A Very Heavy Metal Christmas Playlist

This year for christmas, I decided to go and buy myself a whole bunch load of Heavy Metal CDs (technically it’s a gift from my wife). Name dropping some of the bands I’m looking at on Twitter, a friend asked if I could make a mix-tape.

Now I couldn’t use the new CDs (they get opened xmas day), but I jumped into my existing metal catalog and put together 2 hours of music.

If you are interested, here’s the songs and my thoughts about them.

1. Grace – Lamb Of God

This song has a great little acoustic intro that leads into a blistering metal track. This is a surprisingly common tactic for opening song. The most classic example is Battery which opens Metallica’s Master of Puppets. Grace is an overall great song with a nice rolling-up-and-down melody and solid guitar solo toward the end.

2. Progenies of the Great Apocalypse – Dimmu Borgir

Starting with some bombastic, symphonic music that would be more ay home in a movie soundtrack, this is actually the only Black Metal on the list. Black Metal vocals tend to be of the more weird variety, such as the whipser-to-shriek of Cradle of Filth. In this case, it’s a weird vomitous sound. Fun!

I picked the song cause it’s batshit insane and completely over the top, yet strangely accessible.

3. Gold Teeth on a Bum – The Dillinger Escape Plan

The Dillinger Escape Plan are one of my favorite bands of the moment and this being one of my favorite songs from their recent album, Option Paralysis. It’s a not-very-metal sounding song. There’s bits of both punk and Nine Inch Nails in there.. Nervertheless I’ll call it Metal since I bought it from the Metal aisle in Belco JB Hi-Fi (Controversially, it’s in the Punk aisle in Civic JB Hi-Fi!)

4. Jawbreaker – Judas Priest

The first three songs all featured some harsh vocals (snarling, retching and shouting respectively) so next I picked a classic song with clean vocals.

Judas Priest are one of the great discoveries of my Heavy Metal experience. Featuring iconic singing in the form of Rob Halford, great guitar solos and Speed-Demon/Hitting-The-Highway type attitude that makes it good to drive to. Jawbreaker features all these elements and an opening line that always gets me.

5. Rumors of War – High On Fire

6. Dii – High On Fire


High on Fire is a relatively new band for me and I haven’t absorbed the album Death Is The Communion completely yet. The two songs I’ve included here did catch my attention. The first track has vocals that are the most weathered and gnarly sounding this side of Lemmy Kilmister. It’s thick like Sabbath but has a punchy, forward momentum like Mastodon.

The second track is an instrumental but the connection between the two was too good to pass up. It’s a nice slow and steady piece with an exotic feel. It was also good to have an instrumental in there to break up the overall playlist.

7. Thieves – Ministry

Theives is on the Brutal Legend sound track and I always loved it when it popped up. It’s still in the realms of Metal, but the sound and textures are so different to most of the other tracks. My overall strategy for the playlist was diversity, so I’m really happy with the placement of this track.

8. Neither Shape Nor Shadow – Be’Lakor

Be’Lakor are an Australian band and their album was a great surprise when I found it. While I love this song, I do wonder if perhaps one of the other tracks would fitted better. It’s reasonably long at nearly 8 minutes, which possibly is a problem when we hit the next track.

Despite this, I still love it for it’s melodic, death and progressive metal mix. Anything I can do  to draw attention to the band is a good thing.

9. A Nightmare To Remember – Dream Theater

Running for sixteen minutes and 11 seconds, this is the longest song on the playlist and also one of the longest songs I own. (For the record, the longest song I have is Rush’s 2112). I’ve been a little concerned that these really long tracks somewhat dominate the playlist.

As I listened to this track on my jog I became less worried. It’s less 1 overall track and more like 4 tracks in a row by a single band. Plus I really couldn’t pass up the opportunity to include a Dream Theatre epic. This one is about a childhood memory of being in a car crash and it has just about everything you could want in it (plus some more).

10. Holy Diver – Dio

Much like Judas Priest earlier, I felt some classic metal was needed to mix things up. In this spot I originally had one of the lesser known tracks off the Holy Diver album. Eventually I decided the singing was stronger and more iconic with the title track. Plus it has those nut-ball lines about riding a tiger.

11. Snowblind – Black Sabbath

Double whammy of classic Metal! I wanted some Sabbath in here, but chose to avoid the big three hits off Paranoid (War Pigs, Paranoid and Iron Man). This track is from the Vol. 4 album and it really caught my attention. I like the classic sludge sound but it’s got a great atmosphere in here too. The lyrics aren’t as bad as some other tracks and Ozzy sounds fantastic. A real favorite of mine.

