its Lemmy's whiskey-soaked voice that makes this version sound like it was recorded while the trio was full of Christmas "spirits."
GWAR – ‘Stripper Christmas Summer Weekend’
When GWAR celebrate Christmas, they do it in the summer . . . with strippers . . . over an entire weekend. Just because they're from outer space doesn't mean that these monsters can't kick back during the holiday season. Here they celebrate as only murderous aliens can – by violating Santa himself.
Henry Rollins – ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’
This one isn’t strictly heavy metal, but we’ll let it slide because it’s Henry. On Rollins’ rendition of the Christmas classic, he reads the poem over the top an avant-garde sound collage that includes sirens and gunshots. But in Rollins’ version, after he waves hello to St. Nick, the poor fellow gets blown out of the sky by a missile.
August Burns Red – ‘Carol of the Bells’
Christian metalcore outfit August Burns Red loves Christmas so much that the band recorded an entire instrumental album of metalized carols and classics, 2012's August Burns Red Presents: Sleddin' Hill, A Holiday Album. But the group first got into the Yuletide spirit in 2007, recording a fan-favorite cover of "Carol of the Bells," which turned the already fairly metal-sounding tune into a shreddy epic. –BRANDON GEIST
Christopher Lee – ‘Little Drummer Boy’
Thick, chugging riffs rumble in the background while 91-year-old British actor Christopher Lee, with his impossibly deep baritone, delivers a take that can only be described as epic. The other metalers on this list turned in smashing versions of their songs, but how could anyone top Saruman himself, bellowing "A-rum-pa-pum-pum!"?