I've been an obsessed hard rock & heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
Brick Mistress, "Anthology"
Country: USA / Genre: Traditional Heavy Metal
Release: Stormspell Records, 2021
Run Time Disc 1: 10 Tracks, 42:55.
Run Time Disc 2: 10 Tracks, 44:18
Every time I think that every long-lost, forgotten heavy metal band from the '80s has had their discographies re-discovered, re-mastered, re-mixed, and re-issued for the 21st century metal masses to devour, the tiny but true archaeologists at Stormspell Records prove me wrong and unearth yet another worthwhile metallic obscurity for collectors of arcane steel to salivate over.
Stormspell's from-the-vaults release is Anthology, a 2-disc collection from the oddly named Brick Mistress. This West Virginia-based band kicked around their local scene during the late '80s and early '90s and made a name for themselves via a series of well-received demo tapes, but for whatever reason the Mistress were never able to land that elusive record contract that could have taken them to the next level. Anthology compiles the band's entire output from 1988 to 1993 onto two CDs, and the result is a 20-track collection that should please the ears of any old school headbanger into the melodic-but-heavy sounds of bands like Vicious Rumors, Metal Church, or Armored Saint. Let's dive a little deeper into this track pack and see what makes this Mistress tick...
"Fight the System"
The first five tracks on Disc 1 come from 1989's Rise or Fall EP and they're all fine examples of riff-oriented melodic metal with just a hint of thrash grittiness. My favorite songs from this batch would be "Nine Lives" and "Electric Chair" (which bears some obvious lyrical influence from Metallica's "Ride the Lightning") but they're all pretty solid. We're already off to a good start, but things get even better as Anthology rolls along.
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"Fight the System" was recorded in 2018 as a "bonus track" for this collection and its chugging riff work and speedy drumming are straight out of the Metal Church hand book. Guitarist/vocalist Dave Queen's voice, which is equal parts Halford and Dickinson, hasn't lost a step even after all these years.
The last three tracks on disc 1 come from two separate 1989 recording sessions and they see the Brick Mistress boys adopting a more polished, straightforward metal approach, with hints of early Savatage or even Crimson Glory. The exception is the down and dirty, absolutely slamming crunch-fest "P.O.W.," which I'm sure whipped up its fair share of sing-alongs and mosh pits back in the day.
Anthology's second disc kicks off with an album's worth of tracks recorded in 1993. The fine opener "Wall of Ice" and the oddly-titled "Art of Psychiatry" keep up the melodic-but-heavy style established by Brick Mistress' previous recordings, sounding quite a bit like the Long Island, NY cult metal practitioners Hittman.
"Over the Edge" has a Justice-era Metallica feel, and while "Synchronicity" is a fine track in and of itself, I was slightly disappointed that it was not a cover of the Police tune by the same name, because I always thought that would make a great metal song.
The second disc closes out with "Fight to be Free," which is actually the oldest recording on the collection, from a 1988 demo the band used to send to club owners and concert booking agents. Dave Queen's vocals are pure Halford on this one, sounding like something that might have come off of Judas Priest's Turbo. When you compare this track to the ones that followed it, you can see how far this band developed musically in a relatively short period of time.
So Whatever Happened to Brick Mistress?
Even though they enjoyed a certain level of success and respect on their local circuit, Brick Mistress split up in 1993, a victim of changing times and musical tastes. Guitarist Jim Dofka moved on to a solo career, garnering acclaim in the underground shred-guitar community thanks to a string of demos and albums like 1990's cult classic Toxic Wasteland, while drummer Steve Moore recorded a few demos with the Pittsburgh based power/prog metal act Psycho Scream, which also featured future Control Denied vocalist Tim Aymar.
Anyone interested in checking out Brick Mistress' classic metal stylings for themselves can order a copy of the Anthology CD directly from Stormspell, and Brick Mistress also maintains their own Facebook page. Check'em out and revel in this classic metal which has been unearthed for a new generation to discover!
© 2021 Keith Abt