Album of the Week 05-2013: Crystal Viper – The Curse Of Crystal Viper


There’s hardly anything better than the Heavy Metal from the time before there was the ridiculous amount of subgenres it has today. It was the time before death grunts and breakdowns. Poland’s Crystal Viper isn’t from that era, but on their fantastic debut album ‘The Curse Of Crystal Viper’ they sound like they are. This is classy, early eighties Heavy Metal with maybe a hint of Power Metal at times due to its frenzied pace. And at the helm are the powerful vocals of Marta Gabriel, who is also responsible for writing all the music. A winning combination.

Nostalgic? Maybe. But this is a good album based on the fantastic compositions and the entusiasm with which the material is executed, not its old school sound. There’s powerful drums courtesy of Tomasz Dańczak, spectacular guitar work – both rhythm and lead – by Andy Wave, Tommy Roxx’ bass is actually audible and his playing is inventive and Gabriel’s vocals are the icing on the cake. Her strong accent may sometimes distract from the fact, but she’s a very good singer with a lot of power in both her mid- and high range, which comes across very well on the album. You’ll only have to hear to how her vocals build up in ‘The Last Axeman’ to hear how good she is.

After a somewhat cheesy spoken intro – yes, it’s a fantasy-based concept album – the first riff to ‘Night Prowler’ kicks in and that immediately makes all the Heavy Metal euphoria meters go in the red. Highly reminiscent of the NWOBHM of the late seventies and early eighties with its adrenalin-rising riffs and chorus that invites to pound your fist in the air and sing along. And it stays like that for the entire album. Not that the album is without any variation; both ‘Demons’ Dagger’ and ‘Sleeping Swords’ – which spots a bass intro that sounds a lot like Iron Maiden’s ‘Remember Tomorrow’ – are epic power ballads, ‘Island Of The Silver Skull’ is a midtempo stomper and ‘The Fury (Undead)’ has a slightly progressive twist. However, yours truly has a slight preference for the speedier first half, with absolute top notch Heavy Metal tracks like ‘City Of The Damned’, ‘Shadows On The Horizon’ and the aforementioned ‘Night Prowler’ and ‘The Last Axeman’.

The 2012 re-release of ‘The Curse Of Crystal Viper’ contains a downright fantastic cover of Manilla Road’s brilliant ‘Flaming Metal Systems’, a Polish version of ‘The Last Axeman’, which I seem to play a lot more than the orignal, new versions of ‘Demons’ Dagger’ and ‘Sleeping Swords’ that add a little theatricality to the originals and a decent cover of Warlock’s ‘Mr. Gold’ which is sonically notably inferior to the rest of the album.

Crystal Viper would gradually move into a more Power Metal direction after this album. Not bad at all, but nowhere near as mindblowing as the old school Heavy Metal heard on ‘The Curse Of Crystal Viper’. An album that brings you back to better days, whilst not forgetting that about three decades have passed since then. It’s too bad no venue in Holland has had the balls to book this fantastic band yet, I’d be there!

Recommended tracks: ‘Night Prowler’, ‘City Of The Damned’, ‘Shadows On The Horizon’, ‘The Fury (Undead)’

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