As of late I've started freelancing for Target Audience Magazine, who are kind enough to send me to shows and publish my reviews. I had the chance to see U.S. Christmas last night, and they absolutely killed it.
A few quick notes as my reviews can't exceed 400 words or so: there couldn't have been more than 15 people in the crowd, which is a real shame. Also, Nate Hall is one of the nicest dudes in metal. Since USX is a smaller band without a PR rep, I ended up dealing directly with him and he was nothing but professional. I had the chance to chat with him for a few minutes, and he came across as extremely down to earth and relatable. It looks like Neurot is trying to re-release Eat the low Dogs
on vinyl which is cool. If you're into Neurosis, Sleep, or Baroness, you really owe it to yourself to check them out.
U.S. Christmas setlist (incomplete)
Anyway, without further ado, here's my review from the show:
The last few years have been kind to the South’s music scene. It seems that anywhere you look you’ll find a quality act with something new to offer. Such is the case with North Carolina’s U.S. Christmas (or USX). One of psychedelic rock’s greatest hidden treasures, the group played Atlanta’s 529, bringing three Atlanta-based acts, as well as Tennessee’s Generation of Vipers, along for the ride.
The first of the evening’s homegrown acts was sludge metal band Crawl, who got the evening started with a thunderous bang. The trio’s hypnotic riffs grabbed hold of the audience and refused to let go until the final crushing notes spilled out of the PA system.
Up next was Youth XL. What Crawl offered in terms of melody and rhythm, Youth XL brought in pure noise and chaos. Digital sampling machines emitted deafening screeches as both of the noise rock duo’s vocalists shouted into the microphones and jumped around stage. If nothing else, Youth XL deserved credit for its sheer musical audacity and creativity.
Punk group Sons of Tonatiuh followed. Alternating between intensely fast blast beats and slow, heavy riffs, the band’s quick tonal shifts kept the audience guessing as to which direction the song would take next, which made for an engaging performance.
Generation of Vipers was the final of the four opening acts, putting on a show that was as intense and mesmerizing as it was loud. Though two-thirds of the group played with U.S. Christmas, Vipers offered a more traditional sludge metal sound with chugging bass lines and lengthy compositions.
Finally, the time had come for headliners U.S. Christmas. Guitarist and vocalist Nate Hall swayed back and forth as he teased set opener, “The Scalphunters” from 2008′s Eat the Low Dogs before the group launched into an all-out sonic fury. What made U.S. Christmas such a treat to watch was detecting the subtle influences in the songs, as the band doesn’t adhere to any one specific genre. Equal parts rock, blues and folk created an ethereal amalgam of sound as mysterious and alluring as the Appalachian Mountains that the group calls home, and draws inspiration from. These influences took on new life as the band trudged through its brief 45-minute set, with tight performances by each band member, as the audience swayed along, enraptured by the otherworldly music. With their ambitious, uncompromising and dream-like sound, U.S. Christmas is a band more than deserving of your time and attention.