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10 Unconventional Christmas Carols You’ve Never Heard Of (But Really Should Know)

There are three certainties that accompany Christmas when it rolls around each year – awkward family catch-ups, endless Secret Santas that decimate what little budget you have and, perhaps worst of all, Christmas music.

While it might be a foregone conclusion that the likes of Michael Buble and Mariah Carey will earn their annual Christmas bonus by dominating the charts, the worst kept secret in the music world is that everyone is sick of them and dreads the opening chords of Buble’s take on ‘It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas’ that heralds the start of December.

Even the people that lap up those CDs at service stations around the country must surely wonder in the back of their minds if there might be some other Christmas songs out there that haven’t made the rotation cut on Coles Radio or the yearly Carols In The Domain playlist.

That’s precisely where we come in, because – believe it or not – there are, in fact, more Christmas songs in the world.

For those among us (and we believe there are many) who can’t stand another run of ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’ we’ve compiled 10 of the best from across the musical spectrum, both modern and historical, designed to spice up your holiday season this year (and every year to come).

1 – ‘Coventry Carol’ (Traditional)

While ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ and ‘Hark! The Herald Angels Sing’ are most people’s go-to traditional hymns, this haunting number is tailor-made for the goths in the room who prefer their festive cheer without said ‘cheer’.

A haunting melody accompanies lyrics that tell the tale of King Herod slaying baby boys across Israel in the 1st century AD out of blind paranoia, due to the supposed ‘boy-king’ that has been born. Not the kind of lyrical content you’ll hear at Westfield any time soon, but a strikingly beautiful carol nonetheless.

2 – ’12 Days Of Christmas’ – Relient K (Pop-Punk)

A song that has been plundered by countless artists over the years, none have topped this playful, musically excellent and sharply-arranged take on the standard that American cult-favourites Relient K dropped via their 2007 covers album Let It Snow Baby…Let It Reindeer (heh).

Mixing ska harmonies with skate punk sensibilities, and influenced (we assume) by a dose of Blink 182 and The Swellers, Relient K inject excitement, wit and humour into a rock anthem that stands up any time of the year. It’s not for nothing that this band headlined Warped Tour back in the day.

3 – ‘Just Like Christmas’ – Low

US duo Low have developed a feverish fanbase over their 20-year career with countless accolades from those in the know (including a richly deserved grammy nomination for this years’ excellent HEY WHAT LP), but perhaps their biggest moment in the general mainstream consciousness came in the form of their 1999 Christmas EP, spawning this single.

Combining haunting harmonies, minimalist percussion and sweeping synth soundscapes, their ‘slowcore’ original was dubbed by The A.V Club as “the religious album even heathens can love.” With this single, you get the added bonus of discovering one of the most criminally underrated bands this side of the Cold War. Can I get an Amen?

4 – ‘Kidnap The Sandy Claws’ – Korn

Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas is upheld as one of the greatest holiday films of all time, so it was only fair that for a gothic, occult Christmas cartoon a metal band should provide their take to the soundtrack.

Korn helpfully obliged with this silly, fun and ultimately thrilling shock-rock cover, topped off by Jonathan Davis’ attempted evil laughter that makes him sound more like a grandad than The Grinch. Regardless, a high point for the band.

5 – ‘The Boar’s Head’ (Traditional)

Once you get into medieval territory with Christmas carols things get pretty wild, with all manner of ragers that wouldn’t be out of place in the drinking taverns of The Witcher or Game Of Thrones.

‘The Boar’s Head’ is our pick of the lot – a 15th-century carol celebrating the traditional sacrifice of a boar, and presentation of said boar’s head for consumption on Christmas Day (the clue’s in the name). How good is that pork crackling though?

6- ‘Linus and Lucy’ – A Charlie Brown Christmas (Soundtrack) – The Vince Guaraldi Trio (Jazz)

The soundtrack for the 1965 Christmas special of beloved cartoon Charlie Brown occupies a special place in the hearts of people of a certain generation, and its jazzy soundtrack – recorded by a live jazz trio – introduced the at the time fledgling genre to millions of American children.

Nostalgic and melancholic, with a hint of festive magic to it, the scene of Charlie and his dog Linus rocking out to this little diddy with their street-urchin friends in an abandoned theatre has become immortalised in Christmas media folklore.

7 – ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ – Manchester Orchestra (Indie Rock)

Indie rock darlings Manchester Orchestra have never quite received their due credit, and this sombre but beautiful take on the speak-easy holiday ballad is testament to that fact.

With the band members effortlessly layer heavenly harmonies beneath frontman Andy Hull’s folky croon, this is the perfect post-Christmas lunch reflection soundtrack.

8 – ‘Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight)’ – The Ramones (Punk)

Christmas time definitely doesn’t seem like the season for Joey Ramone and co. to pull on the leather and hash out 3 chord jams, but they pull it off surprisingly well with this catchy little number.

Complete with a melodramatic video of a big-haired, quintessential ’70s couple arguing about where to spend Christmas day, The Ramones’ provide a meat and potatoes punk-tinted lense of the classic family dramas that we’re all preparing for.

9 – ‘Adam Lay Ybounden’ (Traditional)

We’re back to the middle ages for this woodland banger – a 15th-century celtic tune that transports you to the world of The Lord Of The Rings or Narnia, and features lyrics about Adam (the o.g. Adam that is) making that pesky mistake with the fruit tree. Heavy lyrical content, but melodic lines that still hold up after 700-odd Christmas celebrations.

10 – ‘Viking Christmas’ – Amon Amarth (Death Metal)

We figured we best let the bearded metallers speak for themselves on this one. Over to you lads!

“Viking Christmas, it’s Viking Christmas// Officially we despise any of those Christian customs // But in secrecy we can’t flee the Christmas spell// I bet you can’t imagine how sentimental we can be:// Bearded Vikings reenact the nativity scene”

Needless to say, we’re the first in line to witness that sight. Merry Xmas!

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