JJ Hrubovcak - Death Metal Christmas - Hellish Renditions of Christmas Classics
Self released
Death Metal
5 songs (19'27")
Release year: 2013
Reviewed by Alex
Surprise of the month

Are you feeling Chrsitmasy, but like death metal? Not sure which music to listen to this time of year? Man, do I have a solution for you … It comes to us courtesy of JJ Hrubovcak, creative force behind Divine Rapture and playing bass with Hate Eternal as of late. JJ, with the help of his brother Mike on vocals (Divine Rapture, Monstrosity, Vile), takes a look at Christmas pieces perhaps less known to the public, at least I was not familiar with a couple of them, and does fantastic death metal renditions. Death Metal Christmas is even tied up with the sort of a mini-story of Azrael rising. Yet, most importantly, JJ does not go for cheap trivialization of Jingle Bells with downtuned guitar and there is a lot of thought, skill and passion poured into these 20 min.

It is true that by choosing what are melodious pieces by definition, JJ is able to obviate what many feel is a creativity problem in death metal. If brutal sound, headbanging and distorted guitars alone don’t appeal to you, many death metal collectives are already in an uphill battle to win your approval. You could say then that the corners would appear cut for Mr. Hrubovcak, since melodic foundation has been already laid for him. As I said above, however, his music is no gimmick. Countless rolls of very explosive drumming support riffs that sometimes follow the melody close (Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy) and sometimes deviate from the main accepted line (Unrest for Melancholy Men (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen)). Who knew that Tchaikovsky wrote a riff taylor-made for death metal when he composed the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy? The only piece which provides a clean reference, this world renowned composition has its main riff filled with non-stop percussion, has an arpeggiated lead midway and closes in a thrashing manner. Unrest for Melancholy Men is also speedy and features a self-winding diving solo, while Earthen Kings (We Three Kings) and Greensleeves have slower, more deliberate pace set to doomy melodies . I am always thinking of Greensleeves as a tribute song to those who have departed this world and JJ Hrubovcak’s version is pretty somber as well.

The album closes with O Come, O Come, Azrael (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel), a pensive choir hymn. Whereas JJ’s brother Mike is a mad growling Santa on Unrest for Melancholy Men, he does dual vocals on O Come, O Come, Azrael, adding a higher blackened shrieks a la Vile and Council of the Fallen. A fitting closer for a Death Metal Christmas, O Come, O Come, Azrael is on a trajectory to enter the gates of the underworld, rather than provide salvation and forgiveness.

An honest admission, I have re-listened to this mini-album for many times now, and it keeps on giving. I have discovered something new every time I went back, so this definitely deserved the Surprise of the Month tag and your attention, whether you are a headbanger willing to look at a spiritual melody or a mainstream listener who was always wondering what those death metal monsters are about.

Killing Songs :
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, Greensleeves
Alex quoted 84 / 100
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