Bandcamp stream: Link
Back in early January, I reviewed Grue’s Casualty Of The Psychic Wars album. I was very impressed by it, especially by how much potential it showed the band possessed, having just the right mix of reach-for-the-stars ambition and grounded earthliness. Six months on, and the the USBM band have released a two-track follow-up EP, Rake, featuring one original and a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Rake“, as well as a more raw production than I am definitely a fan of. Naming a release after a cover is a brave move, but Grue play with enough talent, conviction, and creativity to pull it off.
The EP opens with “All Mortal Greatness Is But Disease”, the aforementioned original composition. Much as with Casualty Of The Psychic Wars, this is creative, frantic USBM which brings to mind the likes of Absu in the way it twists and turns, wonderfully restless and inventive with its constant shifts in tempo and emphasis. Despite this, it remains rooted to the ground, the duo never letting their considerable skill and talent get in the way of making something that is thoroughly metal, full of energy and excitement. The music eases off when the vocals start after just over a minute, the song becoming intense in a different way and an ominous feeling descending upon the listener, which comes to a head once the tempo is picked up once more. The intensity of this band when they play at speed is considerable – it feels more like the most extreme, inventive kinds of thrash than black metal at times. This feeling is dispelled around the 3:25 mark though as the band slow right down, creating a cold atmosphere that gives way to almost dissonant intensity before the song reaches its climax for the final minute, charging ahead with superbly furious drumming and tremolo picking. It’s a hell of a ride, and demonstrates that Grue can write adventurous, progressive songs that are still enjoyable.
The cover of “Rake” is equally impressive. The original is a classic of bleak country music, and whilst Grue’s version bears little in common with the original in a musical sense – the band play it in their own up-tempo black metal style – it can be argued that they tap in to the despondent nature of the original. The way it shifts from furious black metal to something slower and more overtly bleak for its closing moments can almost be seen as a metaphor for Townes Van Zandt’s own life and untimely end. Even if you disagree with this, it’s hard to argue that Grue are successful in adding a different slant to some of the lyrics, simply by placing them in a black metal context. The most successful cover versions are those that find something new and different in their source material, and Grue certainly succeed in doing that.
The Rake EP can be downloaded and streamed for free via Bandcamp. The band are currently looking for a label to release a physical version.