The thing about ‘traditional’ heavy metal is that it’s been done to death. For nigh on five decades. So its difficult for ‘young’ bands like Christian Mistress to approach the genre, straight faced, and create something that doesn’t just get tossed aside and labeled ‘homage’ or ‘parody’. Yet somehow on Possession the band has managed to create an album that sounds like it is a long lost record from 1985 without sounding like the band were trying to make a record that sounded like it is a long lost record from 1985. And that’s a tough trick to turn.
There’s an honesty about this record, an almost naïve honesty, that sets it apart from much of what gets spewed out by the metal sausage machine in 2012. Conviction does indeed sound like something Satan would have recorded in the mid eighties, but because the voice on it doesn’t sound like a fifth rate Dickinson or Halford Christian Mistress have an automatic adge that makes Possession compulsive listening.
That edge is vocalist Christine Davis. Its hard to explain to you young ‘uns that weren’t there at the time, but music like this with a good, powerful female voice singing on top of it would have been genuinely gobsmacking in the early eighties. And so, to a certain extent, it is in 2012. Much of Possession is what is termed doom metal by todays standards, with all the baggage that that label carries with it. But without the overwrought, bearded vocals adding to the din you end up with some almost fragile, delicate old school heavy metal that is utterly captivating to listen to. That’s probably a terribly sexist, unreconstructed way of looking at things, but its an honest summation of how I as a middle-aged reviewer have responded to this album. Its joy and wonderment, but also still a bit of wide eyed surprise. Sorry if that upsets you.
Anyways it wouldn’t matter who was singing if the riffs were rotten and they ain’t: Davis is lucky enough to add her tremendous, soulful voice to some utterly outstanding classic heavy metal. Guitarists Ryan McClain and Oscar Sparbel come up trumps on each and every song both in the riff and the solo department, and the spacious production allows for the pummeling basswork to shine through when required, just as it should on a release such as this.
Christian Mistress are definitely backwards looking – at times they sound like a Midwestern bar band trying desperately to sound like Diamond Head crossed with a bit of US flash like Van Halen or Montrose – but if they keep going like this they’ve definitely got a big future ahead of them if they want it.