Christian Mistress

support Magister Templi
author AP date 15/10/15 venue Beta, Copenhagen, DEN

That classic heavy metal revivalists Christian Mistress have yet to make their breakthrough on this side of the pond is painstakingly obvious from the dire turnout for this, their first-ever concert in Denmark. Given the quality of their material however, that should all change in the near future once they gain traction from touring, and word-of-mouth begins to spread awareness among European devotees to the more traditionally inclined nooks within the metal genre. Personally, the prospect of watching this band live has had me excited for some time now and as such there was never a question whether I would be attending or not, regardless of the rain and wind and the fact that, sadly, shows on weekday nights are hardly optimal for those of us working full time. I am thus doing my utmost to ignore the gaping emptiness of Beta’s concert room as the Norwegian opening act Magister Templi rev their instruments to signal the start of their set.

All photos courtesy of Philip B. Hansen

Magister Templi

The style of Magister Templi at once aligns itself with that of the evening’s headliners, though the quintet seems to have a penchant for deviating from and experimenting with the retrospective foundation of the music. This is usually a good sign, indicative of a band meaning to differentiate itself from the remaining pack. But based on the first track, “Creation”, my first impression is that this approach is not a hundred percent successful — the song contains too much dynamics, and really, its best moments occur in the most traditional gallops. Fortunately, the subsequent “Lucifer” delivers a much better, headbang-friendly stomp and immediately, the five musicians seem to wake up from some slumber for bouts of wild performance craft. Vocalist Abraxas d’Ruckus (as he has elected to call himself) especially is loaded with enthusiasm for this gig; not a moment goes by without impassioned expressions, spirit fingers, air guitar or winding his way through the scant audience, and in between the songs he takes care to introduce the next track — usually with a hefty dose of dad humour à la ”We are going to play a few songs from Egyptian mythology… So you could say, we’re going Pagan in Copenhagen” (accompanied by a self-satisfied smirk of course). And when you combine his charisma, and indeed his love of performing with the non-stop activity of his supporting cast of musicians (guitarists Patriark & Baphomet, bassist Akoman and drummer Grimmdun), there really isn’t much to whinge about in terms of Magister Templi’s abilities as a live band.

But at the same time, I cannot escape how uninspired their music sounds to me, like b-sides from Metallica’s “Ride the Lightning” added power metal vocals. There are no surprises, nor any revelatory or otherwise astounding moments littered across their nine-song setlist; just generic, if decent heavy metal tribute tracks that are entirely passable, but not sufficient to warrant praise from the undersigned. Magister Templi create a positive impression by showing festive spirit despite the dismal turnout, never sparing an ounce of energy in order to stage an engaging presence on stage. But two studio albums into their five-year career now, it is high time to start penning songs that stick.

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Christian Mistress

By the time Christian Mistress are scheduled to begin, literally the entire audience has disappeared outside for a smoke, or downstairs for a drink. But the sight of an empty room does not faze them; guitarists Tim Diedrich & Oscar Sparbel, bassist Jonny Wulf and drummer Reuben W. Storey simply launch into a jam which seems to be rooted in the track “Neon” off the band’s brand new album “To Your Death” and continue churning it out until the crowd size is deemed suitable for vocalist Christine Davis to join in for the rock’n’roll banger that is “Open Road” also off that record. These musicians are perhaps not quite as relentless in their headbanging and other antics, but there is, on the other hand, something utterly charming about Davis’ elated mood and pleas for people to move close to the stage so as to generate a more intimate setting here.

Then there is the fact that Christian Mistress make no pretensions about the sort of music they play — it’s straight-up heavy metal inspired by… well, take your pick from the legends of the genre — and evidently this allows them to write songs that catch on with viral efficiency. Whether it is the blues ridden start of “Ultimate Freedom” or the unforgettable riffs and lyrics of “Neon” and “Stronger Than Blood”, the material on offer here oozes songwriting prowess, the sort that does not shun the simple so long as it catches the ear. At the same time, especially Diedrich and Sparbel’s abilities on the guitar are dazzling, with all eyes frequently homed in on their effortlessly dancing fingers. Sparbel’s choice of a Randy Rhoads signature Flying V is brave — it comes with certain expectations for know-how — but the man has absolutely no trouble slinging countless technically demanding, mentally stimulating riffs and solos with the thing, often in fantastic harmonies with Diedrich’s more understated Les Paul model. Mind you, it is not just the breathtaking musicianship of the two guitarists that makes Christian Mistress a revelation tonight — Storey’s textured drumming, given a sublime punch by BETA’s perfectionistic sound man Rasmus Toftlund; and Wulf’s bass licks contribute just as much wonder to the soundscape. Collectively thus, the four instrumentalists form a staggeringly tight-playing, symbiotic unit onto which Davis’ then gracefully lays her hoarse voice, carefully soaked in whisky in between each track to maintain that bluesy smoke. She reminds me of Stevie Nicks, and I suppose her qualities as a vocalist thus require no further embellishment.

It is refreshing to witness the dedication of the few that have opted to turn out tonight, and the delight this instills in the band. Originally, the set was to conclude at some nine tracks (judging by the setlist taped to the floor), but as the evening nears that point, it becomes clear that Christian Mistress have not just been recycling cliché stage banter about how much they’re enjoying this show; they’re genuinely ecstatic about the response, they thrive on it. As a result, they muster up a three-song encore closing with “Walkin’ Around”, and set a triumphant seal on a performance that, hopefully, will put Christian Mistress on the Danish metal community’s lips to a greater degree so that they will have the opportunity to play to an actual full size crowd next time.

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