Hailing from the Appalachian Mountain region of Eastern Tennessee, U.S. Christmas are surely contenders for the oddest band name (if I ever do set up my own award ceremony then they may be rewarded, but I’m going off on a tangent). Rather fitting then that they play quite an oddball style of music; describing themselves as a cross over between blues rock with some psychedelic elements thrown in to mix. They also have a definite sludge feel to them, and vocals that are quite reminiscent of the likes of Mike Patton and Greg Puciato of Dillinger Escape Plan. Certainly a tough one to pigeonhole.
What you might picture from their description of themselves, well at least how I imagined at first, would be that of very chaotic and odd sounding music and immediately challenging to grasp on first listen. Surprisingly however this isn’t quite the case. There are some intriguing moments but it isn’t inaccessible on first listen either. One thing I wasn’t expecting admittedly was the number of slower tempo instrumental tracks, such as the opener “Bad Heart Bull” which has an acoustic grunge tinge to it, and “Gallows Humour” which has some similarities to Ancient VVisdom’s sound, both of which are also very melancholic sounding in nature. This is quite at odds with such tracks as “New War” which is faster paced and aggressive.
Sonically “Bad Heart Bull” is also very minimalistic. On “Black Snake” for example it is hugely dependent on a very repetitive riff and bass groove which barely deviates or changes. Nor is it ever complicated or technical. This isn’t necessarily a criticism, just an observation. The problem I do have with this however is that with the slower tempo songs and the couple of faster numbers, it just doesn’t flow as well as hoped. For the most part “Black Heart Bull” is slow and at times verges on to sombre and bleak sounding. But with the couple of punchier and angrier numbers present it just comes across as unintentionally confusing. An oddness that certainly merits the intriguing band name and album title, but not perhaps confusing and intriguing in a way they might have hoped. Not bad or un-worthwhile either however.