Halloween 2010. Eugene, Oregon.
Agony & Opium
(20 Buck Spin)
At first utterance the title agony and opium has a similar ring to tyranny and mutation, does it not? At first glance the more astute nerd may even perceive a familiar color scheme reference in the red and the black of its packaging. The cover actually looks like a cross between the first Saint Vitus record and a D.I.Y. Confederate flag. But make no mistake, this isn't "retro-rock", "old school" or whatever term jaded blogspot critics (ahem) are using to spay and neuter creativity these days. Christian Mistress offers up timeless American Heavy Metal with roots planted firmly in the fertile soil of yore and branches ascending towards a glorious home in the sun! To be perfectly honest, my vengeful inner-adolescent was already expecting to be disappointed by this debut LP the moment I banged out an adoring review of their demo last year. Would they betray me with an ironic cover of Turbo Lover? Would they do a buncha coke and compose a four record "concept album" about dream catchers? In the past year my favorite Olympian headbangers have had ample opportunity to make every terrible decision imaginable and in every instance they have steadfastly remained on the path of honor (well, they did make one minor misstep but it was a nano-error of ultimately little significance). These six songs are a heady testament to their honesty and fortitude. Desert Rose, with its insistent riffing and devastating chorus, is the highlight for me but the refined version of Poison Path reins the ferocious energy of the 2009 demo for a potent flipside opener and Omega Stone is a bold step into previously uncharted ballad territory that erupts in an emotive climax perfectly suited to Christine Davis' throaty enunciation. In a perfect world, kids would burn down the stairway to heaven and make out to this song at the end of every prom. But this ain't a perfect world. Now about that demo...
"Whiskey woman don't you know that you are driving me insaaaaane..."
(Back On Black)
"Out in the marshland and deep in the woods something stirs from the past to live once again..." I realize how ridiculous and pandering it is to mention this crusty 1987 release on a "best of 2010" list but Monolith was, is, and will always remain an immensely important record for me and this gorgeous gatefold 180 gram vinyl re-issue is a thing of beauty. The band's last word & testament until the reformation a few years ago, this was an undefinable and absolutely crushing bridge between punk, metal and dark psychedelia that has languished in out-of-print obscurity for two decades. If you have never experienced this record in its proper format, now is your chance. If you've worshipped this record as I have, now is your chance to dust off an old idol and invoke its magic once again (with lyrics and original art). Limited to 1000 and fully sanctioned by the band. THE POWER REMAINS!