Wednesday, 8 September 2010

[ALBUM REVIEW]Christian Mistress - Agony & Opium

The infamous Fenriz has been on a bit of a 'true' metal crusade of late, championing many bands he believes to be keeping the 'flame of old' burning. One of these bands is the Washington five piece, Christian Mistress. Having just been signed to 20 Buck Spin on the back of their critically acclaimed demo last year, their debut album has just hit the shelves and is a piece of traditional heavy metal straight from the textbooks of Warlock and Judas Priest. In short, 'Agony & Opium' is six, to the point tracks of pure refined classic heavy metal, centred around duelling guitar leads and the sharp vocal performance of frontwoman Christine Davis.

Straight from the off, the twin guitar attack of 'Riding on the Edges' lets you know what you're up against. The vocals then come in and are reminiscent of an amalgamation of Doro and Dawn Crosby. Technically, the vocals are pretty below par, but it's the absolute grit and honesty they are delivered with that makes them so fantastic. They may be frayed around the edges, but then again in metal's golden era, what wasn't? I'll take vocals like these over processed, commercialised Lacuna Coil clones any day of the week. The vocals are surprisingly infectious, take for example the chorus of 'Desert Rose' or the ending verse to 'Home in the Sun', I find it very hard not to involuntarily sing along to half this album even while writing this. 'Desert Rose' is an absolute stormer of a track, one of the highlights of the album with Christine's vocals over the NWOBHM-esque twin guitar leads of Ryan and Oscar tearing their way through the song. Finishing up with a fitting, tasteful solo of which there are many throughout the album, never entering the territory of aimless masturbation, if you didn't know otherwise you'd swear blind these guy were thirty years older than the really are. And that is most certainly a good thing. The bass is fairly prominent in the album, at times utilising the famous Harris gallop, and others retaining a more conventional style and holding up the rest of the music.
The B side to the album is just as strong as the A, if not even more so. 'Poison Path' is the only song which is retained from the demo, and is given to customary facelift to album standards, and has a heavy Diamond Head vibe to the whole thing. 'Black Vigil' again is three short minutes dripping with the intensity of the eighties and before you know it you're at the last track already. It isn't long in coming, the album is short, but the sheer enjoyment you get from this unfortunately just accentuates this. 'Omega Stone' starts out extremely slow, almost ballad like. 'Heresy!' you say? Not quite, for it is done tastefully and is possibly Christine's best performance on the album. It kicks up gear towards the middle of the song and sends the album out in a blaze with duelling solos, galloping basslines and frenetic drumming. The drumming on the album is the only thing which could be described as being 'standard', holding together well, dictating the tempo of the album. Not that it's a complaint, but when set against the rest of the musicians, it's hard to focus on anything else but them.

Christine may be no Doro, but she certainly has the balls to cut it with the rest of them, When you get a song which makes you want to clench your fist and sing along, you know you're on to a good thing, and there's six of them here.
Unfortunately the thing with Christian Mistress is, with a raw DIY production like this, they will never break into the 'big time', which is a crying shame. Twenty five years ago it would be a whole different story, and this is why metal in the underground continues to trounce the tame sterilized muck being passed off as Classic Metal these days by the major parties, because it lacks the most important thing of all; heart.
One thing Christian Mistress are not is subdued, they're a band doing what they love and not bowing to any trends or pressure, and for that I love it. For anyone who appreciates their metal littered with shredding leads and the fire of the eighties, then I don't think I need to say much more than go out and get this.



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