Belting atop towering riffs and intentional strong writing, Christian Mistresschanteuse Christine Davis confesses that she’s “ready to fight,” on “Stronger Than Blood,” the second track off Christian Mistress’ new album, To Your Death. Judging by Davis’ powerful, indoctrinating wail, it’s a proclamation I doubt anyone who hears the new material would dare refute.
Since 2004, the Portland-based power Rock troupe Christian Mistress has championed un-ironic Rock and Roll—no slick or sticky packaging here, instead the band offers straight-up and true Heavy Metal ethos. At the helm of this searing sonic ship is Christine Davis, who with powerful conviction, brings a raspy and cool, raw and confrontational approach to the music.
“We gave [To Your Death] enough time to develop,” Davis said. “We’ve always been aware we have magic as musicians when working together, and on To Your Death, we were able to harness that.” Davis and I stood outside a club in Denver between an alley and awning; Christian Mistress had just come off a 12-hour drive from the last-night show in St. Louis, and were appropriately road-weary, yet looking spry.
“On To Your Death, we were able to create a record that pulled from influences we hadn’t had a chance to pull from yet, as well as a deeper understanding of each other as musicians.”
When speaking with Davis, one is privy to a self-assurance that cuts through bullshit and small talk; we skirted pointless prattle and instead purposefully dove into the details of the album.
“[We, Christian Mistress, were able to] really appreciate where each of us was coming from. [Moreover], we really tried to pay more attention to space. The lyrical content on To Your Death is about freedom—freedom of the soul—we wanted to keep the musical themes open as well, so there’s some space around it.”
Since forming in 2004 in Olympia, WA, Christian Mistress has released three studio albums and a demo, all of which reintroduced to Heavy Metal its raw roots. After the band’s 2012 album, Possession, Christian Mistress went on to write the tunes heard on their new third full-length studio release, To Your Death. The process found the band enduring a brief break and a line-up change, which helped refocus the song-writing efforts, reigniting Christian Mistress’ song-writing prowess. The result is heard on the album’s eight tracks, which offer an uncomplicated sophistication that still feels edgy, as well as an assertiveness that makes Christian Mistress’ brand of Heavy Metal heavy.
“We’re not a Death Metal band, [but] we’re also not a plain Rock and Roll band,” Davis said. “This kind of music is true Heavy Metal, with a lot of punk influence, which is what New Wave of British Heavy Metal is—[it was started] by players who were super Punk and raw, but were better musicians than just the three-chord harmony players (which is also great—I mean, I love The Ramones).
But playing this style of music is great because it gives us the space to do what we want and not get held back—if we had just said we were a Rock and Roll band, that’s great, but then where do screaming guitar harmonies fit? For me, I’ve never been in a band where we do just one thing, and with what [Christian Mistress does], we can always have the freedom to go beyond that.”
You fronted a Thrash Metal band called Buried Blood a little while back—how does fronting Christian Mistress, a traditional Heavy Metal band, differ for you in terms of performance and writing lyrics?
“Super interesting question: I think my approach to writing lyrics is exactly the same—I sit in the park and think about poetry I’ve been mulling over and attach it to the riffs that [Christian Mistress guitarist] Oscar [Scarbel] writes, and I think the main reason this music is successful is because of the riffs Oscar writes. He and I working together is a great juxtaposition, as our approaches are so different, and it just works.”
“In [Buried Blood], I would listen to the music and write something around it. I think in the future [with Christian Mistress], however, I’d like to do more songs where we start with vocal harmonies, and then bring in other instruments.”
With To Your Death coming out soon (September 18th, 2015), and this mini tour underway, what is Christian Mistress most excited about?
“Right now, a very pure answer is to say that it’s fun to be on tour right when the record is coming out—Relapse Records did an amazing job with our artwork.
It’s been really fun to be actively on the same path as the promotional aspects of the record. Plus, we get to head to Europe next month.
We’ve come a long way from where we started, which was in a drunken, moldy basement in Olympia, and having no idea anyone would ever care or listen to our music, but it’s a sound we cared about, and to this day, one we still care about.”
WORDS BY LINDSAY O’CONNOR
PHOTOS BY GREG MASON