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December is a good time to look back on one's accomplishments. And lately Mary Byrne, singer/guitarist/songwriter of Hot Young Priest, has plenty to reflect on. Culled from the ashes of her previous band Shamgod, the scorching new Priest fulfills the promise that band only hinted at.

Two months after the band's debut in April, the trio captured some of their new songs on tape. The result of the quickie session turned out so good, college radio started playing 'em and before long, those five songs ended up as the basis of an EP Burning Hot and Free.

"The timing of the recording of this EP seems really key," says Byrne. "I think we're glad we did it at that point, because creatively, we have changed and evolved really quickly since we've gotten together. That particular moment would have been lost if we hadn't paused for a second to document it."

Since the EP only hints at the raw power of the live shows of the irascible Priest — featuring bassist Daniel Winn and drummer Chris Jansen — the record stands as a vivid snapshot, rather than an exact replication of the band as it is now. "The EP is this really concise portrait in time," says Byrne. "It's a recording of a project in motion."

The album has been available to fans since the summer, but HYP is gearing up to unleash it on the rest of unsuspecting world, via retail and online. "The selling price at shows is still five bucks, but I can't promise it will be that cheap in stores or the Internet," warns Byrne.

The cover features photos by Jansen, and underneath the mad Ralph Steadman font is a devilish photo of 3-year-old Mara Bradley, daughter of musician Michael Bradley (Myssouri). But where will retail file the hard-to-define band in the bins?

"I don't think we've decided on what to call our music yet," she says. "Early on, we used words like spare, stark, thrifty, sultry, white-hot rock." Although those descriptions still apply, Byrne adds that "elastic" wouldn't be too bad, either. "It seems like the character of the songs sometimes changes from performance to performance." Hot Young Priest's CD release party is Friday, Dec. 3, at the Earl. Telegram and The Moto-Litas are also on the bill. $5.