Hardcore bands consistently receive heavy criticism for sounding too similar to each other. It seems August Burns Red, or ABR, has heard enough of these insults and snapped, pushing them to write “Sleddin’ Hill,” a 42-minute onslaught of Christmas metal.
Twelve of the 13 tracks are instrumental pieces, saving ABR’s vocalist Jacob Luhrs from screaming his heart out about Frosty the Snowman. Now, wouldn’t that sound ridiculous?
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” does feature punk rock group vocals belted by the entire band. The track is upbeat and would be a great aid to caffeine-fueled sledding at Kincaid Park this winter vacation.
The band has announced that this is their fifth official studio album and not a supplementary release, EP, publicity stunt or anything else the public may perceive it as.
Due to the uncanny nature of an official Christmas album, many fans find this release controversial and have made those opinions clear online.
However, despite others’ doubts, this cheery compilation is pleasantly unlike anything else one will ever hear.
Nine of the 13 tracks on “Sleddin’ Hill” are new. Of the four rereleases, two are remastered versions of their 2009 hits “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and “Carol of the Bells.” The other two rereleases are their 2011 singles “Little Drummer Boy” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” “Carol of the bells” was featured on the Christmas episode of the Fox television show American Dad.
The album is composed of bells, chimes, blast beats, double bass pedals, odd-metered mathcore rhythms, shredding electric guitar, funky basslines, beautiful piano accents, technical breakdowns, anthem-like lead guitar and ABR’s jolly holiday spirit, of course.
Violin and cello can even be heard in the last track, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
One of the most refreshing facets of this album is that ABR, a humbly Christian band, did not vicariously use this holiday album as a tool to preach to their fans. As always, they thank God in the album’s lyric sheet inserts, but that is the extent of their references to the divine.
This discreetness follows suit with the band’s previous public statements. “It is important to us that people know that we are indeed Christians without having us stand up there and ram it down people’s throats,” ABR’s bassist Brent Rambler said.
Considering the world is going to end this year, I think ABR wanted to go out with a snowy bang — and they definitely will.
Whether this album is a commercial success or not, it sets August Burns Red apart from the herd and establishes them as musicians and not just rock stars.
Artist: August Burns Red
Album: “Sleddin’ Hill”
Label: Solid State Records
Release date: Oct. 9, 2012