Though there is no small amount of music being checked for naughty or nice status here at Sonic Perspectives, it is a treat when Santa deposits something unusual under our tree. Such is the case with a little EP with bells on, from “ChristmasForce,” a Boston area holiday metal project brought to us as a sort of side project to Brian Murphy’s modern prog metal act “One Time Mountain.” You can check one of their singles here. The debut 23 minute EP from ChristmasForce is entitled “Rudolph’s Symphonic Metal Christmas,” and would seem to be a metal departure from the Steinman-esque stylings of Paul O’Neill’s Trans-Siberian Orchestra. So let’s unwrap this thing and see what’s inside.
The opening track sets the stage, with a little tip of the hat to the same Rankin & Bass stop-motion Rudolph feature with Burl Ives which of course also inspired now-classic “Elf.” Radio waves are buzzing the world over, reporting record storms and snows, and the possibility of a canceled Christmas. Once the radio cuts out, Boston Bruins announcer John Horrigan tells his apparent grandson (only after fetching grandpa’s “medicine”) about the true spirit of Christmas, and how Santa would never let a little weather ruin the most wonderful time of the year.
Once the subsequent overture kicks in, from the crushing rhythm guitars, to the hardcore double kick blast beats, it is obvious this isn’t your grandpa’s fifth-row tickets to TSO. But it might be like his medicine. The overture is saturated with enough MIDI/synth orchestration to keep it from just being speed metal santa.
“Jingle Jingle Jingle” revisits the first thrash element of the overture, with relentless blistering guitar and drums, and stratospheric vocals operating someplace just beneath Ripper Owns altitude. “We are Santa’s Elves” continues this overall thrash vibe, although there is a blending of male and female vocal talent to lend a little more variety to the toy-making workforce. This track is followed by the more balladic “There’s Always Tomorrow,” featuring a spirited female vocal duet. Although guitars and drums are present (including a really solid lead part) the song is guided more by synth keyboard orchestration, making for a welcome change of scenery.
“We’re a Couple of Misfits” (which was the number from the Rankin/Bass TV special which led Rudolph and Hermey to their adventures) is joined in this case by a male vocal duet, and the tempo and heaviness is a nice compromise between the prior ballad and some of the face-melting thrash elsewhere on the record. In the same vein is the old Burl Ives standard, “Silver and Gold,” with a variety of vocal talent, and a somewhat more amped-up presentation than the 1964 original. Of course, no Rudolphian Odyssey would be complete without a trip to the Island of Misfit Toys, and so it is that we get a rendition of “The Most Wonderful Day of the Year.” Nothing is left out, not even square-wheeled trains or jelly squirt guns, but the main highlight here may be the absolute ripping lead guitar parts. The upbeat tempo and major keys resurface for “Holly Jolly Christmas,” which features comprehensive orchestration, and a variety of vocal parts, but once again we are treated to some vicious guitar slinging. The EP closes out with “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (naturally), a well-balanced orchestral metal presentation of the old classic. The drumming and guitars are solid, and perfectly heavy enough, but not without making a shambles of old Rudolph.
What we have here is a fun little EP with some heart. While it may be a little rough in the production (we’re a little spoiled by listening to Ayreon, Dream Theater and Nightwish these days) it is a very solid effort by a local metal project. It has a very niche audience, but for metal-heads who want to put on something other than Nat and Bing for 30 minutes, but maybe not while mom and dad are visiting, it’s a fun romp. You can check it out on iTunes and Spotify at this link here.
Released By: Independent
Release Date:December 17th 2021
Genre: Heavy Metal
- Brian Murphy / Guitars
- Matt Valliere / Drums
- Matt Duncan / Bass
- Bob Nasella / Keyboards
- Kate Eppers, Andrew Horn, Max Roxton, Alec Sullivan, Liz Ivy, Alex Nekrylau & Daniela Root / Vocals
- John Horrigan / Intro Narration
“Rudolph’s Symphonic Metal Christmas” track listing:
2. Overture and A Holly Jolly Christmas
3. Jingle Jingle Jingle
4. We Are Santa’s Elves
5. There’s Always Tomorrow
6. We’re a Couple of Misfits
7. Silver and Gold
8. The Most Wonderful Day of the Year
9. A Holly Jolly Christmas
10. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
ChristmasForce is a jolly little stocking-stuffer. This EP is a fresh enthusiastic metal reimagining of the 1964 Rudolph special we all know so well. It has both riffs and cheer in equal measure, and deserves to be checked out for Christmas 2021