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Christian Mistress - "Possession" (CD)

Christian Mistress - "Possession" CD cover image

"Possession" track listing:

1. Over & Over (2:42)
2. Pentagram and Crucifix (3:50)
3. Conviction (4:01)
4. The Way Beyond (5:11)
5. Possession (4:30)
6. Black to Gold (4:36)
7. There is Nowhere (4:51)
8. Haunted Hunted (5:57)
9 All Abandon (5:59)

Reviewed by on February 26, 2012

"'Possession' has every mark of an excellent sophomore album by not just recreating the first album with a different title."

“Possession” is the second album from Christian Mistress, who got acclaim for their previous release, “Agony & Opium.” That record seems like a minor flirtation of where “Possession” takes the band. The band’s love of early heavy metal is plastered all over, the bubbling chemistry that guitarists Ryan McClain and Oscar Sparbel give off in their harmonies a signature of the great music from the ‘70s. This is an album with an older audience in mind, though younger metal heads would be wise to use “Possession” as homework to study up on how heavy metal can be without fancy studios and cut-and-paste hack jobs.

The first third of “Possession” is what any fan of “Agony & Opium” would expect to come from Christian Mistress. “Over & Over” charges from the starting position with rabid joy. The minimal production leaves it up to the band and their compositions to head to victory, and “Over & Over” is a great opening march. Not only does the band feel tighter in their instrumentation in the two years since their debut, but these couple of early tracks feel like the band is in a dingy basement jamming out, fueled by a diet of stale beer and leftover pizza.

Unlike the held-back, typical heavy metal outlook of “Agony & Opium,” there’s a creative outpouring on “Possession” that extends to non-metal sounds. Before the fear shakes up the reader, there’s no implications of any rapping or “wicked sweet” one-note breakdowns from the band. Most of the experimentation comes from well-crafted acoustic intros that show a classical (“All Abandon”) and bluesy-country (“The Way Beyond”) influence. They take up about a minute per track, though the acoustics take up longer on the lighter first half of “There Is Nowhere."

Even those momentary breaks do little to dilute the force the band lets out on a track like “Black To Gold” and “Conviction.” A ballad-ish beginning to “There Is Nowhere” is a false start, as the band gets tired of taking it easy, and the guitars storm to life. There’s an impenetrable excitement whenever the guitarists break off and wave magic from their fingertips. Having a rock-solid rhythm section that knows when to stay in line and when to say, “Screw it,” and get in on the fun is invaluable.

If there was a competition to see which of the members made the most strides between the two albums, vocalist Christine Davis would be the front runner. She wasn’t terrible on “Agony & Opium,” but her voice didn’t always gel well with the material. It could have been from a lack of a group bond, or a rushed studio deadline; none of those issues come up on “Possession.” Her voice fits these songs better, and her range is much more defined. She doesn’t soar like some faceless symphonic metal singer, as her vocals are more grounded and fit the gritty music.

“Possession” has every mark of an excellent sophomore album by not just recreating the first album with a different title. Christian Mistress has not grown out of their heavy metal roots, but has brought in acoustics, and doom-like tempos on the title track, a cover of an old Faith tune. “Possession” is a tightly-composed record, not overstaying its presence for long, and leaving the listener with a wave of satisfaction that continues to wash over on repeated plays.

Highs: Old-school heavy metal sound, guitar solos and harmonies fly free, vocalist Christine Davis puts in a great effort, acoustics add variety when used

Lows: Raw production might turn some off, a few more faster cuts like "Over & Out" would have been nice

Bottom line: An excellent follow-up to "Agony & Opium" that shows the band evolving their sound to bring out the best that heavy metal has to offer.

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)