REVIEW: ‘Midnight Clear: A Solid State Christmas Compilation’

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Probably the same people who wouldn’t enjoy a metal Christmas album. Yes, you read that correctly. This holiday season sees a different spin on the traditional carols we know and love with the release of Midnight Clear via Solid State Records. The debut compilation Christmas album features tracks from artists such as August Burns Red, Fit For A King and For Today re-imagined to alter the method but not the message.

The 10 track album begins with August Burns Red break neck rendition of “Joy To The World” in which they pack all of the punch they can muster into three minutes, leaving a blazing trail for those who come afterward.

The album continues with indelible renditions of time honored classics such as “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” by Fit For A King and For Today, respectively. Fit For A King’s rendition was unique in that it relied heavily upon bassist Ryan O’Leary’s euphonious and emotive vocals while front-man Ryan Kirby’s guttural roars were provided as backing vocals.

The tempo begins to fall flat in the middle of the album with Memphis May Fire’s “He Came With Love” and The Ongoing Concept’s “Jingle Bell Rock”. Both songs, while fine individually, feel out of place and disjointed from the flow of the album as a whole.

Wolves At The Gate follows up with “The King” and quickly restores the pace with blistering riffs and vicious growls one cannot help but head-bang to. Remaining true to the style that consistently makes them an enjoyable listen, this is a wonderful gem placed in the middle of the album.

The highlight of this compilation is an instrumental track entitled “Flurries” at the close of the album from August Burns Red. With no accompanying vocals this four minute song embodies the characteristics of what a metal holiday album ought to sound like. Dexterous transitions between riffs and progressions, all while simultaneously providing depth to create an atmosphere of adventure. This song is mildly reminiscent of snowball fights with friends and drinking hot cocoa around a freshly decorated tree, so much so that it could serve as background music for either of those scenarios and no one would make the “what are we listening to?” face.

Overall, this album contains a handful of tracks that are up to snuff but your holiday music collection won’t suffer from not adding this. With a few hiccups along the way that were in dire need of a jump start the lack of cohesion at times was a bit painful. However, when this album got it right, they nailed it.