Local duo GRUE have managed to put together something that is quite rare in underground black metal: self-released recordings with decent, relatively clean production value! Instead of a wash of reverb and distortion recorded as poorly as possible to create something like a hazy blur in the place of riffage, GRUE gives us a thick, full but relatively pristine guitar sound in which every note and chord stands right out. In fact, you wouldn’t be totally crazy in thinking the first minute or two of the RAKE EP, with its fast tempo and melodic chord changes, sounds like a really really good pop-punk record (at least until the vocals enter the picture). The vocals are up-front in the mix as well, and raspy but ultimately easily decipherable compared to many of their USBM brethren.

There is a complimentary through-line between the lyrics of this EP’s two tracks (the original track “All Mortal Greatness is But Disease” and a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s bummer country classic “Rake”). It seems to me that the first song discusses similar themes on a universal, societal level that the second one does on a personal level: the idea that everything we love and strive for and take pride in is ultimately meaningless and will slowly kill us. Such bluntness is served well by the unambiguous, up-front production style and Van Zandt’s lyrics in particular are so full of despair that it’s amazing nobody has thought to go metal with them until now.

The RAKE EP is a great follow-up to the band’s debut album and its 12 short minutes will definitely leave all you metalheads (and maybe even a few of you country fans and punk kids) wanting more. Hopefully another full-length will be forthcoming. In the meantime, you can check the band out this Monday at O’Brien’s with CHURCHBURN, BADR VOGU and ROZAMOV.

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