Saturday, 27 November 2010
[ALBUM REVIEW] Crystal Viper - Legends
1. The Truth
2. Ghost Ship
3. Blood Of The Heroes
4. The Greed Is Blind
5. Sydonia Bork
6. Goddess Of Death
7. Night Of The Sin
8. Secrets Of The Black Water
9. Man Of Stone
10. Black Leviathan
Polish heavy metal upstarts Crystal Viper are back again with the follow up to their critically acclaimed 2009 release Metal Nation, and this time continue their crusade for everything true and heavy with the subtly titled Legends. The debut, The Curse of Crystal Viper was unashamedly retro, the nonchalant old school vibe was what attracted me to it in the first place, with Metal Nation they somewhat lost some of that appeal to these ears, although it was still certainly an entertaining listen nevertheless. What I've always admired about Crystal Viper is that they avoid exploiting the fact they have a female vocalist, thus they avoid all the pitfalls and pigeon-holing that snare so many other bands. It's not very common in metal in general, never mind power/heavy metal, and when you do come across it it's usually some faux romantic gothic tripe, but Marta Gabriel's vocals are firmly rooted in the orthodox heavy metal style, of which many budding female metal singers should take note.
Crystal Viper wear their influences on their sleeve. A short delve into their recorded history will tell you that, covers from bands such as Running Wild, Accept, W.A.S.P. and Agent Steel will tell you all you really need to know about their sound. If I had to put a slightly more accurate description on things, a reasonable combination of American legends Omen and German privateer's Running Wild with the attitude of W.A.S.P. I'd say is accurate enough. If the thought of that doesn't get your metal sense tingling then I believe the low level lighting should guide you safely enough to the nearest exit in the hall. Legends is in pretty much the same boat as Metal Nation, a great piece of heavy metal, but this time it seems that there is something not quite right, lacking a certain staying power or that final clinical veneer that made the début so great.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's bad, not by any means. This is Crystal Viper as I've always loved them, but where the band was able to run riot on the début, I can't help but notice they sound a little restrained here. First and foremost the album appears to lack any anthems such as as 'Metal Nation' or 'The Last Axeman', although I'd say the album is a lot less 'impact' and a bit more of a 'grower'. Opener 'The Ghost Ship' is one of the stronger tracks on the album, the guitar riffing could easily have been lifted off Death or Glory, it's quite literally that obvious. It even sounds 'piratey' for want of a better word. The chorus is almost what you've come to expect with Crystal Viper, catchy and flamboyant, and with a guitar solo thrown in for good measure. But it's this predictability which is Legends downfall as well. It's all too easy to tread the same beaten paths over and over again. Every song follows the same verse-chrous-verse structure. “Sure they've always done this?” Well yes, but whereas the first time around they sounded genuinely inspired and fresh, it now just sounds tired and slightly tedious. This is most noticeable in the choruses throughout the album, just as it threatens to reach it's pinnacle, it hits a glass ceiling and doesn't really go anywhere before falling back again. The musicianship is top notch, as always, the guitar riffing is tight, though slightly more melodic than before almost verging into power metal territory as is the drumming, but it sounds as if there's something restraining Marta, holding her back from shifting into top gear. All songs follow the same pattern pretty much, except the ballad 'Sydonia Bork' where Marta actually sounds very like Kimberly Goss only with an accent. This song shows Marta's vocal talents best, at her most prominent and powerful. The band still maintain all the pomp and extravagance from before, most evident on the closing two tracks 'Black Leviathan' with it's Running Wild-esque swagger and the lead littered 'A Man of Stone', but the majority of the album just never quite reaches the dizzy heights they are capable of.
This viper may have had some of it's venom removed, but it's still just as vicious regardless. All the main attributes of Crystal Viper are still there, the melodic yet ripping guitar work, Marta's unmistakable vocals, galloping bass and drums. If you've already a fan of Crystal Viper and power/heavy metal in general you should get this, just don't expect anything quite as immediate as before. Since first listening to this my opinion has improved considerably, but I still think they need to come up with some new ideas, as the current formula is starting to sound exhausted and stagnant. It may be a little tame this time round, but they're still showing the wannabe Nightwish's and Epica's how metal is supposed to be done.
Originally written for Archaic Magazine