By Gruesome Greg
Releasing a one-track, 40+ minute album is still a bold artistic statement, even if it’s become somewhat of a stoner cliche ever since Tee Pee put out Dopesmoker in ’03 [or even since The Music Cartel put out Jerusalem in ’99 – Da Ed]. That said, USX’s single-song opus checks in just shy of 39, and has me thinking more of a certain band from Seattle than the Marijuanauts from the Bay Area.
“The Valley Path” starts off with the sound of running water, before a lone guitar riff cuts through the stream. It drones on for a while, a little like Dopesmoker, albeit somewhat softer, before finding its rhythm in rolling psych territory, moving freely along the Earth, Across Tundras and through the Dead Meadow, with violin accompanying the standard rock instruments. Around the 11-minute mark, things slow down again with the sounds of nature and a lone guitar, which turns into some feedback/electronic noise a couple minutes later till the band joins in again around the 14-minute mark.
As the song gradually builds up to a driving lull, both with the swirling guitar work, and with the string section, I can’t help but by reminded of Earth’s latest record, albeit with a little more psychedelia, a little less Americana. The soft/hard (albeit never too hard—a meaty riff around the 23-minute mark is as good as it gets) passages seem to alternate for the next 10 minutes or so. Vocals are used in the beginning, but then disappear for quite some time, not to reappear until the 28-minute mark. With about five minutes to go, a riff that’s somewhat reminiscent of more recent Iron Maiden (I’m thinking “Blood Brothers” maybe) enters the fray, albeit in a spacey, sullen context, with muted “Ooohs” added for effect. Ends with feedback fading into the sound of crickets for a minute or two.
While this is an interesting effort that serves as mellow mood music for a nice relaxing vibe, I feel like I’ve heard a lot of this not so long ago on Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 1. Dylan Carson’s been at it for 20 years, so I think it’s safe to say who copied(strikethrough) inspired who.