Review Summary: An exquisite heavy metal throwback that combines gritty musicianship with enchanting female vocals.
Some musicians seem to suffer the misfortune of being born in the wrong period. Hailing from Olympia, Washington, Christian Mistress really feel like one of these several bands that have a wistful longing for the good old days given their genuine affection for classic 1970s hard rock and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. The proto-metal vibe eclipses the entirety of the act's dryly produced sophomore album, Possession
, yet the members of the band manage to make their presentation startlingly refreshing. Rather than rehashing the exact style of old classic albums, Christian Mistress come up with a fairly distinct spin on traditional heavy metal. They strike a perfect balance between flamboyance and filth while largely abandoning the harsh and abrasive tendencies of their copious peers.
Following on the same formula that made their debut disc so engrossing, Possession
can be characterized by a sonically tighter, grittier instrumentation as well as significantly more consistent songwriting. The dual, superbly harmonized guitar work of Ryan McClain and Oscar Sparbel provides an ideal backdrop for immensely talented Christine Davis whose smoky vocals and angular phrasing result in the sense of brooding dread throughout. There are much more facets to her unusual performance though. She can be curiously enigmatic and dreary at one point only to come off confrontational and forceful at the other. Her dramatic delivery gets particularly poignant in amazing “Haunted Hunted” when she sings as if she was a participant of a twisted cult evoking disturbing images with her raspy voice.
Unlike numerous retro-metal albums, Possession
displays an admirable level of diversity in volume, tempo and mood. Such high-octane tracks as “The Way Beyond” and “Black To Gold” revolve around frantic riffs that wallop across the groove of the rhythm section in a menacing pace. In contrast, Christian Mistress craft some of their most alluring tunes when they keep the tempo slower. The title track takes a heavy Black Sabbath-influenced riff and combines it with Davis' piercing vocals in the truly memorable chorus, whereas “There Is Nowhere” fully exposes the band's bluesy tendencies with atmospheric acoustic guitar-driven passages that only later develop into the hard-hitting bridge of commendable guitar soloing.
When the majority of melodic metal releases solely depends on the predictable pay-off, Possession
is more concerned about non-linear dynamics and tension. Instead of relying on worn-out song structures, the compositions actually surprise with plenty of adventurous progressions and the stifling atmosphere of mystery. These qualities, along with an organic analogue production by Tim Green, make for a daring heavy metal album that's sufficiently competent to display its own individual style while keeping the plethora of classic rock references intact.