Friday, January 17, 2014

Crystal Viper-Possession

AFM Records

Poland's Crystal Viper, as always lead by vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist/composer Marta Gabriel (Börn Again, Jack Starr's Burning Starr (live as guitarist), Vader (live as singer), Manilla Road (live as singer), Tytan (live as singer) as well as guest spots/session-work on album's by Sabaton, Witch Cross and Majesty), will soon be releasing their fifth full-length album in "Possession". As was the case with 2012's "Crimen Excepta", which was highly-received by fans and critics alike, production duties fell upon Bart Gabriel (Sacred Steel, Sabaton, Burning Starr) and, from that stand-point at least, "Possession" sounds inspired. With guest appearances by the likes of Harry Conklin (Jag Panzer, Titan's Force and Satan's Host) and Sataniac (Desaster) and the additional "screams" of fifty fans (in much the same way as A Sound Of Thunder includes the "Thunder Choir" Crystal Viper invited fans to send in their screams to be used on the album as a thank you for their support) this traditional heavy metal band (lyrically) has (another?) concept album on their hands with "Possession". Theme-wise this one is about a young girl named Julia (hence titles like "Julia Is Possessed") and the release is said to include a "movie-like story" that "gets an unexpected twist, and surprise the listener with every single song". With no lyric-sheet to go by I'll just take Marta and her metal comrades (guitarist Andy Wave, bassist Michał Badocha and drummer Golem) at their word. Music-wise though this one follows fairly closely in the same footsteps as previous Crystal Viper releases. Traces of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Dio-era Black Sabbath/Dio, Warlock (see: "Why Can't You Listen") and Merciful Fate (see: "We Are Many") can still be found here as well as the likes of Grave Digger, Jag Panzer, Witch Cross (see: "Voices In My Head" and "Julia Is Possessed") Fates Warning (see: "Prophet of the End") and Riot. Speaking of Riot, "Thundersteel" is covered here on the CD version. This isn't the first time that Crystal Viper has covered one of it's influences as past releases have seen covers of the likes of Manilla Road, Warlock, Agent Steel, Running Wild, Accept, Demon and more. On "Possession" the Riot cover fits in rather nicely with the original cuts. But, what about those original cuts? Well, Marta (as usual) sounds great and her bandmates, including new bassist Michał Badocha (At the Lake, Unsaint), form a supportive circle around her which results in a more then capable and quite strong metal unit. That said, "Possession" almost sounds like a step back for Crystal Viper instead of a step forward. That's not to say that this is a bad release or anything. Crystal Viper are still at the top of their game as evident by cuts like "Fight Evil With Evil" (featuring guest vocals by Harry Conklin), "Mark of the Horned One" and "Julia Is Possessed" (featuring guest growls from Sataniac). And, given the album's (somewhat) darker edge (Marta reportedly wanted more Candlemass and King Diamond/Merciful Fate influences added to the mix and the promo also makes mention of Bathory believe it or not!), the album does come across as (almost) more experimental in a way. As if Crystal Viper were looking to add in new elements and show that they were not afraid to try their hands at something new. All of which is fine, but that doesn't mean that it's an improvement over 2012's "Crimen Excepta". Instead it just is what it is-a fine album that fans will likely enjoy, but one that shows that (for a band that has been around since 2003) not every new album is going to be a groundbreaking achievement!

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