2/24/2011 - Review by: Eric Compton
Poland used to be the one stop shop for the brutal splatterhouse of death metal. Bands like Decapitated and Vader have led the charge on Poland's metal landscape. Bands like Trauma have used that brutal foundation to display a vicious thrash sound but now more and more bands are appearing to change up the formula. Recent albums from Witchking and Mayharon have pushed traditional metal to the forefront. An established member of the Polish metal scene is Crystal Viper, a critically acclaimed traditional/power band that has recently signed to AFM Records.
"Legends" is the third release from the group and the first for AFM Records after a stint with Karthago Records. This is the best sounding record to date from Crystal Viper, this time recorded at MP Studio in Poland with Bart Gabriel (husband of singer Marta) producing. Traditional metal is the main force here, the band really perfecting that European sound that crosses the sounds of Germany with those in Sweden to fence many of metal's roaming pastures. At times I can hear a global sound from the band, easily laying down that German "Running Wild" vibe but bringing in Italy's neo-classical approach while still keeping it glossy like the Swedes so often do. The band should appeal to fans of White Skull, Zed Yago, Warlock and Chastain as the group features female vocalist Marta Gabriel. Her voice is perfect for the sound, using a "tough" mid-range but still able to provide a beautiful melody when needed.
This album is really interesting as it features ten individual stories. These stories are made up of Polish folklore and history, from ghost ships to medieval torture to Devilish dealings..."Legends" doesn't leave many stones unturned. This sort of songwriting is what I would like to see more and more in today's metal environment. So many bands try to gain an epic sound by piecing songs together into a concept or running story. I prefer my songs to have individual identities and tell a story in one specific tune (i.e. Iced Earth's "The Horror Show" or Metalium's "Chapter 2").
Crystal Viper really storm out of the gate with a spoken intro by Manowar's Rhino before heading to the race with "The Ghost Ship". Obviously you can hear Running Wild's galloping chords throughout the album but clearly "Greed Is Blind" is a prime example of the German influence. I also really like what the band does with "Blood Of The Heroes" and "Goddess Of Death", both wicked tunes with a good Swedish feel to them (ala Dream Evil and Black Majesty). My favorite cut on the album is the beautiful ballad "Sydonia Bork" with Gabriel's angelic voice over a piano. This song provoked me to research Bork's nightmare with the church and later torture and execution for "cursing" the kingdom. The band also bring in Mat Sinner, Stefan Kaufmann and members of Wizard to guest on the album. Artwork is by Chris Moyen (Trivium).
The Bottom Line - Fans of classy power metal and traditional fare will really love "Legends". Crystal Viper write and record their best album to date and finally are gaining a large distribution deal with powerhouse AFM Records. This is a precise and accurate metal album with enough riffs, power and vocals to push them into the next decade. I expect Crystal Viper to ascend the tiers of metal's hierarchy and eventually be leaders and masters of their own genre.
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