To Your Death is no far cry from Christian Mistress’ 2012 release Possession despite the band’s hiatus. In fact, little has changed about their sound. A bit more subdued, and a bit more derivative of Thin Lizzy’s harmonized guitars than Iron Maiden’s, the idea remains the same. The vocal talent (and straightforward lyrical metaphors) far exceeds the backing band supported by formulaic and predictable drums and guitars. Sadly, the bass, which was a standout on Possession has been lost to the mix. To Your Death can be an enjoyable experience on its face but the album is relentlessly overridden and suffocated by gimmicks and derivative songwriting.
Formulaic, derivative metal is nothing new. Since the days of “the big four” bands have been attempting to copy traditional heavy metal sounds the best they can. But now the hand of time has sufficiently removed itself from the late 1980’s and 1990’s, as other influences are starting to creep into the mix. For example, Baroness’ doubled, harmonizing guitars is nothing short of a mimic of Thin Lizzy’s string section on their breakout, and phenomenal release, Jailbreak. Stoner metal, and other haphazardly labeled doom, takes its sound directly from Black Sabbath—without even a crowbar separation. Other bands go down the Motörhead path with motorcycle firing riffs and Lemmy inspired vocals.
Enter Christian Mistress who derive much from the likes of Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden, and Blue Öyster Cult (all great bands in their own right) but add nothing of their own to the cocktail. They do not suffer from lack of talent. Vocalist Christine Davis has one of the most powerful, dynamic voices in the game. Her range and power are nothing to be trifled with. In fact, if Christian Mistress slid out of the metal genre and focused more on the 1980’s – 1990’s style, they might be one of the most successful bands in rock. Her vocals are a combination of Belinda Carlisle, Pat Benatar, and Ann Wilson of Heart. Perhaps ill-fitted to the hopefully evil settings of metal, her talent is unending and her grace notes, blues bends, and exuberant, lung-filled cadences are spot on.
Similarly, the guitar duo of Oscar Sparbel and Tim Diedrich have their chops in order. While their guitar sound may be a bit mid-heavy, polished, and hollow, the team shows that they can absolutely play. But part of learning to play guitar is learning to mimic your heroes and Christian Mistress has not gotten past that point. Sparbel and Diedrich harmonize endlessly as if Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson were covering a late 70’s Pagan Altar track.
Plenty of people are going to love Christian Mistress. It’s going to fit that perfect spot where those who sit on the fringes of metal will be enticed and those squarely within metal will be summarily occupied. For a brief while they will blast To Your Death. But, soon, the record will wear thin and those fans will turn to other, newer gimmicks released under the guise of metal. Christian Mistress is a band with immense talent and promise (highlighted by Christine Davis’ unending ability) and, should they ever seek to discover their own sound, they will be a force to be reckoned with.