CRYSTAL VIPER is a Polish Heavy Metal band, formed in 2003. It wasn’t until 2007 that their debut album was released and titled “The Curse Of Crystal Viper”. I got to know about this band in 2010 when they had signed to AFM Records and the first thereon was the live album “Defenders Of The Magic Circle: Live In Germany” (see review here). They left a positive impression on me with this release that also contained studio tracks. Later that year their third studio album, “Legends” came out, which I also reviewed. See here. This too was a positive experience. Anno 2012 album no. 4 was put out: “Crimen Excepta”. I didn’t review that one, mainly due to already having several releases to submit to a listening test. But what I heard of that album is only another confirmation that you can’t really go wrong with CRYSTAL VIPER if you want solid Heavy Metal.
About a month ago AFM Records decided to re-release the band’s first two album, “The Curse Of Crystal Viper” (2007) and “Metal Nation” (2009), both including bonus tracks (to be found on earlier releases or compilations), extended booklets with lot of previously unseen photos and all lyrics. So let’s cut to the chase.
“The Curse Of Crystal Viper” begins with an intro, similar to that of e.g. RHAPSODY (OF FIRE), ANCIENT BARDS, etc… in that it’s spoken, as if to bring a story to life. However, it’s not as good as those bands, sounds rather cheesy, to be honest. That track aside, you get “Night Prowler” with powerful riffing in vein of IRON MAIDEN. Once full force is activated this turns into very nice NWOBHM. Marta’s vocals fit, being clean with fierce peaks. The chorus is sung in group. And of course the guitar solo wasn’t forgotten either. “Shadows On The Horizon” is another proof that CRYSTAL VIPER aims to keep old school Heavy Metal alive. The guitars clearly indicate this. The song has a nice rhythm, sounds powerful and catchy. Very good stuff! After the solo there’s a sing-along moment, good for gigs, and then it’s back to chorus and so on. “City Of The Damned” offers midtempo, galopping Heavy Metal that shifts into 5th gear for the chorus. Very tastey Metal indeed. The solo is set halfway, splitting the track in two. “The Last Axeman” is another highlight with its melodic intro, sounding rather hymnic and Folkish. Fierce, uptempo Heavy Metal kicks in after that. Yes! The solo is inline with the rest of the music and overall this is another catchy track.
Not to say that “Island Of The Silver Skull” is a bad song, but it’s not as attractive as the others. What you get is a slow song in vein of MANOWAR, IRON MAIDEN, GRAVE DIGGER. I do like the melodic/Folky guitar leads in between the parts, but still… this is one of the less good songs on this album and they are very few in number. “I Am Leather Witch” is, as you can imagine, another step in the right direction with its catchy old school Heavy Metal. “Demons’ Dagger” is another less attractive song. It starts witha hymnic guitar intro, followed by slow Heavy Metal like MANOWAR. The verses are calm as opposed to the chorus, where the musical power comes to life. The tempo remains low, though. Marta’s voice is good, yet sounds hoarse when she goes for the high notes. And that’s not good. I do like how halfway the guitar and bass form a combo, similar to IRON MAIDEN. Yes, lots of IRON MAIDEN similarities on this album. The backing Metal does get a kick in the rear during the solo, but after all slows down again and ends like it began. But let’s look forward to another highlight: “The Fury (Undead)”. That’s what you get: furious Heavy Metal with attention for guitar solos. “Sleeping Swords” ends the regular tracklist with another mediocre song. Slow, hymnic Heavy Metal is set in, sounding dark and doomy, with Bluesy solos. The rhythm is catchy and overall the song sounds quite similar to MANOWAR’s “Warriors Of The World United”. Not bad, but not super either.
Five bonus tracks were added to this re-release. The first is the MANILLA ROAD cover “Flaming Metal Systems”. I’m not familiar with the original, but I like what CRYSTAL VIPER play(ed) here, so that means I’ll like the original as well then when I’ll come accross this song. You get lots of guitar stuff to begin with, followed y midtempo Heavy Metal and also room for solo. “Demons’ Dagger (2008 version)” is a re-recording of track 8. Good, but I prefer the original. “The Last Axeman (Polish version)” is track 5 with Polish lyrics. Nice to hear. “Sleeping Swords (2008 version)” is a re-recording of track 10, with an alright result. And last there’s the WARLOCK cover “Mr. Gold”. Here too, I don’t know the original, but Marta and co. have done a nice job covering it. However, the sound is really crappy. What happened here?
As I liked what I’ve heard so far (see the 2010 reviews), it was nice to hear how CRYSTAL VIPER sounded a few years ago and it seemed they love old school Heavy Metal (and NWOBHM) that they stuck to it for each album, yet keeping things attractive and catchy, generally speaking. However, when Marta goes for the high notes, she sounds hoarse and it’s like she then has to scream to compensate for that. But all in all, a very decent debut album. You can’t go wrong with this one.
- …I see him! (Intro)
- Night Prowler
- Shadows On The Horizon
- City Of The Damned
- The Last Axeman
- Island Of The Silver Skull
- I Am Leather Witch
- Demons’ Dagger
- The Fury (Undead)
- Sleeping Swords
- Flaming Metal Systems (MANILLA ROAD cover) *
- Demons’ Dagger (2008 version) *
- The Last Axeman (Polish version) *
- Sleeping Swords (2008 version) *
- Mr. Gold (WARLOCK cover) *
Marta Gabriel – vocals, guitar
Andy Wave – guitar
Tom Woryna – bass
Golem – drums