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Our stockings hung, filled with shit - 37%

Liquid_Braino, December 2nd, 2019

The true meaning of Christmas is not about Baby Jesus, Santa, or supporting global retail, it's about the spirit of metal that dwells within the hearts and minds of children from all around the world. Those other things are important to a fair degree, but metal is Christmas in its truest form, the gift that keeps giving. Christmas without metal is much like Easter without metal. Pointless.

The Trans Siberian Orchestra clan understand this and have made a killing filling that massive void by combining the spirit of metal with the spirit of Christmas, unleashing epic extravaganzas of yuletide steel to massive success. The once proud name of Savatage has been eclipsed and discarded, as TSO continues to perform arena-level holiday concerts to the faithful, where parents can witness the glow of their children as metal takes them on their journey towards adulthood below the mistletoe. And I should be a believer too. I've been lonely, waiting for a train with a suitcase on a winter's night, and could have used a Christmas miracle punctuated by a falling star. The Christmas Attic has so much to offer on those nights when everything seems so cold, and yet I resist because I think this is one of the corniest fucking cheeseballs I've ever had the misfortune to endure.

The album combines some really loose storyline about a girl who goes up into an attic and finds lots of old gifts from the Christmas days of yore, as well as metalized Christmas carols, detours into biblical reinterpretations, and hopeful messages such as the charitable gifting of TSO hoodies to the homeless. It's all shit. As a late '90s release, the production is great, as we get to hear every sleigh bell, chime and church-bell ring within the beefy Christmas riffs, audible bass, boring drums and the earnest clench-fisted wails of various vocalists. A sizable portion of this album is in ballad territory, as a young girl quietly creeping up the stairs to the attic of Christmas treasures doesn't lend itself to muscular power chords of unquestionable might. Being set up somewhat like a loose musical rather than an album, the ballad-heavy attributes are not a surprise, and the vocals also accentuate the 'rock opera' flavor by crisp, overwrought enunciation (whenever "t'was" is used, I feel like I'm getting spit on). Burly, hairy men thrusting forth prose about the redemption of Scrooge by the power of Santa is one thing, but there's also reindeer shit like "Boughs of Holly" to contend with. Instrumental Christmas carols jacked-up with warm-toned metal-riffing, squeal notes and tastefully bland soloing. A fucking torture ride. By the fourth track I was feeling nostalgic and yearning for those old standards by Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole and other dead folks. And by the hour mark I was at a point when even bottom-feeding fish-poop slurpers like "Jingle Bell Rock" and "Feed the World" seemed like better alternatives to this album.

Redeeming qualities are few, but musically the band are longtime vets, thus even though the metal provided here is safe, stale and standard without threatening to get aggressive in any fashion, I can't say they ain't good at their instruments. We all know they are true pros. The piano playing is pretty good too, especially during "The Three Kings and I (What Really Happened)", an unusual song highlight in that the premise is so stupid that it becomes entertaining. Something about the three wise guys being rescued by a jazz musician when Christ was born, it has a "showtune" feel that's annoying yet silly enough to hold my interest.

I don't hate Christmas. I like the time off work, getting together with the family and friends, drinking eggnog and exchanging gift cards. I also like metal, and not just the "crazy" kind, but the more tuneful melodic shit such as symphonic metal as well. But if I come across a musical excursion that attempts to merge these two spirits into one shimmering entity of hope and glory once again, I will not let curiosity sway my steadfast avoidance of such a combo in the future.