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Christian Mistress - "Agony & Opium" (CD)

Christian Mistress - "Agony & Opium" CD cover image

"Agony & Opium" track listing:

1. Riding on the Edges (5:03)
2. Desert Rose (5:06)
3. Home in the Sun (5:27)
4. Poison Path (4:13)
5. Black Vigil (2:50)
6. Omega Stone (4:58)

Reviewed by on October 31, 2010

"It seems like new blood is being drawn from the once-lifeless NWOBHM corpse, and Christian Mistress is thriving off of it on the excellent 'Agony & Opium'"

Christian Mistress is fully entrenched in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) sound on their curious debut “Agony & Opium.” Easily mistaken for an artifact from 1980, “Agony & Opium” is 30 years too late to the party. If this was released at the height of the NWOBHM craze, Christian Mistress could have been ranked alongside Iron Maiden and Diamond Head as one of the top bands during the era. By 2010 standards, the freshness has been squeezed out, but that doesn’t mean that the band belongs with the other rejects. “Agony & Opium” does something few bands can claim to have done - it takes a throwback sound and made it relevant to modern times.

The band follows in the footsteps of other contemporary heavy metal revivalists like Bible of the Devil and Cauldron. The solos are stacked together like a deck of playing cards and the riffs have a carefree momentum that steam-roll all in its path. Each song contains a section where the guitars throw away any caution and trade-off leads in a manner that would make Dave Murray and Dennis Stratton give a pleasant golf clap. Female vocals are utilized ala Girlschool and Rock Goddess, though the mannerisms of Christine Davis are much more rowdy and infectious.

The six songs are built upon the power generated by the pairing of the tight rhythm section and the blazing guitars. Each song is very similar in tone, heading with a forward state of mind and no reprieve. The groovy bass lines on “Desert Rose” and the frantic quickness of “Black Vigil” jimmy the formula enough to keep the album from getting stale. Closer “Omega Stone” is a shaky attempt at a ballad, the clean guitars and lackluster vocals a big warning sign. The last two minutes pick the speed up to a raucous finish, saving what was a bland ending to a great album. They must have taken cues from Angel Witch’s “Sorcerers” in how to turn around a horrific sonic wreck.

“Agony & Opium” is over just as it starts to get interesting. The lack of filler is a trait that is brought over from the best of the NWOBHM bunch. The six songs equal less than 30 minutes of material, not enough to satisfy in the long run. It’s the equivalent of watching “Kill Bill Vol. 1” and skipping out on the 2nd volume. It goes without saying that a few more tracks were needed to bring the album to the next level. The only advantage of the short length is that it suits the busy listener with not much time on their hands.

Originality isn’t on the menu for Christian Mistress, but they do serve a tasty mix of old-fashioned heavy metal on “Agony & Opium.” Every detail of the album, from the fuzzy production to the killer art work, is a nudge towards bands of the past. It seems like new blood is being drawn from the once-lifeless NWOBHM corpse, and Christian Mistress is thriving off of it on the excellent “Agony & Opium.”

Highs: Ripping solos, an old-school sound that doesn't sound redundant or retro, soaring female vocals, strong sense of melody

Lows: With only six tracks, the album ends just as it starts to get good.

Bottom line: Christian Mistress keeps the spirit of heavy metal alive with their awesome debut album.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)