Christian Mistress: Possession

Deep within its vibrant heart Possession the new album from US metalers Christian Mistress has a little siren at work. Once the release has laid its splendid and full charms upon the ear there is an irresistible urge and need to repeatedly throw oneself back into its impressive swirling blends of classic rock, heavy metal, and stoner rock. You can fight it, offer a well meant resistance but Possession always wins out with sounds that light up the ear and riffs that excite the heart.

The new album is the follow-up to the 2010 critically acclaimed debut Agony & Opium from the Olympia, Washington quintet and their debut on Relapse Records. Long awaited the album is a sure bet to elevate the band to greater heights and draw a growing swarm of new souls eager to be touched by their well crafted rock sounds. Inspired by and spiced by flavours past and present the release offers moments and elements first seeded in the likes of Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, and Witchfinder General. They are not another band just copying the sound though or simply playing homage, Christian Mistress use these influences to fire up their own distinct invention and also add in a Blood Ceremony like stoner swagger that is tinged with psychedelic tones and punk rock. The last is less defined but it is there and offers a bite and attitude to stir up and impress.

From the opening track Over and Over the band reveals their cards and skills. Vocalist Christine Davis fills the song with a vocal that breathes energy and attitude and a lot of the punk feel stems from her delivery, as here where her tones recall early Siouxsie Sioux. Alongside her the guitars of Ryan McClain and Oscar Sparbel ignite sparks in the ear with their cutting play and enormous riffs whilst bassist Johnny Wulf is immense as his heavy lines rumble and intimidate. With drummer Reuben Storey equally formidable and impressive the band gives notice of what is ahead though not yet of how good things will get as the opener though agreeably strong is relatively unsurprising.

Pentagram and Crucifix is instantly a different beast to the opener. Big burly rhythms and heavy riffs to match accost the ear whilst a guitar litters the surroundings with acidic sounds which invites one into the throbbing mass. Again Davis delivers her words with a punk spite that is excellent and a great counter to the mesmeric play and a colleague to the eager might that crowds the ear. Christian Mistress never demand attention on any of their tracks instead they let the music give the invitation but their power does feel as if it is standing over one to ensure nothing is missed, the riffs like bouncers to the skilled melodic creations within .

The album is firmly consistent with songs like the striking Conviction, the Sabbath riffed The Way Beyond, and the prog/pixies meld of Haunted Hunted very rewarding. The latter of the three sounds strange on paper but musically that is what hits the ear to great satisfaction. There are songs which go further to leave one breathless and smiling ear to ear like the previously mentioned Pentagram and Crucifix. The title track is the biggest thrill on the album, the moment its riffs slowly crawl through the ear as Davis serenades with seductive grace it captivates the senses. The song unwinds like a pole dancer, tempting and teasing with a blissfully wanton groove and eagerly sensuous guitars. The track never breaks free to run riot remaining a seduction to the end enticing and flirting with the senses whilst Davis offers the steel with more punk styled vocals and harmonies.

Black to Gold and There is Nowhere come close to matching this stunning track, the first with a chunky moody bass that lifts the already enthused riffs, scorching solos, and anthemic flow is a tasty treat whilst the second driven by a heartbeat rhythm from Storey caresses the ear with sparkling guitars and vocals before building into a climactic heavy rock crescendo of bustling riffs and dazzling progressive guitar invention.

Possession is an excellent album, a constant pleasure no matter the amount of times one lets its impressive charms play with the senses. It also still feels like the band has a lot more to come within them, so watch this space and hold onto your hats as there is an exciting and irresistible creative storm brewing ahead and it is called Christian Mistress.

RingMaster 27/02/2012

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Lay Down Rotten – Mask of Malice

If you are looking for soaring melodies and intricate meanderings that leave fingers twisted inside out then run for cover now for the new album from German metalers Lay Down Rotten only offers brutal and barbaric obliteration that leaves one a devoured husk after it unleashes the full explosive force upon the senses. Mask Of Malice is relentless, a beast that stalks, punishes and then batters the senses into further submission. It attacks with only one intention, to hit directly at the core with cataclysmic riffs and an intensity that would find the primal forces of nature think twice before standing in opposition.

Formed in 1999 initially as a solo project by vocalist/guitarist Daniel Jakobi, Lay Down Rotten within a year was a fully armoured band and on a formidable constant ascent. From their self released demos Colder As Cold and Way Of Weakness of 2000 and 2001 respectively through their five albums leading to Mask of Malice, the rise of the band has been marked and unstoppable as media and fans alike succumbed to their ferocious and staggering metal sounds. Their album of 2006 Breeding Insanity was the point when things really burst forward at a defined rate with it leading to the band signing with Metal Blade Records. The third album with the label, Mask Of Malice is the first with new guitarist Daniel Seifert who replaced Jakobi who left the band in 2011, and a continuation of the sound that Lay Down Rotten own and know so well.

The album starts on an almighty high with the staggering Deathchain, a track that violates every corner of the body, Mountainous riffs tumble onto the ear whilst a malicious groove grips the senses twisting and twisting until they snap. The guitars of Seifert and Nils Förster show no mercy whilst the bass of Uwe Kilian stomps with riffs made of iron all over the carcass of what was the ability to feel. These three would just be about survivable but with the incredible drumming of Timo Claas obliterating any living cells left alive and the blackest pit spawn growls of Jost Kleinert spewing bile from every syllable there is no escape or survival. Like the album itself the track is not bursting with innovation but when metal is this relentless and mesmeric there is glory in death after all.

After such a tremendous start there was bound to be a decline, though that is not really the fairest word to use as the impressive tracks that follow in the likes of the uncompromising A Darker Shade Of Hatred, the predatory And Out Come The Wolves, and the crushingly demonic The Devil Grins, the band shift emphasis to a heavier, darker intensity. Less accessible and violently upfront the songs stalk and sprawl around the ear before seizing with an over powering grip. The venomous pace and malevolent aggression is never reduced but delivered in a more structured way than possibly seen from the band before that makes the songs more journey to explore than an instant barracking of the senses.

As final song The Loss departs and leaves the body shell shocked and numb the knowledge that one has just experienced one of the best intensive intrusions for a long time brings a very satisfactory feeling. Ok the album will not bring you new ventures or particular expansive diversity but it is doubtful many albums or bands have unleashed as enjoyable a fury upon your soul as Lay Down Rotten do with Mask of Malice.

RingMaster 27/02/2012

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