It’s the start of December and I can now openly listen to the Christmas music I’ve secretly been wanting to listen to since Christmas stuff started appearing in the shops, i.e. around August! And talking of August brings me neatly to the latest festive offering from August Burns Red. (See what I did there?)
August Burns Red already have an outstanding collection of Christmas songs in the form of the excellent (though somewhat clumsily titled) August Burns Red Presents: Sleddin’ hill, a Holiday Album and they’ve also released a couple of Christmas singles in the past, including one that we featured in our 24 Songs Of Xmas last year. This year, they have gone a step further and collected their previously released singles, added a few new tracks, and put it all together as the Winter Wilderness EP.
The EP kicks off with an original composition called “Avalanche”. It’s a mark of how good this track is that the only thing I want to complain about is the title. I expect to get swept away by an avalanche and this track, while perfectly good, does not overwhelm me.
Track two is a Christmas classic: “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year”. This is the only song that doesn’t quite work for me. It should be a simple, jolly tune but when given the August Burns Red treatment, it ends up lost in a Christmas cacophony. At about the two-thirds mark, the machine gun drumming and the over-the-top bass and guitar drop out; the melody gets a chance to come through. Then, all too soon, it all kicks off again and they’ve lost me once more.
Next up is the title track, “Winter Wilderness” which is just astonishingly good. Check out the video at the end of this review and tell me I’m wrong. To me, it’s the best track on the EP. I was listening to this song while on a tea break at work when a colleague came in to make himself a cuppa. He listened for a moment and said, “They like their drums, don’t they?”. Strangely, he said this like it was a bad thing.
Track four is a version of the “Home Alone Theme”. I may get pelters for this, but I really don’t like that film; Chris Columbus is really not that good at directing children and Macaulay Culkin is so annoying, I’m rooting for the bad guys! But, August Burns Red’s treatment of the theme tune, with hints of “Frosty The Snowman” and “Here Comes Santa Claus”, is magnificent.
The penultimate track is “What Child Is This? (Greensleeves)”. My only issue here is that I can’t listen to “Greensleeves” without comparing it to the version by Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. Thankfully, the August Burns Red treatment is bizarrely different and so comes through the comparison unscathed. What do I mean by “bizarrely different”? Well, I’ll offer the oompah section in the middle (yes, I said “oompah”) as Exhibit A and let you make up your own mind.
Finally, the EP closes with a cover of Wham’s “Last Christmas” that is every bit as mental as you’d expect it to be.
A magnificently mental merry Christmas from August Burns Red! Ask Santa for a copy now.
Winter Wilderness is out now.