Christian Mistress

To Your Death

Written by: AP on 21/10/2015 20:24:37

Christian Mistress is a somewhat confounding proposition. The classic heavy metal revivalists vanished from the limelight almost as swiftly as they had been pushed there by “Possession” — the band’s sophomore album — in 2012 despite garnering a wealth of praise from critics and commoners alike, with barely a peep heard from them following a handful of low-to-medium profile tours in its immediate aftermath. For a group backed by a record label as media-efficient and influential as Relapse, the silence felt unusual and even lead some to believe that Christian Mistress might quietly have dissolved. As a result, the announcement of this successor record “To Your Death” struck like lightning from a cloudless sky and had many a patched denim vest-donning, vinyl-collecting nostalgic salivating with anticipation. The ‘Mistress had struck a gold vein in revitalising a style of metal most would argue belongs in the past, and playing it with the heart and passion of the 70’s.

Indeed, the philosophy that won them such acclaim flows through “To Your Death” as well. Inspiration is drawn from across the pantheon of heavy metal (take your pick from Black Sabbath, Guns N’ Roses, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Motörhead, Thin Lizzy…), and the Olympia, WA born quintet makes no pretensions about pushing the envelope, and that is perhaps their greatest advantage. The traditionalist approach allows them to focus on penning tunes that, while sounding a little dated and probably unambitious to some listeners, stick with immediate effect. Gritty, sweaty and beer-soaked though the songs may be, they are written with an ear for a catchy tune and are awash with virtuosic individual performances — in particular by guitarists Tim Diedrich & Oscar Sparbel — and brazen displays of bravado. Chances are, if you refuse to listen to anything that does not feature a sword on its cover, that you will recognise some of the features on display — there is a galloping lead in “Eclipse” that pays subtle, though quite possibly subconscious tribute to Iron Maiden’s classic “Hallowed By Thy Name”; bluesy flourishes and an up-tempo skip in “Open Road” that could be the missing link between Judas Priest’s early material and “Painkiller”; and a palm-muted melody at the beginning of “Walkin’ Around” that resembles Van Halen enough to stamp a satisfied grin on every 80’s glam metaller’s face. But this stuff is beyond mere tribute.

Rather, “To Your Death” feels like a celebration of classic hard rock and heavy metal, with contagious power chord riffs and prodigious guitar solos galore, all wrapped into a warm, earthen production that has not been sanitised to perfect shine. Of this the opening track “Neon” is a prime specimen, distilling its lasting value in equal measure from the sublime interplay between the two guitarists and the rhythm section comprising bassist Jonny Wulf and drummer Reuben W. Storey, and the silvery singing of front lady Christine Davis. Her two-packs-a-day-with-a-side-wagon-of-whisky soaked voice bears an impeccable similarity to Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks and, to some extent, Janis Joplin, and that sweet smokiness is as charming to listen to as it is authentic. It provides the frosting on the cake, her finest performance coinciding with that of her ensemble of musicians in the doom ridden “Ultimate Freedom” — a ’Sabbath-school slow burner that, alas, signals the last truly enduring piece of music found on the album.

Groundbreaking this is not, nor does it quite manage the otherworldliness of its predecessor. But in the context of retrospective metal, “To Your Death” certainly ranks among the upper echelons. It lacks unnecessary frills and focuses on the essential: namely the consistent production of rocking, badass heavy metal bangers that leave most of their ilk coughing in the dust.

Download: Neon, Eclipse, Stronger Than Blood, Ultimate Freedom
For the fans of: Lucifer, Slough Feg, White Wizzard
Listen: Facebook

Release date 18.09.2015
Relapse Records

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