CRYSTAL VIPER – Children Of The Flame
Frontwoman for Katowice, Poland-based traditional heavy metal outfit Crystal Viper, Marta Gabriel has always harboured an interest in history. Holy inquisitions are a particular interest, the topic additionally an inspiration through books such as The Name Of The Rose (1980, Umberto Eco), Malleus Maleficarum (1486, Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger), and many, many more.
Fourth Crystal Viper studio full-length Crimen Excepta is a conceptual effort about the subject. “The lyrics are very emotional, brutal, and cruel,” reckons Marta Gabriel. “I think that the lyrics of the album will appeal to people who like such stories, and are familiar with holy inquisitions in general. Crimen Excepta not only speaks about witches, but can also be interpreted as a story about tolerance and human cruelty. The main topic of the album is of course the inquisition, but there’s also something behind the concept. It’s intolerance. Holy inquisition exists right now; intolerance is timeless, and we deal with it everyday. There are lots of ways to interpret the album. Of course, it’s in the classic heavy metal style.”
Generally speaking, Crystal Viper draws musical influence from classic 80s heavy metal. “If we’re talking about Crimen Excepta, our inspirations were bands like Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, Iron Maiden, and of course some New Wave Of British Heavy Metal as well,” the frontwoman cites. “There’s Nifelheim, Black Sabbath, and many, many more. I can also say musically it’s more brutal, heavier, and mystical, mostly because of the lyrical theme. This album is also like a movie, but the story is told through the music and the lyrics instead of pictures. For the first time, the story for the album was written first and the music came later. The lyrical theme influenced me pretty much as a composer, and that’s why the lyrics made a difference. There’s real emotions and drama where I wanted to express my real feelings, to tell the story through music. Crimen Excepta, in my opinion, shows a new face of Crystal Viper. Of course, the story is written within a classic metal framework. We also don’t want to record the same album again and again, because it is great to hear when somebody tells you that an album is different.”
And as well, Marta draws musical influence from classic heavy metal singers. “Before I started to sing even, my favourite metal vocalists were Tony Martin (Black Sabbath), Rob Halford (Judas Priest / Halford), Ronnie James Dio (Dio / Black Sabbath / Heaven & Hell / Rainbow / Elf), Doro Pesch of Warlock, Leather Leone of Chastain, and many, many more,” she discloses. “David DeFeis of Virgin Steele of course was an influence – I recorded a song with him (a cover of the Virgin Steele composition ‘Blood And Gasoline’, the original rendition featuring on December 1994’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Part I. Crystal Viper’s version is included on February 2008 compilation The Last Axeman). He’s a fantastic vocalist, and Virgin Steele is also a great band. They sing very emotionally, and their voices are so powerful. I try new things with my singing to try to maybe sing like them. They are truly fantastic, and it would be great to maybe record something with them.”
An acute death metal influence is additionally present, Crimen Excepta including a cover of Vader number ