All Photos by Andrew Epstein
In recent years the heavy music scene has experienced a new wave of traditional metal and gothic hard rock bands. The true standout of the bunch for me has been Olympia, Washington’s Christian Mistress. Their sound is a sonic throwback processed through a modern musical sensibility. It’s seventies-style metal with tunes that are too heavy for that decade, but still sound pure enough to stand apart in a scene dominated with extreme metal and hardcore. The lyrics weave tales of personal exploration coupled with a strangely positive sense of morbidity. There are layers there if you want to go deeper, but the songs are easy enough to rock out to if that’s all you need.
Now relocated to Portland, Oregon the band has just released their third full-length album To Your Death. The record has all of the qualities of its predecessors, but with a more confrontational vibe. It delves further into both heavy metal and hard rock, embracing the listener sonically and cerebrally. It’s the sound of a band who seems to be aware of the effect that their music has had on people.
Before their set at Toronto’s Coalition I sat down for a chat with vocalist Christine Davis, who confessed that analyzing her own art is something she’s had to get used to. Nevertheless that’s exactly what she ended up doing, and we managed to get deeper into the sounds and subjects that make Christian Mistress what they are.
Christian Mistress are currently taking their Tour Your Death across Europe along with Magister Templi. Their new album To Your Death is available now on Relapse Records and you can watch the video for “Open Road” below.
Christian Mistress Live in Toronto - Coalition - September 13, 2015
All Photos by Andrew Epstein
The band Raven was an important part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, the same movement that made Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Def Leppard international superstars. Like many of their contemporaries they never achieved widespread attention outside of the metal underground. But in 2009 they released the album Walk Through Fire on SPV and Metal Blade Records and toured around the world. They attracted a bunch of new, younger fans and were able to quit their day-jobs and focus on the band.
Over forty years after their inception, Raven is now more popular than ever before. Part of this is the ridiculous energy that the trio exude in their live performances. Brothers John (bass/vocals) and Mark (guitars) Gallagher along with American drummer Joe Hasselvander bring the stage to life in a flurry of sweat, hair, and riffs. The Gallaghers thrash out and throw themselves around the stage in way that makes more than a few younger bands look a bit pathetic.
The band capitalized on the renewed fan interest and created a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the recording costs of their latest SPV release ExtermiNation. They raised over $27,000, which was 80% more money than they were asking for. This is perhaps why the album has a modern and crisp sound but still conveys the rawness of their live show. They also ended up recording a classic rock covers album called Party Killers that they delivered to their campaign backers.
I caught up with John before their headlining set at The Garrison in Toronto to talk about the reception of the new album and how it came together, and we get a bit deeper into his outspoken distaste for extreme metal.
Raven Live in Toronto - The Garrison - September 2, 2015
Photo by Ester Segarra
Lucifer (the band) was formed by German vocalist Johanna Sadonis following the breakup of her previous band The Oath after just one album. While her former bandmate Linnéa Olsson would join up with Finnish goth-rockers Grave Pleasures, Sadonis would partner with guitarist Gary “Gaz” Jennings of the legendery U.K. doom act Cathedral. Together they worked on what would become Lucifer’s debut album, a hypnotic sludge-tinged traditional metal opus laden with occult imagery.
I spoke with Sadonis after Lucifer’s recent Toronto set opening for High on Fire and Pallbearer. In the new crop of traditional metal bands that are flooding the heavy music scene, the occult connection can be simply theatrical, while other acts hold those beliefs close to the chest. Sadonis and I chatted about her spiritual influences, and how the band cultivated their sound in the shadow of their former bands and a slew of contemporaries.
Lucifer are currently touring Europe and the U.K. with Paradise Lost. Their debut album Lucifer I is available now on Rise Above Records, and you can trip out to their video for “Izrael” here.
It was the last day of Wacken Open Air and the sun had finally decided to show itself. The whole area had been mashed up pretty hard. Non-stop rain had liquefied, then rubberized the ground and uncharacteristically cold weather had prevented it from drying out. This didn't stop the German metal hordes from their usual sport-drinking and chanting, but it definitely restricted the space you could hang out in without getting your beer rained on. The sunny Saturday definitely felt more positive and the genuine Wacken vibe began to show itself.
That evening death metal superstars Cannibal Corpse played a crushing ninety-minute career retrospective set on the Party Stage. I'd already seen them play WOA a couple of times, including a particularly memorable after-dark set in 2007. This time the sun was just setting and on a much smaller stage, but the band easily eclipsed every festival set I've seen them play with an amazing display of musicianship and technicality.
Photo by Alex Morgan
Earlier that day I met up with drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz in the VIP area and we talked about the reception of their latest album A Skeletal Domain, their intense touring schedule, and how their lyrics still get them into trouble after all this time.