In 2004, we here at EvilSponge have taken a rather
strong liking to Atlanta band Hot Young Priest. This threesome,
consisting of vocalist/guitarist Mary Byrne, bassist Daniel
Winn, and drummer Chris Jansen, has put on a series of impressive
live sets which show off their heavy sounding rock sound perfectly.
And, in the way of most bands, they have now put out a self-released
five song EP called Burning Hot and Free.
The EP begins with In the Basement, a song that (like all the others
featured) is a standard in their live set. Although I like the
crunchy guitar riff, the mix of the song suffers from first-time-recording-itis.
By this. I mean that the vocals are way up front, the drums
are lost in the background somewhere, and I'm not sure I can
even pick out the bass. Still, the song itself is very nice,
with Byrne's voice sounding very much like Bettie
Serveert's Carol van Djik. Like van Djik, Byrne has a vocal
range where her higher notes still have strength without sounding
either fey or operatic. Furthermore, Byrne's voice is one of
the few I've heard which demonstrate few flaws under the close
microscope of a recording. And that in and of itself is very
From there, the band moves on to Sidewalk Chalking,
which has a better instrumental balance in its mix. Or, at least,
you can definitely hear Winn's bass, which is a good thing.
Likewise, Byrne's vocal line shows off her range and style in
a way that is occasionally lost in a live mix. With these qualities,
as well some distortion and a slight echo on the guitar, Sidewalk
Chalking has a vaguely 70s psychedelic feel. The third song,
Eyes Wide Open, is my favorite song on the album. It
features another straight up guitar riff that is made special
(and catchy) by some unexpected chord progressions. Similarly,
the stop/start, slightly ska, beat which underlies the verse
gives this song a complexity which belies the normal rock music
expectations of the listener.
However, although Eyes Wide Open is my favorite song on the EP, Burn Up is my favorite actual recording. On this mix, you can clearly hear all the instruments, and the intro itself is the closest reflection of Hot Young Priest's live sound. As a song, Burn Up is quite good, as well. It's a driving little tune which at time verges on being almost out of control. Yet, you can tell that, despite this feeling, everything is measured and thought out.. It takes a certain skill to seemingly play right at the edge and still have things together in the end. And this quality clearly is a testament to the musicians of Hot Young Priest as a whole.
The EP ends with Fever Pitch, which is yet another solid recording that features heavy bass and drums, at least until the guitar takes over. Once the full instrumentation kicks in, everything still rocks along with the focus being on the heavy tom sound back in the drumkit. Although Fever Pitch doesn't feel quite as edgy or out of control as the previous song, but it does feature a nice contrast between the harder verse and the more melodic chorus.
So, Burning Hot and Free is a very solid, rock EP. Yet, in my opinion at least, the last two songs are a better reflection of where Hot Young Priest is as a band than the earlier tracks. Maybe it's the more balanced nature of the recording; maybe it's the combination of energy, spirit and talent. But any way you look at it, it's clear that Hot Young Priest need to record a full length soon.