Review Special: Gothic/Industrial Christmas Albums

By on 20 December 2011

With only a few days left until Christmas we’ve all had our fill of Slade, Shakin’ Stevens and Cliff bloody Richard and the annual rotation that is forced upon us by TV, Radio and even in the shops. But there are alternatives. Many gothic, industrial, darkwave and punk bands have dabbled in seasonal songs and many have been collected onto some great compilations. So this year we at Dominion are going to share with you a few of our favourite gothic/industrial Christmas compilation albums.

 

EXCELSIS VOL. 1: A DARK NOEL’
PROJEKT RECORDS

(1995)

Boasting a formidable darkwave and ambient line-up including Black Tape For A Blue Girl, Attrition, Eva O, Lycia and Faith And The Muse, ‘A Dark Noel’ is a perfect album for a quiet night by the fire with a glass of mulled wine.

The warmth of the season is echoed in some interesting new takes on traditional songs such as ‘Chanukah, Oh Chanukah’, ‘Carol Of The Bells’, ‘We Three Kings’ and ‘Silent Night’. All of which not only some up the darkwave ethos of the label but also shows off the versatility of it’s roster.
Faith And The Muse’s ‘A Winter Wassail’ for example is a simply stunning slice of madrigal-pop. While the likes of Lycia and Black Tape for A Blue Girl give sensual twists to their respective tracks. Even Love Spirals Downwards’ take on ‘Welcome Christmas’ (from The Grinch That Stole Christmas no less) is a particularly fine point.

Having been originally released back in 1995 the production may have dated slightly, and the artwork may look a little basic by 2011 standards, but ‘A Dark Noel’ is a collection that still has that magic touch.

 

 

‘EXCELSIS VOL. 2: A WINTER’S SONG’
PROJEKT RECORDS
(1999)

The follow-up to the first in the ‘Excelsis‘ series ‘A Winter’s Song’ incorporates pretty much every chapter in seasonal song-writing. From the medieval ecclesiastical classics ‘Gaudete‘ and ‘The Coventry Carol’ through to the more recent religious likes of ‘O Little Town Of Bethlehem’, to modern pop with new renditions of ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)‘ and ‘I Believe In Father Christmas’.

The focus of this album is on a more accessible appeal with more familiar and secular pop songs included amongst the ethereal ambience. London After Midnight’s ‘The Christmas Song’ combined with new takes on ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)‘ by The Crüxshadows and ‘I Believe In Father Christmas’ by Human Drama adds to the appeal of this collection.
With the shift from a darker atmosphere to one that is more melodic and easier to grasp, ‘A Winter’s Song’ also offers up a few alternative versions of it’s alternative versions from the previous albums. So perennial favourites such as ‘We Three Kings’ and ‘Silent Night’ make a more recognisable appearance while still maintaining their gothic sensibilities.

A Winter’s Song’ provides an easier introduction to the series with it’s more prominent pop songs and generally softer approach than the previous collection. But make no mistake this is still not the likes of the high street shopping din that we have come to associate with Christmas music. This is still very much a gothic compilation.

 

 

‘BLACK SNOW VOL. 1′
BLACK RAIN
(2009)

And now for a more electronic and altogether more noisy approach to festive music. Black Rain’s contribution to the Christmas compilation has come more recently but is just as welcome as the Projekt contributions were in the 90s.

The first album in the Black Snow series hinges on a couple covers of well known songs such as ‘I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas’ by Dandelion Wine and ‘Fairytale Of New York’ by Tyske Ludder as it’s strong selling points. But the original compositions and renditions of traditional songs also provide some high points.
This is perhaps on of the more varied compilations you could pick up with everything from darkwave and acoustic through to some utterly anarchic industrial all on display here. And as such there is plenty here for everyone to get there teeth into.
Stand out songs include ‘Cinnamon‘ by Killed By Candy, ‘Christmas Machine’ by Oil 10, ‘Little Drummer Boy’ by Dym, ‘We Die At Christmas’ by Atomic Neon, and ‘Hallelujah‘ by Novalis Deux each of which presents a different style and take on the Christmas song.

As a result ‘Black Snow’ is perhaps a more commercial and therefore club friendly option. With some good dance tracks as well as moody chill-out music it works well as both a bit of dance floor fun and some home party background music.

 

 

‘BLACK SNOW VOL. 2′
BLACK RAIN

(2010)

The second of the ‘Black Snow’ series continues the practice of variety and innovation as practiced on the first volume. Again the centrepieces are a couple of well known covers in the form of ‘Santa Baby’ and ‘The Impossible Dream‘ courtesy of ElectroXcentric and Feindflug respectively.

There is a more discernable lean to the electronic here, which is unsurprising as on the previous albums the electronic offerings provided some brilliant contributions. And the same can definitely be said for this volume. ‘Bloody Christmas’ by Digital Factor, ‘Christmas Day Virus’ by V2A, ‘Silent Night’ by Nude, and ‘Antichristmas‘ by CeDigest are all great contributions and would elicit a great reaction from any club crowd.
The whole album has more of a club vibe about it as a result of the strong electronic leanings. However approaching it purely as such may disappoint hardened industrial fans as punk and darkwave are still well represented here.

Black Snow Vol. 2′ is, like its predecessor, a very fun album and a great antidote to the constant onslaught of over-played mainstream mediocrity that we suffer every Christmas.

 

So there are a couple of recommendations for you this holiday season. But what will you be spinning throughout the midwinter? Leave your answer as a comment on the Dominion Magazine Facebook page.

About Miranda Yardley

I'm Miranda. Bite me.

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