A comparison of Agony & Opium and Possession is not particularly revelatory and the latter effort is certainly endowed with a fuller, more mature, well-rounded sound. The 2010 record, though, does provide evidence of a band with just a little more ferocity, particularly in the vocals of Christine Davis, whose raw, world-weary vox is bound to draw comparisons to everyone from Chrissie Hynde to Bonnie Tyler. Davis' disaffected delivery is almost a bit too laconic, if anything, on Possession and this listener was often wishing she would emote just a bit more (and one would guess that, in a live setting, this is probably the case). Still, the approach feels appropriate for the music. And the music: the guitars here are destined to be slapped with a NWOBHM label and I do not disagree. I will get specific, though, and state that this pairing of Oscar Sparbel and Ryan McClain reminds me of Iron Maiden. I will then proceed to get ultra-specific and pinpoint the embryonic 1980-era sound of Dave Murray and Dennis Stratton. It's a sound with an accomplished edge that still feels ragged enough to rock on a gut level. Reuben Storey's drums are refreshingly, effectively old-school (see: not staggeringly technical) and Jonny Wulf's bass is clear and palpable throughout, maintaining the thunderhead of doom that colors the entirety of Possession.
While a good, cohesive album-as-whole, there are also many, many single-worthy high points present on Possession. In addition to "Pentagram & Crucifix," "Black to Gold," "Possession" and "Haunted Hunted" (easily the album's best track) are all peaks on a record that never really finds a valley and closer "All Abandon" summarizes the band's strengths, starting with an acoustic intro that, in under 120 seconds, smoothly transitions to all-out frenzy that maintains momentum before decelerating in a similar fashion, effectively easing the listener out of what was a fantastic forty minutes of music.
Possession certainly evokes nostalgia but never feels like retread. The riffs are original, the delivery warm and vibrant, the hooks are plentiful and very much in the present. I pray the well is deep for Christian Mistress as it certainly seems possible that there is potential here to cement an identity that builds to more than homage to an era. If they can produce another record as strong as Possession I would not be surprised to hear bands popping up about which folks write "they're good - remind me a lot of classic Christian Mistress..."