US Christmas
Eat the Low Dogs

Imagine a Civil War battlefield, littered with the lumpen shapes of fallen soldiers from each side. As twilight falls and cries rise up, one man – barely out of boyhood – squirms in the blood-matted grass. His lips cracked with thirst and his stomach knotted in hunger, he drags himself to the canteens and rucksacks of one still body after another. All empty. In desperation, he gobbles up the closest thing to food he can find: a clump of bluish mushrooms poking up from a smear of oozy cowshit. And then, as the bruised and purplish clouds drift and reveal the star-spattered sky above, the visions start.

Now imagine being that young man, watching those lifeless, uncaring lights as your life fades away. Even as your heart pumps its last, alien psychedelics course through your bloodstream and flood your senses. And as the yawning black rushes in at you from all sides – exploding with fractals of diamond-edged color – it conjures awe instead of fear.

Ok, so Eat the Low Dogs is not a concept album, but it might as well be – it creates one of the most striking and bleakly transcendent moods I’ve heard in a long time. Mixing dreary alt-country, pumping stoner rock and whirling cosmic drone, this album comes off like an inspired mix of early Pink Floyd and 16 Horsepower. And while there’s nothing in the lyrics that suggests the moment I detailed above – that’s just my own imagination set afire by the experience – you should expect to paint your own moments as well.

Most of the album takes the form of a midtempo psychedelic dirge, shot through with whistling theremin and rippling waves of guitar. Earthy strumming carries the load on slower laments like “Silent Tongue” or “Say Sister,” but occasionally the album leaps into hyperspace, as on “The Scalphunters.” That track comes off like the grandson of Meddle opener “One of These Days,” and although its hurtling climb never pays off in a climactic riff, it’s a dizzying ride all the same. Some may get tired of the theremin, which warps and undulates through every track on the album, but I loved it, as it’s a unifying element that ties the whole experience together into one bad trip.

The other standout here is vocalist Nate Hall, whose gravelly vocals never cease to captivate, whether dropped to a low croon or stretched into a tortured yowl. The guy comes off like a cross between Bob Dylan and AA Nemtheanga (Primordial), and he’s now officially one of my favorite stoner/doom vocalists.

Eventually, Eat the Low Dogs does drag on for too long, with too many songs past the album’s halfway point seeming to trudge through the same muck. I love the overall sound that US Christmas has created here, but if they’d moved past drone and incorporated some of stoner rock’s more muscular riffs and aggressive stance, this might have been one of my favorite genre albums ever.

Regardless, this was a great find, and something that’s been sharing a lot of playtime with Earth‘s The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull and last year’s excellent self-titled effort from This Will Destroy You. Fans of those two records should go check this out immediately, and fans of Neurosis/Isis/Cult of Luna-like sludge will also find a lot to get lost in as well.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
February 9th, 2009

Comments

  1. Commented by: Jeff Kent

    I really like Run Thick In The Night so far…


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