A Hill to Die Upon
The Black Nativity

The last time I did a review of a Christmas album, it was Majestica’s take on Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. A largely successful, fun, power metal album with plenty of Xmas cheer and classic Xmas hymns and elements.

The Black Nativity is the complete opposite. And not in a good way.

Illinois Christian black metallers A Hill To Die Upon burst onto the scene with 2009s brilliant Infinite Titanic Immortal. They followed that up with 3 solid albums, but have been silent since 2017 Via Artis Via Mortis.

So after 8 years, they have come back and the album they chose to come back with is essentially a black metal-ized cover album of classic Christmas and other seasonal hymns and songs….. I’ll let that sink in.

 

Now, they have rendered their version of old-timey folk songs before the Omens album (“Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down”). But if you ever wanted to hear a dour, plodding metal version of “We Three Kings” with groaned metal vocals. It’s here. or how about their equally morose take on “What Child is This”? Yep. Oh and how would you like the somber beauty of “Silent Night” ruined with bland guitars and rasped vocals, you can listen to “Stille Nacht”. They even tackle the French Christmas song “Entre le Boeuf”, one of the oldest Christmas carols, making it a punky black metal blaster.

New Year’s isn’t spared either with an acoustic rendition of “Auld Lang Syne”, which is delightfully relaxing, but they don’t mess with it and there are no vocals, so that’s why.

An early Karl Sanders appearance (“Hymn to Marduk I”) doesn’t save the album that ends with a cover of “133 Hebrew Children”, another “Hymn to Marduk” and “Minuit Chretien” which is the best cover here, as it’s a simple female rendition of a beautiful poem/hymn.

A Hill To Die Upon are good musicians, their past albums say so, and I respect their beliefs, and while The Black Nativity was a bold choice after an 8-year layoff, I kind of get making the nativity ‘black’…it fails miserably, sucking the joy and magic from Christmas classics.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
December 18th, 2023

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