Christian Mistress - Over and Over...and Over
By: David E. Gehlke
There’s a moment on “Over and Over,” the first song on Christian Mistress’s second full-length Possession (Relapse) where the band goes into metal overdrive. It comes after a thumping bass break around the 1:30 mark, upon where singer Christine Davis saunters in with her patented she-devil vocal rasp, leading right into a Voivod circa-1988 riff that Piggy and his fellow Canucks would have clawed tooth-and-nail for. It’s a NWOBHM by way of Canada, through Olympia, Washington creation that is about as good as it gets, and should be the rightful introduction to unsuspecting ears who are weary over the fact that the band is fronted by a chick.
The band’s first album, 2010’s Agony and Opium was lauded across the board, thus allowing the band to enter into full “road dawg” status. A band that predicates itself on its live show and word-of-mouth reputation, Christian Mistress is in the right frame of mind to persevere in metal’s treacherous landscape (i.e. the band’s online presence is incredibly minimal). Of course, having a stellar vocalist like Davis helps, as does having a virtual classic metal riff armory that gnashes and claws with vintage fervor. CM are a throwback metal revelation.
To satiate our need to learn more about Christian Mistress, we snagged the guitar tandem of Oscar Sparbel and Ryan McClain for a round of questions. Here’s how the pair responded in kind…
Blistering.com: A lot of the band's success has been built from the ground-up via word of mouth and hard work. When someone like Fenriz from Darkthrone name-drops you, how does that make you feel? Better yet, do feel some of this has been overblown?
Oscar Sparbel: The Fenriz quote has been beaten to death at this point. We were stoked when we first heard about it, but after seeing that quote cut and pasted a million times over, it kinda loses its magic. Word of mouth has helped us a lot. Our fans seem to be loyal, I read some blogs recently and they got our back. That's all I could really ask for.
Blistering.com: Being that you were hit with so much critical praise for Agony and Opium, do you think that helped perpetuate the band’s standing in the scene? Do you even care?
Sparbel: I've never felt that our band quite fit into any scene; it has been this way since the beginning. We had a hard time getting small tours together because people didn't know how to take us. Some people would say we weren’t heavy enough while other would say we were too harsh. I still feel like a lot of the music that comes out of us doesn't really fit, probably because I'm a weirdo. We just went for it though, we liked it and that's all that matters. It is cool that we have a new place in the music world and that our debut was recognized. What’s even cooler is that it got us to a place where our second LP came out!
Blistering.com: Your online presence is very minimal, which is somewhat refreshing in this day in age. Do you think you'll ever reach a point where it's more of a priority?
Sparbel:I hope not, I understand the the Internet is a great tool for communicating but it hasn't been necessary for us. I like doing things the old-fashion way, making records and playing shows. That’s what it's all about. Finding a band on Myspace hearing their tunes, reading there bios is kinda like a sh.ttty trading card. Going to the record store or show seem like a better time to me, there's no romance in Internet endeavors.
Ryan McClain: Nearly every modern band has Facebook, or Myspace or some social networking site. It's easy to get lost in the crowd, so to speak. This way we are separated from all that. And I don't know if it will change. Our label has a Facebook page and releases updates about us semi-often, plus we have www.christianmistress.com. Who knows.
Blistering.com: In terms of Possession, how do you think it stacks up against Agony and Opium?
Sparbel: Possession feels like it should be our second record. I feel the writing is equally good on both records but Possession has better production. We had more resources to make this record happen and we planned for a while to make it a reality. It made it so that we were able to communicate our ideas in a clearer manner. Both records are good and have totally different vibes. There is a lot of new territory we explored on Possession, which will open doors for us in the creative sense.
Blistering.com: Were you able to hone any of the new songs while on the road? Also, how quickly did it come together once you got off the road?
Sparbel: We were able to try some of them out while we were on tour, they were pretty much dialed-in before we played them live. It added to our set time and kept playing live challenging and fun. We finished the other songs in between trips and tours and had them ready for the studio before we set foot in there. There are some songs we never played live, like "Haunted, Hunted." "Over and Over" we had lying around for a good year before tracking it. I don't think we'll be playing that one for a minute.
Blistering.com: Any particular songs sticking out for you from the new one? I’ll point to “Pentagram and Crucifix” and “Black to Gold” as being the ones resonating the most.
Sparbel: I like "All Abandon" the most, the vibe is right on musically and lyrically. That song as well as the riff that would end up in “Pentagram and Crucifix” is what really made this record happen - it set the tone for some of the other songs on the record. The first half of "There is Nowhere" and "Haunted, Hunted" came after that as well as "Pentagram and Crucifix." "Black to Gold" was and older idea that finally came to be. I'm enjoying that song more and more - the chorus Christine's sings get stuck in my head all the time.
Blistering.com: Obviously, your style is cut from the NWOBHM and thrash cloth. How much of an affinity do you hold for those particular points in time?
Sparbel: There's a lot of NWOBHM bands I adore, but I know that not the only source of inspiration we draw for there's a lot of other bands and art that we're into, not to mention personal experience that gets tacked on to all of the other stuff. The music turns into something else altogether by the time it's finished. The songs can even get new vibes while we track. All of the bands from that era, not just Britain help us get the foundation for our sound. If you liked "Black to Gold" I'm sure you can hear ZZ Top's boots kicking around and I'm sure anything thrashy comes from a stain from early guitar playing and attitude. We listen to a lot of punk too.
Blistering.com: Perhaps one of the coolest things about the band is that while you’re playing a metal style that could be deemed as “retro,” it doesn’t come across as that. It feels fresh. Is that something that’s top-of-mind when writing?
Sparbel: Absolutely, we understand that we aren’t a modern band with our own ideas; we're bull-headed and creative in different ways. We all like a lot of older bands, it's a common denominator for us, but we seek to have our own identity. In the writing process I'm really picky, I don't like cliché’s or "filler" riffs - every part serves a specific purpose no matter how bone-headed it may sound. A good foundation lets Christine do her magic...her vocals don't sound like anyone I've heard. She has her own personality and keeps it fresh.
Blistering.com: Finally, what’s on tap for the rest of 2012?
Sparbel: PBR and the Zombie apocalypse ha-ha, In reality, supporting Possession, lots of touring I hope, and writing for the next record. I have hopes to get into the studio when the time is right this year. Those are some of the goals I have.