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U.S. Christmas - "The Valley Path" (CD)

U.S. Christmas - "The Valley Path" CD cover image

"The Valley Path" track listing:

1. The Valley Path

Reviewed by on July 23, 2011

"'The Valley Path' possesses cerebral content that will take it’s listener on a journey. Where it takes the listener depends on the wiring of each individual."

Don’t tell U.S. Christmas (USX) that Appalachia only produces blue grass. The western North Carolina/eastern Tennessee act has created shamanistic audio visions since 2002, and the band’s dark, psychedelic experimentations proved the perfect formula to join the Neurosis-led roster of Neurot Recordings. Consisting of one track that clocks in at nearly 40 minutes, “The Valley Path” is the latest in a series of Neurot releases from these mountainous space cadets.

“The Valley Path” could work as an album of several songs, since the action on the sole track ebbs and flows. At times, it swells to a near bursting point, but then recedes into subtle moments of silence. Each change up could comprise a new track, but the music moves in a circular motion, returning to previous sounds and ideas.

In this sense, the single track works because the band’s movements show connectivity. However, like using landmarks to find your way through the desert, one can get lost in USX’s jam sessions. While the group carefully orchestrates each new sound, bringing subtle, new perspectives to each instrumental, the amount of time it takes to convey these ideas may result in listeners losing focus.

The first eight minutes feature hard-pounding, organic drums, a twangy ringing, blues-ridden guitar, and medium-ranged vocals. These parts bring to mind Danzig during his soft moments. The group begins adding colors to the musical palette just a few minutes into these sung segments, with guitar solos and a violin coming into the fray. The same theme continues but gradually becomes more intense until around the ten-minute mark.

Here marks one of the band's lull points and through fifteen minutes of jamming, the act spends time building on another theme. Around the twenty-three-minute point, the music takes another heavy turn, this time through a doom-laden Neurosis-like riff. Five minutes later, the music returns to the original theme that contains vocals.

Fans of heavy, experimental music and the various forms this catch-all term represents will got lost (in a good way) in an assortment of instruments and spacey sounds on “The Valley Path.” Those who get bored with the repetition post metal bands often present will probably get lost, too (in a bad way). Either way, “The Valley Path” possesses cerebral content that will take it’s listener on a journey. Where it takes the listener depends on the wiring of each individual. Fans of Danzig, Neurosis, Swans, and Hawkwind take notice.

Highs: "The Valley Path" is a deep album containing beautiful and dark orchestrations.

Lows: The gradual building and deconstruction of action often becomes tiresome.

Bottom line: Fans of experimental, post-metal acts will love it, while others will struggle with the long instrumental passages.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)