To Your Death
To Your Death, the recent 8-song album by Christian Mistress, an Olympia, Washington-based quintet, is an unabashed celebration of heavy metal done European-style. Fans of Warlock, Doro, Iron Maiden, Raven, Accept, UDO, and other 80s type bands that avoided the glam rock style flamboyantly erupting from LA like so much hair spray should give this album respect, love, a listen and some lunch money for the glorious assault that their ears will revel in.
The Wikipedia page for CM compares lead singer Christine Davis' vocals to everyone from Patty Smith to Wendy O. Williams to Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top (!?!). Apparently the editors have failed to enjoy the awesomeness that is Doro Pesch. As much as Christian Mistress is their own act, and produces music that taps a special place in my heart and my ears' taste buds, I keep coming back to how much it sounds like Doro's Warrior Soul album from 2006. This in no way diminishes how much I love To Your Death. If you're gonna sound like somebody else, it might as well be the best sound possible.
Along with the feminine raspiness of Davis' vocals, the twin guitar work of Oscar Sparbel and Tim Diedrich bring a very Iron Maiden vibe to the tracks. There's enough rhythm guitar to keep thrash fans happy, but plenty of virtuosity by the axe-men to go around. Rhythm section studs Reuben Storey (drums) and Johnny Wulf (bass) keep the band's sound driving and aggressive in the best kind of way. The one trap that can trip up bands with this much awesome is the temptation to do a radio-friendly over-wrought power ballad. Fortunately, despite a couple slower passages (and a contemplative opening minute to "Ultimate Freedom") I'm pretty sure those two words have never even crossed the minds of Christian Mistress. No passage stays slow, and quiet contemplation is fleeting at most. This is active music for active people.
The album opens strong with "Neon," a powerful rejection of the rest of the world and an invitation to the lover to return, "meet in the dark" where "everything's alright." There's pain there, but a hopeful pain. This underlying theme of damage, pain, anger, rejection, and love's wounds wrapped in dark, sometimes horror-themed imagery back-lit by the glimmer of hope pervades every song on the album. Whether it's "Stronger than Blood," an invitation to the lover to walk side by side "with blood on our hands," or "Open Road," the band's first video from the album with its yearning to meet up with the lover "if you're on the road that leads us to the end," every track appeals to the angst-ridden teenager buried deep in the souls of anyone who loves this music.