When it comes to this time of the year, we’re constantly bombarded with the same Christmas songs that we’ve all heard countless times throughout the years. Given that, it’s probably no surprise that they’ve also been covered many times over, usually with the intent of putting a unique spin on them. Well, heavy metal is no different.
Over the past few decades, metal bands have attempted to ply their musical trade to Christmas classics like “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Jingle Bells,” among others. However, not every cover is worthy of praise – either because they fail to bring something different to the table, or because the songs themselves aren’t easily re-appropriated to the hard-edged musical style.
The songs on this list successfully bridge the hazardous gap that typically divides Christmas and heavy metal. Whether it be a stonking rendition of an old Christmas standard, or a completely original track for the festive season – these differing compositions should be applauded for doing the almost impossible task of covering a winter tune without sounding overly cheesy. So pour a glass of eggnog and light the fire for these 10 Christmas metal crackers.
10. Alice Cooper – Santa Claws Is Coming To Town
Master of theatrics Alice Cooper decided that the perky Christmas track “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” needed a dark spin applied to it. What he came up with was a twisted take on the popular festive tune, complete with heavy riffs and a snarling vocal performance by the shock rocker. He gives lines like “You better watch out, you better not cry,” and “He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake” a whole new sinister meaning.
9. Amon Amarth – Viking Christmas
In typical Amon Amarth fashion, their attempt at a Christmas song is one of epic proportions. Called “Viking Christmas,” the song finds the group at their power metal best – perfect for raising a few tankards to the beloved season. With infectious guitar melodies, driving drumbeats, and guttural growls, “Viking Christmas” pretty much does what it says on the tin. We’ve never experienced a Viking Christmas before, but if it’s even close to being as fun as it sounds here, then sign us up!
8. Twisted Sister – Heavy Metal Christmas
If you’re not up for a Viking Christmas, then how about just a heavy metal one instead? Twisted Sister are only happy to oblige, with a festive tune that puts a humorous spin on “The 12 Days of Christmas” for maximum effect. Entitled “Heavy Metal Christmas,” this tune delivers some blazing riffage combined with some hilarious lyrics like, “On my heavy metal Christmas my true love gave to me a tattoo of Ozzy,” and “On my heavy metal Christmas my true love gave to me Four quarts of Jack.” Ozzy and Jack Daniels? Sounds like a good Christmas to me!
7. Blasko, John Tempesta, Dez Fafara, Doug Aldrich – Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Surely the childlike “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” is safe from metal’s steely clutches? Actually, no it’s not. Featured on the all-star group effort We Wish You A Metal Xmas And A Headbanging New Year, the track is given a seriously heavy makeover courtesy of Devildriver/Coal Chamber frontman Dez Fafara, former Rob Zombie bassist Rob ‘Blasko’ Nicholson, along with Doug Alrich and John Tempesta. It sees Fafara let loose in his trademark frenzied style, propped up by some searing riff work. “Run, run Rudolph” indeed.
6. Halford – Oh Holy Night
Many metalheads were hesitant when Judas Priest squealer Rob Halford announced his Winter Songs LP – a record made up of mostly Christmas standards. However, to their surprise, the 2009 album actually turned out to be rather worthwhile, particularly on the rebooted version of “Oh Holy Night.” It finds the iconic vocalist ascend into the heavens with his stunning falsetto, pushed ever upward by some anthemic power chords, swathes of synth, and wide-open drumbeats. Both ethereal and hard-hitting in equal measure.
5. King Diamond – No Presents For Christmas
Don’t expect a Christmas gift from singing extraordinaire King Diamond this year – the self-proclaimed Satanist doesn’t really dig the winter holiday. If you needed any more proof, check out his original cut for the season, entitled “No Presents for Christmas.” With a main vocal refrain of, “There's no presents, not this Christmas,” it quickly becomes apparent that this probably isn’t one to blast out while you’re sitting at the dinner table with your family on Christmas Day. However, the song itself is a scintillating barnburner.
4. Korn – Jingle Balls
Who knew the classic festive tune “Jingle Bells” could sound so demonic? On Korn’s thunderous rendition, they slow the song to a grinding halt – not just breaking new ground in the Christmas song genre, but establishing a new style for themselves: death metal. Yes, they turn the sweet track on its head, choosing instead to make it a dirge-ridden death march complete with downtuned riffs, snail-paced drumming, and the deathly growls of frontman Jonathan Davis. This is Korn having some fun – but not the kind you’d usually associate with the word…
3. August Burns Red – Flurries
While most of the songs on this list are heavy renditions of well-known Christmas standards, August Burns Red took a different approach on this stunning cut from their holiday album August Burns Red Presents: Sleddin’ Hill. Entitled “Flurries,” the track deserves praise not only for its originality, but also for how it captures that ethereal quality that winter brings. Bells ring out joyously while melodic guitars spray euphoric notes out of every crevice of its upbeat core. If you really want a song that effortlessly brings back Christmas memories from your childhood, then this should be your go-to.
2. Type O Negative – Red Water (Christmas Mourning)
If the whole happy metal sound of “Flurries” isn’t your thing, then you can relax in the cold embrace of Type O Negative’s “Red Water (Christmas Mourning).” From their supremely brilliant 1996 LP October Rust, this haunting track is wonderfully atmospheric and thoroughly enthralling for its close to seven-minute running time. The line “Black lights hang from the tree, accents of dead holly” should tell you everything you need to know about this depressing, yet strangely hypnotic track from the gothic metal masters.
1. Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, Rudy Sarzo, Simon Wright – God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Looking for a pure metal Christmas song? Look no further than this blistering cover of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” courtesy of genre pioneers Ronnie James Dio and Tony Iommi, along with Rudy Sarzo and Simon Wright. Both instrumentally and vocally, no track on this list can touch this epic cut. Iommi stamps his trademark doom-laden riffs onto this one, propelling singing extraordinaire Dio into otherworldly territory. Throw in a simply stunning guitar solo, and you’ve got the ultimate Christmas cracker for metalheads everywhere.
What is your favorite Christmas metal song? Let us know in the comments!