By Jase Walker

Poster for Julie Christmas at Tivoli Vredenburg, Utrecht, 1 July 2024I’m having one of those moments where I’m questioning my sanity a bit because I’ve just got back from Jera On Air, gone to the gym and now I’m on the road to Utrecht again, this time to catch Julie Christmas… all good fun though.

Julie Christmas is a name that has almost constantly been talked about in my social circles since her appearance at Damnation festival last year in Manchester and eventually go round to listening to her and it’s certainly caught my attention and with her last album, ‘Ridiculous And Full Of Blood’, only just dropping a couple of weeks ago she’s got a bunch of new material to blast people’s ears with. For tonight’s support, a band from Utrecht, Throwing Bricks.

The room falls completely silent while Throwing Bricks walk on stage and begin, a bit of a weird start. They kick off and I wasn’t totally sure where it’d go from here but the moment the singing hits then I’m thinking “Oh, nice, post-metal”, with a sound very reminiscent of the likes of The Ocean or Hippotraktor. Yeah, I think I’m going to enjoy this flicking back and forth between softer moments and apocalyptically heavy parts. There’s some undertones of Black Metal in their sound as well from some vocal melody choices and guitars hammering tremolo style picking. I’ve decided to have a quick peek through their Instagram and I’m actually a little shocked that I don’t think they’ve played ArcTanGent in the ÜK: this sort of stuff is absolutely perfect for that festival. Truly a thunderous live performance in all aspects, the band moves well in the limited stage space, the sound is outstanding and every single hit can be felt in your chest.

I really get a feeling for the craftsmanship behind each of the songs they’re playing, all of them have a unique feel to them. I say this because often a lot of post metal can easily fall into a bit of a formulaic trap and end up sounding very similar with the same quiet/loud loop but Throwing Bricks are fantastically dynamic and interesting to listen and watch. They’ve even got a brief guest spot with someone playing what looks to be a quite large violin for a small break that builds to an ever greater peak, what a fucking immense way to end this set! I’m standing here genuinely puzzled how ArcTanGent hasn’t got their hands all over them: maybe 2025 I guess?!

Again prior to Julie Christmas taking the stage, the crowd is dead silent, a bit of a different reaction than I normally see. A brief round of applause as the band takes the stage but straight back to silence right after. I see Julie walk on stage with a bag on her head? Oh wait no, it’s some bizarre light up mask that also matches lighting in her leg also, already off to a pretty interesting start! She peels the mask off and the lighting for the rest of the intro gets put to quite effective use as it periodically highlights the poster behind the band. Julie’s dress also now lights up with the same colours of her mask and leg, this is quite an overwhelming start but very interesting. I don’t think I could have quite anticipated this sort of intensity, even if so many people I know talked up her Damnation set but this really is something else.

Julie stamps around the stage with a maniacal look on her face while shrieking into the microphone while the rest of the band hammer out a cacophony of noise. Like I’m not going crazy in the same way I was for say.. Shikari or TesseracT: this is quite a different experience as this is my first time seeing Julie Christmas live and I’m in complete and utter awe of this show. This is not the kind of life performance you see so often, especially not in a more intimate show, I’m staggered, mouth agape, shivers going down my spine, goosebumps, the entire sensory works. Wait, have they just switched to using two bass guitars?! Seriously?! Good god this is sending my adoration for this set into overdrive!

Periodically Julie tears at the luminous fibers covering her dress, steadily making it messier as the show moves on and the once intricate patterns become unraveled and more erratic. I’ve barely even commented on the actual sort of styles that are represented here because I’ve been so enraptured by this live show. It’s metal at its base core but it’s wonderfully melancholy yet so very intense. The sort of stuff that bands like Katatonia, Cult Of Luna, and the like are well known for, the sort of often lumbering drone with discordant noise around it while Julie stops around shrieking and screaming when she’s not soaring with beautiful vocal melodies. Honestly even with the descriptions of her live set told to me in pretty great detail, I don’t think anything could have prepared me for this.

Julie Christmas goes into my top ten shows this year so far immediately, absolutely blown me away with this show and the beautifully atmospheric yet brutally heavy music. I couldn’t have anticipated this at all, top notch performance, music, production, sound, everything. Truly, truly incredible.