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Crimen Excepta

AFM (2012)
Rating: 8.5/10

Crystal Viper was born in 2003 and has since released four albums and appeared on numerous tribute albums and compilations. The Polish band’s latest album, Crimen Excepta, is a concept album built around the themes of holy inquisition as well as black magic and witches, mixing historical facts with fantastical ideas.

The album is again produced by Bart Gabriel, who has produced all of the band’s albums to date as well as albums by the likes of Jack Starr’s Burning Starr, Sacred Steel and Mortician. The album additionally features a cover of Vader’s ‘Tyrani Piekiel’, with a guest appearance by Vader mainman Piotr Wiwczarek on the song.

What’s very clear throughout this album is that Crystal Viper means business. This band is high energy, hard edged metal with a much more ‘metal’ vocal than most bands of this style. Vocalist / guitarist Marta Gabriel is a monster vocally! I am usually drawn to a female vocal in hard music because I like the emotional edge they often bring to the table as well as the contrast female voices have with the heavy music. Gabriel is exactly the opposite, her voice is strong and controlled and when she lets loose a scream she sounds like Vince Neil (Mötley Crüe) circa 1984.

The lyrical and musical themes here also remind me a lot of fantasy themed metal bands such as Dio, King Diamond, Manowar and Virgin Steele, albeit a much more fluid and slightly less epic version. The influence is unquestionably there.

Although I will admit that the concept is largely lost on me throughout Crimen Excepta, there are a number of highlights. ‘Child Of The Flame’ is one of the more epic tracks that feature gang vocals, a possessed sounding vocal, and twin guitar leads that will melt you.

The fast paced ‘Fire Be My Gates’ is another highlight with its stumbling breakdown, shredding guitar work, and creepy organ opening. The title track is a seven-minute journey with a slightly bluesy swagger that leaves no question as to whether or not this band can rock straight ahead. It’s easily the most ambitious track on the album, switching gears a few different times and never allowing the listener get disinterested. The Vader cover is absolutely amazing and, unlike many covers, it’s spot on and fits nicely within the context of the album, despite being a bonus track.

Not many bands do this style well and Crimen Excepta is a nice throwback to the days when you couldn’t wait for the next Savatage, King Diamond or Virgin Steele record to be released so you could mail order it! That said, if you don’t like this particular genre of music, Crystal Viper won’t offer much to change your mind.

Mark Fisher

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