Mistress - Brains and bruises 3/5

Reviewed: 12-1-12


1. Calling the guards
2. Break the silence
3. Looking for love
4. Chase to destruction
5. Dirty player
6. Loving high
7. House of mirrors
8. Kicking the dog
9. Hand of the gods
10. The road warrior

Not long ago, a copy of ‘Brains and bruises’ by Mistress landed on my desk for review purposes. What’s interesting in this oversaturated information age is that Mistress are something of an enigma, with surprisingly little background information available online or in the CD booklet. Here’s what I’ve been able to glean: They’re a 3-piece from Philadelphia, led by guitarist/bassist/songwriter Mita Khrichenko, he of the 6-pack abs on the cover photograph. The band’s singer is Deanna Gardas, she of the 2-toned hair (a variant of the George Lynch look circa ‘Tooth and nail’, perhaps) and the vicious right hook to Khrichenko’s jaw on said cover photograph. The drummer on the CD is somebody named Andrey Bogdanov, but he doesn’t even get his picture in the CD booklet, much less on the cover, and is apparently no longer in the band. Although Metal-Archives says the band has been active since 2002, ‘Brains and bruises’ is Mistress’s debut CD, and appears to be a self-produced, self-financed, self-released affair.

Truth be told, there’s quite a bit to like about ‘Brains and bruises’. Sonically, the CD is clear and powerful, with the instruments well balanced in the mix and a positively savage guitar tone. Performance-wise, Gardas impresses with a confident, effective, dynamic showing that is often reminiscent of A Sound of Thunder’s Nina Osegueda, with the brassiness of Hysterica’s Anni de Vil thrown in for good measure. And Khrichenko riffs and shreds up a storm, delivering a fretboard clinic that is rightfully the focal point of every track. In terms of rhythms, Khrichenko has studied the Dave Mustaine playbook well, as many of the riffs (see “Loving high” or “The road warrior” or “Calling the guards”) have that wicked Megadeth (or even ‘Kill ‘em all’) twisted bite to them. That said, it would be inaccurate to characterize Mistress as a thrash band. This is traditional guitar-oriented heavy metal all the way, not a million miles removed from the likes of A Sound of Thunder, but with considerably more guitar pyrotechnics. Songs like the epic 9 1/2-minute closer “The road warrior”, the incendiary galloping opener “Calling the guards” (key lyric: “I don’t like no country, boy/I’m a metal girl”), the wickedly catchy “Chase to destruction”, the relentless double-bass barnburner “Kicking the dog”, and the off-kilter riff-fest “Loving high” are sure to bring a smile to even the most jaded metalhead’s face. These tunes all pack a wallop and (to borrow a line from a Mistress press release) are rad as buttered radishes. If this kind of material permeated the CD from start to finish, a 4/5 or even 4.5/5 rating would be a no-brainer (or should I say “no-bruiser”?).

Where things get a tad confusing is in some of the other songs on ‘Brains and bruises’. Cuts like “Break the silence” and “House of mirrors” are a bit poppish for my tastes, with radio-friendly choruses and too much toned-down spit and polish concealing the rough edges (albeit with the latter song carrying on for a non-radio approved 6 minutes). “Looking for love” is the CD’s ultimate WTF? moment because one would be hard-pressed to call it metal at all. With it being track number 3 in the running order, “Looking for love” can’t be a joke song, so what is it? Unfortunately, to these ears, it’s mostly a buzz kill that stops the CD’s momentum dead in its tracks. This kind of songwriting inconsistency leads me to the other major drawback on ‘Brains and bruises’. Like many independent bands, Mistress has fallen into the trap of thinking that more is better, cramming 60 minutes of music onto a CD that unfortunately overstays its welcome. Many of the 10 tracks have fat (in the form of repetitious or unnecessary parts) that could have been trimmed, and some entire songs (“Looking for love”, I’m looking at you) could have been axed with no adverse effect. As a 45-minute, all-killer-no-filler CD, ‘Brains and bruises’ would have been a smasher. As things stand, however, it is a sometimes laborious and frustrating listen, because the killer parts and songs are there in spades, but the listener has to sift through the fool’s gold to get there.

None of this should be taken as a slam on Mistress. They’re a good band. Khrichenko is a hell of a guitar player. Gardas has the chops to be one of the better female singers in the traditional metal realm. There are some really cool songs on ‘Brains and bruises’. But they haven’t hit paydirt yet. Hopefully Mistress will tighten up their songwriting and arrangements for CD #2, which I understand is forthcoming in 2013. I fully expect the band to kick ass at the Warriors of Metal VI Fest in Ohio in the summer of 2013. And I fully expect to be standing right next to the stage banging my head ferociously when Mistress administers its sound beating on the WOM Fest audience.




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