August 25, 2010 | , | 4

Christian Mistress, Agony & Opium

Christian Mistress: Agony & Opium

Call me a chauvanistic assbag or what have you, but aside from the likes of Landmine Marathon, I’ve never really been one for female-fronted bands (especially one with clean vocals). That said, I cannot get this damned Christian Mistress album out of my stereo. It rocks too goddamned much.

The Olympia, Washington band’s full-length debut (only 6 songs), Agony & Opium, has two things going for it. First, the dual guitars that trade off from one another throughout each track are ridiculously amazing. At one moment galloping along in a late-70s/early-80s era hard rock groove (Judas Priest), the next dive bombing one another with well timed hooks and infectious leads, guitarists Ryan McClain and Oscar Sparbel are the driving force behind the music on this album. There’s a bit of a stoner vibe that infects their riffs occasionally, but the overall vibe is a perfect distraction from all the death metal I’ve been reviewing as of late.

The second, and most important, thing the band has going for them is front woman Christine Davis. Her voice is one part husky Janis Joplin, one part trippy (but not too trippy) Grace Slick and enough Joan Jett for a bit of an aggressive edge. Mesmerizing and honest, Davis, backed by the slick guitars, rumbling bass and pumping drums, has one of those voices that just cannot be ignored.

Together the collective that is Christian Mistress deliver one hell of a debut effort. It’s raw and honest without any superfluous bells and whistles that would ultimately only distract from the catchy and fist-pumping music on Agony & Opium.

Riding on the Edges
Christian Mistress open up with rollicking guitars and plenty of galloping groove. Davis’ voice comes in shortly after with her mix of Joplin/Slick/Jett that fits the driving music perfectly. There’s a good bit of bass underneath it all that’s got a nice rumble to it. The trading leads at 2:48 shred mightily as the rhythm keeps chugging along. “Riding on the Edges” is one hell of a way to open an album.

Desert Rose
“Desert Rose” starts off with some creative drum work as thudding bass and building guitars slowly take over. The overall vibe of this song is a bit darker and more solemn with a slower pace than the galloping opener. The chorus is soulful and honest. The first lead pipes up around 1:48 into the song. This is one of those songs that’s slower paced, but will have your head nodding along with the band quicker than you think. The second, and more aggressive, lead appears after the 3:30 mark with a great rock vibe.

Home in the Sun
Wow. I love the higher energy that “Home in the Sun” brings to the table. It’s got a more upbeat rhythm with galloping guitars, thick bass and quicker delivery from Davis. All of those elements comes together in a memorable, infectious song that’s hard to get out of your head after it’s done. At 5:37 in length, the song is also the lengthiest on the album, but not by much. The second half of the track is probably my favorite as Davis let’s loose with her voice as some searing leads come in to play.

Poison Path
“Poison Path” certainly isn’t poison for your ears as more upbeat tempos come charging out of your speakers with shredding riffs and driving drum work. Next to the following song (“Black Vigil”), it’s the hardest rocking track on this joint. It’s got a denser overall feel, as well. Be sure not to miss the dueling guitars around 2:25 as they transition into some truly memorable lead work. The vocals that follow that initial burst of guitar work has a very Grace Slick vibe to them that fits the end of the song perfectly.

Black Vigil
Looking for something a little more raucous on this short disc? “Black Vigil” is your song as it charges out of the gate with excellent guitar work and thundering drums. Man, this is as head banging as a track as your going to find on Agony & Opium especially during the layered leads at 1:30. It’s just too bad that the song only lasts another minute or so after they’ve passed.

Omega Stone
“Omega Stone” is a deceiving song of sorts as it starts off with acoustic guitar and lightly presented vocal work. You get the feeling that the band is going to end the album with a soft ballad of sorts — which, let’s be honest here, would have been disappointing. Thankfully, that’s not the case. It may take a couple of minutes to build up to, but once Christian Mistress get going, the song swells with a series of leads around 2:20. After that, it’s on like Donkey Kong with galloping riffs, rumbling bass and some of the more infectious vocal work on the album. Amazing song that shows some impressive musicianship and song writing. Love it!

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