RAWWhen I saw the band was called Raw and they write songs titled Death waltz and Chopped Em Up I was expecting loud raging death metal. Thank fuck that is not what I got. Raw are a two piece from Calgary Alberta that blues from Hell. They say they are influenced by Delta Blues, Psychedelic  Rock, Country and Black Metal – and you know what I can see it.

There has been a lot of Dark Rock stuff of late and most of it has been damn fine – Alaric, Tau Cross and Publicist UK have all added to the annals of those that follow the bat and snakebite. What Raw offer is a bluesy take on a shadowy path. Comparisons to Nick Cave are inevitable and fans of Murder Ballads will get a kick (to the throat) out of this but there is more besides.  I know little about the band. The press release puts them as a duo. Facebook has them as a three piece “Thickskin” “Skinnyback” and “Philly Joe” without saying who does what (to who).

Death Waltz is a walk down a lonely woodland path at night. The atmosphere and tension build and build luring you into the dark world that the gruesome twosome inhabit. Once the guitars break in they are dark country that tell tales of foreboding in hushed gravelly tones. So drawn in was I by the tales of butchery I nearly died of fright when the missus entered the room and tapped me on the shoulder. At least I know my heart works!  Lucky that as Chopped Em Up is a heart rending electric blues with the vocalist (Thicksaw???)  roaring out the words like a cross between Frank Black at his most pained and Neil Fallon.  This is music that you could either slow dance to, strip to or clean your bloodied knife of the guts of the man that wronged you. I am too scared to guess which they would prefer.

Slowly But Surely starts as an echo coming from an abandoned mineshaft before the guitars kick in with a 12 bar refrain. The emotion wrung from the guitars evokes the pain of blues musicians the world over whether they be from the Mississippi Delta, Chicago or indeed Canada. This is indeed Raw.

I’m a Shell (but I’m your man) is a story about fatherhood. “I filled your womb, gave you life. With my small death, I burst inside” . This is no Jeremy Kyle paternity case. Go straight to youtube to watch the whole Lynchian horror unfold [it’s Buddy Giovinazzo’s Combat Shock they have used for visuals ED].  There is a bleakness to this track which brings to mind the starkness of depressive black metal alongside Danzig.  This is not one to put on if you are feeling down in the dumps. (Although sometimes it is nice to wallow in the bad stuff). By the end the madness and guilt are complete the video gives vision to what the track suggests in a grungy refrain.

Mine which follows is a mess. In a good way. It seems to follow no formula and exists as almost a freeform grunge jazz/blues piece like a whiskey and peyote soaked Happy Mondays demo. What worries me is that I like it!

From the First Glass to the Grave – the title track is a near 16 minute opus that does not so much close the album as make up nearly half of its length. It rolls from melody to dark melancholy as its predecessors do providing an elongated tortured soundscape which is not always easy to listen to but always compelling.

Raw have taken the best bits of blues – the raw emotion and pain and injected further darkness into its collapsing veins. This is a shot in the arm that may require emergency adrenaline.

(8/10 Matt Mason)