USX – The Valley Path Album Review

You know, I’ve been sort of conflicted about the multiple directions metal has gone as of late — none of which involve much of a focus on basic songcraft. It’s probably just because I came of age back in the early ’90s. Back then, loud rock bands threw a bit more vocal melody and track diversity onto their records, a lot of which has seemingly now been replaced by a monolithic blaaaargh of chugging riffs and white noise screamitude. I can’t remember the last time I’ve walked away from seeing a new heavy band thinking, “Man, that song’s going to be stuck in my head all day.”

On the other hand, it’s also been getting way more psychedelic, so there’s that. Not that there’s much songcraft on an album like The Valley Path, as that’s kind of tough when there’s only one song. See, it’s for people with long attention spans – people who can eat an orange and feel like they’re taking a trip through a citrus mountain.

Now, band’s like Kyuss and Sleep have pulled shit like this in the past, and it’s kind of retarded in all honesty… especially when the song is 38 minutes long and has multiple sometimes barely audible ambient periods which would be obvious places to put a track break. But whatever, I get it; you’re supposed to listen to the entire thing.

Which I have no problem doing here. The funniest thing about USX (aka U.S. Christmas) is despite self-identifying as metal, and being released on a predominantly metal label, they’re really only metal in feel. This is essentially a mellow, cosmically tranced out, slow-burning blues jam of epic proportions. As mentioned, at times everything fades into the background and you’re left to contemplate minimalist keyboard and sound effect dementia. Then more echoing guitar swirls enter the picture, hurling you straight back to fantasia. Layer on some ethereal string arrangements and we’re now reaching brain pleasure central territory. Repeat process, and done. Why does everything have to be so difficult all the time?

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