It could've gone so, so wrongthe reimaginings of songs from rock's elite as ringing instrumental holiday chestnuts, writes Nicole Keiper of Gibson.com. There isn't much, really, in the dark grind of Metallica's For Whom the Bell Tolls that hints at the titular bell being the holiday kind.
The odd thing about Christmas Rock Records' new Wreck the Halls series of holiday tributes, though, is that its orchestral renditions of hits from Metallica, AC/DC, and Green Day don't just manage to add a dash of holiday cheer to the bands' otherwise smashing rock songs. At their best turns, they put a red-and-green spotlight on the songcraft thatand this isn't the egg nog talkingactually elevates the melodic structures the original artists created.
The approach is exactly what you'd expectAngus Young and James Hetfield's guitar slashes are transposed onto chiming electric piano, and Hetfield and AC/DC singer Brian Johnson's shredded-throat vocal melodies are delivered via bells, strings, or glockenspiel. But the group of players heredubbed Santa Claws and the Naughty But Nice Orchestrapull off some bizarrely spot-on arrangements, keeping the original songs' core fully apparent, but getting the tree-trimming mood through just as cleanly.
Some songs work better than others. Metallica's dark and winding melodies are appallingly well threaded into the Christmas-music ouvre on And Christmas for All: The Holiday Tribute to Metallica. But maybe that shouldn't be that surprisingThe Nutcracker Suite, plenty dark and winding itself, offers some of Christmas music's most compelling sounds. On The Green Days of Christmas: The Holiday Tribute to Green Day, Green Day's Holiday, a riot of shuffles and string swells, almost sounds better this way, save the cornball synth horns.
But to be fair, Claws and Co. have to stretch at points to pull AC/DC's taut rhythmic attack into snowy, soothing melodies. Still, even that stuff lands right some of the time; the Hell's Bells of Christmas: The Holiday Tribute to AC/DC version of Moneytalks sounds nicely suited for the mall PA system.
It's not a new concept, exactlyTrans-Siberian Orchestra has been pooling holiday tidings and prog-metal tones into a tidy profit for some time now. But the difference here is that the Wreck the Halls folks haven't tried to approximate loud-rock tones in new holiday tunesthey've pulled long-absorbed metal and punk melodies wholly into the holiday-music sound, and against all logic, somehow made it far more fun than horrifying.
You might not find yourself drawn to listen to the stuff in July, so much, but for folks weaned on those bands' original distorted-chord attacks, the Wreck the Halls discs make a less tedious soundtrack for present-wrapping, nog-imbibing, family freak-outs, and other holiday traditions.
Credits for the info to Gibson.com.