One unfortunate aspect about this track is the volume seems down a little. I actually went and re-ripped it from the CD to see if I could fix it, but it’s still there. I suppose that’s just how they mixed it. So turn it up!

12. Naked Burn – Mastodon

Did you turn up the volume for Snowblind? Cause now you’re gonna get smacked in the head by the awesome Mastodon riif that opens Naked Burn! This one will grab your attention whether you like it or not. A nice increase in pace over the last few tracks.

This song is the embodiment of forward momentum. My minds imagines a boat skimming and surging across the water (probably looking for a white whale). Parts seem upbeat and then in a moment turn darker. I love it! Absolutely classic album and this is one of the better songs.

13. Silverwing – Arch Enemy

Keeping things moving I have a thumping Arch Enemy track. Front and centre is the legendary death growling female vocalist Angela Gossow.

This is a really precise track in all aspects of its production. After a fun introduction, it heads into some crunching brutal verses, before opening up the melody with the chorus. There’s a live version I like even more, but I wanted to keep the list to studio albums.I have no problem with this songs placement, but in hindsight I wish I’d thrown in a few more shorter tracks to balance out the big ones.

14. Deliverance – Opeth

Opeth remain one of the most awe inspiring bands in metal. This songs races out of the blocks and starts pulverising immediately. Mikael Åkerfeldt’s death growl sounds fantastic and the fact that it is equally matched by his beautiful clean singing is brain shattering.

This track is fairly representative of the diversity in Opeth’s music with calm, doomy and other progressive elements. It ends with an extended instrumental that borders on repetitious, but can also be mesmerizing.

15. Five Magics – Megadeth

I wanted to include this because it’s personal favorite. It’s got silly singing and lyrics, but great music. Unfortunately I think it tips the playlist a little too much into the realm of progressive. Especially following Opeth, I’m not sure if a more punchy track would have served the overall flow better than another ponderous guitar and drums soundscape. However listening to it just this very moment, it is effective in snapping things back into focus after the long wind down of Deliverance.

As someone pointed out to me, it’s one of the few Metal soings that features the word Wyvern in the lyrics.

16. Hyperdrive! – Devin Townsend Project

The least Metal sounding tack on the list, this comes from the particularly strange Devin Townsend album Addicted! (his exclamation mark, not mine). Hevy Devy himself described it as Meshuggah meets the Vengaboys. It’s one of three tracks on the list with a female vocalist and is quite gorgeous. I picked it cause I thought it’s a great example of how far the elements of metal could be stretched and still make fantastic music.

17. Declaration – Killswitch Engage

Shouting! Killswitch Engage are a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. They have a shouty-verse-clean-chorus gig going on that’s quite listenable but also feels a bit undecided. Is it metal or is it pop punk? Strangely enough I love it all the same.

This song is probably a bit more on the shouty end of things. I love the build up over the first half of the track leading to the big “Let this be the day of my declaration!”.

18. Dethharmonic – Dethklok

Ahh Dethklok. Perhaps the toughest choice in the whole list. It could have been Mermaider is the funniest track (being about murderous mermaids) and is also good musically (Hatred? Check!). Thunderhorse is perhaps my favourite piece of music, but is virtually an instrumental. Instead I picked the symphonic parody (both of Symphonic Black Metal bands and Metallicas S&M) Detharmoinc.

I like the drama in the song, culminating in the ridiculous line “Prepare the laser beam…”. The solo is also quite nice. The clincher was a knew it segued nicely into theme song.

19. Deththeme – Dethklok


20. Hallowed Be Thy Name – Iron Maiden

If anything, I knew I could finish the playlist strongly. Indeed, Heavy Metal has a plethora of epic finishing songs. I considered a Machine Head song (A Farewell to Arms) but it’s a bit aggressive and didn’t seem to rest well. Instead I chose one of my all time favorite Metal songs in Iron Maiden’s closing track for Number of the Beast.

Hallowed Be Thy Name starts with a slow and dramatic build up. Even in the early sections, Bruce Dickinson’s singing is full of passion. Then he hit’s the long note at the end of “Time is running loooooow!” and the song hits full stride. With great riffs and an awesome ending section, this feels like a concert closer.

21.Weight – ISIS

Iron Maiden could have finished the playlist on it’s own, but I felt this was a good ‘epilogue’ song. It starts slowly from nothing and builds up the layers over a full 10 minute song. Hopefully this track when played through, the listener will be in a reflective mood about all the sorts of music they’ve just heard. I won’t try to describe it any more than that. Just give it a listen.

 

Anyway, hope you enjoyed the ready or if you are keen enough, listening to the songs yourself!

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