Review Summary: A jolly ol’ thrashing time.Sleddin' Hill
really is a one of a kind album, if a bit bizarre. It’s a record only consisting of instrumental covers of classic holiday carols and jingles; all in technical death metal style. Mind you this isn’t a strange and special EP or compilation offering, Sleddin' Hill
is really meant to be August Burns Red’s official fifth studio album. The concept is eyebrow-raising to say the least, but August Burns Red are really the only band in the modern core band scene - and metalcore music in general - to attempt a holiday album, so Sleddin' Hill
does technically count as a drastic shift in the band thematically, and is an admittedly unique idea that separates them from the rest of their contemporaries.
It’s safe to say that the main purpose of artist’s releasing Holiday albums is to showcase that artist’s voice covering the song, with little to no attention being given to the music backing it because holiday tunes are universally known as just simple lyrical rhymes without music that can even just be hummed or whistled along to. Because of this, it’s ironic that August Burns Red would release an album made up of instrumental renditions of these songs, but the positives to come with this are that listener’s are thankfully spared goofy cookie monster death growlings of holiday song lyrics that would have thrown any hope of taking this album somewhat seriously out the window, and that working with songs as simplistic as these also gives August Burns Red a lot of room to be creative.
What’s even more ironic is that Sleddin' Hill
is August Burns Red’s most musically complex and - for an ambition as peculiar of a heavy holiday album - ambitious record in their discography thus far. Sleddin' Hill
sees the band completely breaking from their conventional metalcore sound and delving into progressive metal-minded riffs and technical death metal song structures much more than they ever have before. They have managed to completely reinvent these songs in every way, making what was once incredibly simple and innocent into something carefully calculated, constantly changing, and heavily layered. And even with all that is being built upon them, the songs remain recognizable and retain the core beat of their original forms, with elements being constructed around them without changing them.
Even if this is metal, the tone of the songs aren’t altered in any way. This is frenetic and intense music that isn’t dark or harrowing, August Burns Red stays with the holiday spirit and keeps in a fun and bright mood throughout all of the songs, while also adding festive touches to the metal such as traditional jingle bells. "Sleigh Ride" is noteworthy for having a jazzy horn section that ties the album’s references to smooth jazz renditions of holiday songs with August Burns Red’s jazz-fusion influences.
may seem like a ridiculous and obscure idea (and it is), but it’s an undeniably creative and offbeat idea for an album by itself, and especially for a band associated with a genre accused of too many similarities between artists. It’s a severe change in pace for the band, a unpredictable break from all of August Burns Red’s generic aspects, and ultimately a really fun album that isn’t influenced by dark themes and atmosphere yet still manages to be just as heavy as they’ve always been, and more varied than they have ever been.
It’s funny that it took of all things, a holiday album to separate August Burns Red from their genre-mates, and that a holiday album marks the band’s successful advancement into more complex habits of composing metal music, but it’s definitely something to be respected, and enjoyed most importantly. That is, if you don’t feel too silly head-banging to “Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer”.