Track By Tracks: A Hill To Die Upon - The Black Nativity (2023)

Answers by R. Michael Cook – drums, vocals, lyrics. For further information look out for the upcoming book of liner notes that will be published alongside the album, The Black Nativity

1. Hymn to Marduk I:

I wrote this song with my wife almost 5 years ago. It was the first piece created far before the germ of this album had ever been planted. We had no home for it, but the idea of a Christmas album made perfect sense. Marduk is a Christ figure, so why not make it the flagship?


This song was originally going to be a folk arrangement: just vocals and a bodhran. The night before I left for Texas to record the album, I suddenly decided it needed to be a full band. I worked through the arrangement in the shower and recorded the drums two days later with no accompaniment. I laid down a simple scratch guitar later which Adam filled out.

3. We Three Kings:

Adam arranged We Three Kings himself, from start to finish. We all agree it is one of our favorites on the album. The hand drum that appears in that brief space before the final act is a Persian drum owned by Jairus. We are very thankful he brought it to the studio. Thematically, it is perfect.

4. What Child is This:

I worked this riff and arrangement while teaching music lessons. I charted out the basic structure for my drum students and we would literally just play the song. They got practice charting, reading, and playing, and I got to organize the flow and feel.

5. Left Handed Wizard (My Eyes Look West):

Using old folks songs for A Hill to Die Upon has been part of the plan for over ten years, and “Wayfaring Stranger” has always been one of my favorites. I rewrote the lyrics, but Nolan’s vocals were beyond any of my hopes.

6. Stille Nacht:

Adam and I both own Mausers, and they are fantastic rifles. I sold my Mosin Nagant (the one you hear cocking on Mosin Nagant), so I could buy mine. His is a Turkish make, and mine is Polish. As romantic as the Mosin is, the Mauser is a far superior design.

7. Entre le Boeuf:

Unlike my wife (see Minuet Chretiens), I did not take private French lessons before recording this song. My apologies to the Gauls as a whole for the butchery.

8. Auld Lang Syne:

This is the only song we had no plan for when we entered the studio. My southern rock band, The Comancheros, had already done a rewriting of this for our live album, so that wasn’t high on our list. However, we weren’t sure If we wanted full band or acapella. In the end, it was Adam’s call to do the acoustic rendition. I am playing accordion in there somewhere, but I am awful at the accordion so it was blessedly mixed down.

9. Sacred Harp 133:

Adam has been toying with electronic beats for several years, and this is the only song they have appeared on so far. There were several demos that utilized them more, and I wish more songs would have made it on the album. I feel like he has excellent taste for mixing the folk, the metal, and the electronic.

10. Hymn to Marduk II:

Once we decided to use Hymn to Marduk as the guiding star for the album, we knew we wanted to do a full-band version. Adam and I are big fans of Rotting Christ and Living Sacrifice, so we were very thankful to have Sakis and Bruce on this. Both were so kind and easy to work with. I have recently seen both live and both put on great shows.

11. Minuet Chretiens:

This is my wife singing. She got a degree in vocal performance from Missouri Baptist University, so we try to incorporate her every chance we get. She is also on Omens and Holy Despair. She not only recorded this, but she took private French lessons to make sure her pronunciation was up to scratch.

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