w/ High Spirits, Savage Master, Gunpowder Gray
September 6, 2015
Back in 2012 I came across an album called Possession by Christian Mistress. After one listen I was made a diehard fan. Everything about this band struck a chord with me. Classic, unpretentious, driven heavy metal music played with fire, passion, and an undying hunger. When I heard this album I knew that I was hearing a band that very well could take over the world but there was one problem. They had disappeared off the face of the Earth following an extensive European tour. I even ended up writing an article called “Where the Fuck Is Christian Mistress” that eventually landed me an interview with lead vocalist Christine Davis. In the interview, Davis assured me that all was well as the band underwent a lineup change and began rehearsing and writing new music. This gave me a lot of hope as I patiently, ok, impatiently awaited new news and music from my new favorite band.
After nearly 3 years (which sometimes felt like a fucking lifetime) I finally got my wish and had an opportunity to see Christian Mistress live. Christian Mistress is out on the road already supporting their forthcoming 3rd album To Your Death with a full on headlining tour. For this leg of the tour, Christian Mistress brought along High Spirits and Savage Master as support but kicking off things was Atlanta’s own Gunpowder Gray.
Gunpowder Gray took the stage to a small but very attentive and somewhat critical audience. When I first heard/saw Gunpowder Gray I remember being somewhat on the fence about them until I saw them live. I really enjoyed their live show and their songs/performances were very much inspired but 70’s era glam rock such as David Bowie and T-Rex with a bit of Thin Lizzy and The Stooges thrown in there for good measure. While I had seen them before and really liked them, this was my first time around seeing them since parting ways with their lead vocalist Nate Godbee.
Rhythm guitarist/songwriter Chris Heffernan has taken over the vocal duties and I honestly have to say that he was outstanding. This new sound with Heffernan on the mic resulted in a more pure 70’s hard rock sound that I feel lent itself so much better to the songs than before. Gunpowder Gray’s high energy 30 minute set was comprised of all new material that I feel is such a stronger, more disciplined direction for this band. I can’t wait to see where these guys go from here in this new exciting chapter.
Who knew that Louisville, KY was a hotbed for Satanic/Occult metal? When Louisville’s own Savage Master took the stage next I didn’t really know what to make of it all. The band took the stage all dressed up like hooded henchmen and their amps decked out with Satanic/occult imagery. The band took their places and then all of the sudden I looked and one of the guitarists had his glasses on through the eye holes of his hooded mask. As I tried to take this in without laughing too hard, I tried not to let this effect my opinion on them until they started playing.
Savage Master kicked their set off with “Ripper In Black” and right off the bat I have to say I was totally digging this. Lead vocalist Stacey Peak adorned in the finest of metal goddess/dominatrix fashion lead her band of hooded executioners in a 40 minute set that featured some of the most sloppy, loose, raw, riff laden classic heavy metal that I’ve heard in a long time and you know what? I fucking loved it. Hopefully the killer henchman in the glasses will eventually get contacts so he can see a bit better as he seemed to the one that had the most going against him. He was a bit on the sloppy side but again, I was actually digging it. Stacey Peak’s energy and charisma on stage is nothing short of magnetic and I found myself really digging their songs. Her voice is so distinct, over the top, and perfect for this kind of music. The song “Death Rides on the Highway” has to be one of my new favorite metal songs and all I can say is that this is a band I really want to keep my eyes on.
Ok, now this is a band that I will never get the love for. I just don’t understand what it is that everyone sees in this band. I found them all to be really good musicians but I feel that this band lacks the one crucial ingredient that makes any and every metal band a great one: sincerity. Unlike the previous two bands on this bill, High Spirits just doesn’t seem like the real deal to me. As a matter of fact, I almost kind of felt like they were a bunch of hipsters playing metal music and kind of making fun of it which doesn’t sit well with me at all. They say that first impressions are everything and that was my first impression.
Their set seemed to pull in quite a bit of hipster, fist pumping people who managed to totally bail after their set which again kind of annoyed me. I found High Spirits’ songs to be drab, boring, and absolutely lifeless. The guys in this band are talented without a doubt but without good songs you really don’t have much. I also found their vocalist to be the weakest link of the bunch as his voice had zero power, zero passion, and lacked any kind of drive or, again, sincerity. High Spirits, to me, is just another hipster band with a hipster following that really knows very little about metal music in general. Watching High Spirits live is the least amount of excitement you can have.
Finally, the moment I had been waiting for. Christian Mistress took the stage to a very vocal and excited crowd as lead singer Christine Davis announced that this was a special show and, “This is Don’s birthday!” Talk about feeling like a million fucking dollars. The band launched into the instrumental song “III” from their upcoming To Your Death album and from there slid right into the facemelting new single “Open Road.” From there, Christian Mistress went into the song “Ultimate Freedom” and I have to say that not only is this song one of Christian Mistress’ finest moments but it’s one of the single most beautifully epic metal songs I’ve heard.
Christine Davis’s vocal and stage performance is so electrifying, magnetic, and sincere. You can tell just by watching her that she means and feels every single word that passes through her lips. The band as a whole plays with so much fire and passion. The rhythm section of Reuben Storey (drums) and Jonny Wulf (bass) are so tight as they lay the foundation for the guitar team of Oscar Sparbel and Tim Diedrich to rip dual harmony leads out of the air like it was nothing. Watching these two just shredding out leads on songs like “Black to Gold” and “Haunted Hunted” was literally like watching an epic tennis match as our heads turned left to right to try and keep up with these two masters of the craft.
Christian Mistress’ set list was a perfect balance of new material from To Your Death scattered with songs from the band’s previous two albums, Agony and Opium and Possession. I was really excited to see and hear that the new material meshes so well with their earlier material while still showing a significant amount of growth and maturity. Christian Mistress played with unbridled passion and fire as they brought their nearly one hour set to a close with an epic delivery of “Haunted Hunted.” The band left everyone cheering for more only to return to for two stellar encores, “Black Vigil” and another new track called “Walkin’ Around.”
Christian Mistress’ performance absolutely blew my mind and left me speechless. It’s shows like this that make me extremely proud to be a fan of a band. They are such a captivating, mesmerizing band that at times I felt like I was the only person in the room. That’s a pretty heavy thing to feel at a show like this. This show had everything. The raw energy, the passion, the excitement, and the stellar songwriter and musicianship was all there. Christian Mistress is a band that I had already set the bar pretty high for and after seeing them live I can honestly say that they completely cleared that bar, took it down, and destroyed it. I’ve seen the future for heavy metal music and I can tell you now that Christian Mistress will be one of those that will lead the pack without a doubt.