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U.S. Christmas : Salt The Wound (re-release)

If you fancy some stoned, miserable space(ish)-rock that's abrasive as hell, U.S. Christmas are what you need.

U.S. Christmas aren't currently listed on my usual go-to, metal-archives.com, and they are generally quite mysterious. I didn't know what to expect from their strange name and abstract cover art, but it turns out its basically stoned, miserable space(ish)-rock that's abrasive as hell. They sound initially like a soundtrack to some out-west movie, with the clanging sun-scorched guitars inscribed with a touch more melancholy than you might expect from the usual frontier fare. Nothing here gives me the warmth and groove of the usual Spiritual Beggars or Orange Goblin style rocking stoner stuff.

It's the harshness of Suma or Ramesses transplanted into the loose framework of Ufomammut, with that latter band's more blissful pastures stripped away in favour of a more barren ambient soundscape.The crashing snares and simple, thumping drums are familiar, your reassuring connection to stoner rock and doom. The rasping vocals likewise, but rendered this clear without the usual ton-weight of distorted guitars to accompany them, far more affecting for good or bad. The minimalist nature of the album sets it far apart, but occasionally undoes it. The high-pitched vocals, while initially incredibly effective on 'Lazarus' soon becomes over-the-top at points, and the lower register work on 'Devil's Flower' makes for a welcome break. Quite a portion of it is instrumental however, which helps deepen the experience and improve its chances of repeat listens.

There are some highlights mind. It's touch and go. Something about the humming synths and whirring samples on 'Lazarus' gives these cowboy strums a dystopian, steampunk feel, and as I did not mention, the song is almost genius. The samples are used to great effect on another joyless highlight, 'Devil's Flower'. 'Death By Horses' is like Queens of the Stone Age with vocals yelled through a broken transmitter. 'Thin The Herd' is a pretty good blazing rocker, sounding a bit like Zoroaster in places. Throughout the record the seven--member band remain pretty dour though, rocking dutifully and bleakly through barely propulsive, monochromatic movements like 'New War' with nary a tongue-in-cheek moment or a break from their grim-faced purpose, though the occasional guitar solo affords a moment or two's Sleep-like release. Perhaps more of the wandering, bluesy guitar that finally manifests in album closer 'Black Snake' would have made the band's endeavour more palatable throughout.

The record is a painstaking, end-world vision of woeful biopics related across campfires. Sepia in HD and tumbleweed rolling across the leavings of a civilization far beyond the ken of frontier folk. It's the soundtrack to Joss Whedon's Firefly, were that programme somewhat darker. Don't expect Kyuss or Goatsnake. Those who have enjoyed the releases by Leeches of Lore this year might find that this tickles those same strange tastes, if they fancied something like LoL with every hint of positivity drained from it. Stoner rock somehow as downcast as the most funereal of funeral doom bands, even splashed as it is with acidic samples. Try before you buy.

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Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
1. Lazarus
2. Death By Horses
3. New War
4. Devil's Flower
5. Thin The Herd
6. Norpo
7. Queen Of The World
8. Black Snake

Duration : Approx. 48 minutes

Visit the U.S. Christmas bandpage.

Reviewed on 2012-08-27 by doom-metal.com
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