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A festive Festivus music playlist

As the holiday season is upon us, we thought we would recognize a tradition often lost in the hustle and bustle: Festivus. We’ve compiled our favorite, slightly more obscure seasonal tunes to wish you all a very merry Festivus season.

Metallica’s “Trapped Under Ice”
Darkthrone’s “Where Cold Winds Blow” 
Celtic Frost’s “(Beyond the) Northern Winds”

“If Festivus celebrates the airing grievances and the performing of feats of strength by marginalized groups, then what could be more fitting than music that both expresses a host of grievances at the world and embodies performative strength? Here, then, are merely three of the many, many metal songs that both air grievances and perform strength, but further, lyrically embody the coldness of winter.

“Metallica, ‘Trapped Under Ice’: If metal gives voice to the bleaker aspects of the human condition, and the image of being trapped in general or under ice in particular qualifies as bleak, then this song is a classic. The blazing speed of this song’s tempo (the sub-genre being ‘speed metal’) conveys the interior panic of the soul trapped in a frozen body: ‘Freezing/Can’t move at all/Screaming/Can’t hear my call/I am dying to live/Cry out/I’m trapped under the ice.’

“Darkthrone, ‘Where Cold Winds Blow’: NB: the lyrics include swear words but they are indecipherable. Scandinavian black metal thematizes pre-Christian cultural memories, attempting to reckon with them in the modern age. This song in particular fantasizes about the self-as-warrior, now laid to rest ‘where the cold winds blow.’ Recalling the warrior’s relationships with nature and beast, caught between mind and sword, this song also features blazing speed (specifically, what are called ‘blast beats’), but here that speed normalizes into an energy that evokes wind-swept lands and internal calm within an external world of turmoil.

“Celtic Frost, ‘(Beyond the) Northern Winds’: In this song, proto-black metal legends Celtic Frost imagine a time past, when the northern winds and frozen seas provided spiritual and physical solace and transported the protagonist on ‘dark ships’ ‘through gates to eternity,’ but an eternity that is now lost except in memory. The lyrics, fuzzed-out, raspy guitar tone and vocals, peaks and valleys of energy, all became the standard for the sub-genre, but the quasi-punk riffs, formal delineations, and tempo changes recall earlier metal.”

Scott Gleason, Assistant Editor, Grove Music Online

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Dean Martin’s “A Marshmallow World”

“Who doesn’t love a song about waking up in a marshmallow world?! If you need a sugary Festivus treat, this song is it!”

Raquel Fernandes, Marketing Assistant, Academic/Trade Books

Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis”

“Although we’re from Brooklyn, this song is just a classic hip hop take on a Christmas carol gone all the way right and that just gets funnier when my brother-in-law and sister take turns rapping the verses.”

Ayana Young, Marketing Assistant, Online Marketing

Chris Rae’s “Driving Home for Christmas”

“It always reminds me of the finishing work for the year and driving home to my parents’ house in the North of England (quite literally!) Christmas for me doesn’t start until I hear that song on the big drive home.”

Emma Turner, Marketing Executive

Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal”
The Staves’s “White Winter Trees”

“The first two winter songs that pop into mind are ‘White Winter Hymnal’ by Fleet Foxes, and ‘White Winter Trees’ by the Staves (wintery trees seem to be on the brain today!). They make me think of sunny wintery walks and heading somewhere warm!”

Olivia Wells, Assistant Commissioning Editor

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Cold Specks’ “Winter Solstice”

“Listening to Cold Specks’s voice is like sitting around a log fire on a cold night. This song is one of the standouts on her debut album, and the perfect soundtrack to cosy winter evenings!”

Barney Cox, Marketing Executive, Online Marketing

Aled Jones’s “Walking in the Air”

“My favourite wintery song is ‘Walking in the Air’ sung by Aled Jones in the movie The Snowman. This film is one of my favourites for this season and whenever I hear it I know the holidays are just around the corner.”

Hannah Charters, Associate Marketing Manager, Online Marketing

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Thurl Ravenscroft’s “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch”

“One of my favorite non-religious songs is ‘You’re a mean one Mr. Grinch.’ It is a quintessential tune that sparks memories from my suburban childhood. Dr. Seuss is a cartoon genius with his catchy songs, allegoric stories, and caricature animations.”

Miki Onwudinjo, Marketing Coordinator, Online Marketing 

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Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson’s “Winter Song”

“My a cappella group sang this song my sophomore year of college. We learned it second semester when the winter seemed unending. Though it’s sad at first listen, it now reminds me of gathering around a piano with my closest friends—my favorite thing to do around the holidays.”

Georgia Brodsky, Marketing Coordinator, Online Marketing

Type O Negative’s “Red Water (Christmas Mourning)”

“Even though Christmas is in the title, I think Frank Costanza would approve of this morose (but actually quite beautiful) song by doom metal band Type O Negative for Festivus celebrations. Released a year before the Festivus episode aired on Seinfeld, ‘Red Water’ features dirge-like appearances of ‘Carol of the Bells’ and ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ and the wonderfully evocative lyric by frontman Peter Steele, ‘Black lights hang from the tree/Accents of dead holly’. What can I say, I’m from southwest Florida, I like metal.”

Meghann Wilhoite, Associate Editor, Grove Music Online

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Game Theory’s “Regenisraen”

“Not sure if it totally counts, because its lyrics do mention Christmas (‘Winter houses turning on the glow/Christmas based on Christmas long ago’), but very much from the perspective of someone standing outside of it in the cold. And the chorus repeats the title, a word that the late Scott Miller, frontman for Game Theory and the Loud Family and penner of this song claimed in the liner notes to the 1990 compilation album Tinker to Evers to Chance ‘is Latin for ‘kill the pigs, acid is groovy.” It doesn’t get more Pagan than that.”

Anna-Lise Santella, Senior Editor, Grove Music Online

Your complete holiday playlist for the rest of us:

Headline image credit: Las Golczewski zima. Photo by Radosław Drożdżewski. CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Recent Comments

  1. jack ashford

    Do people not mention the funk bro.s on purpose

  2. Dan O’Keefe

    This is a pretty great list. It would be even greater with updated links. Pretty please.

Comments are closed.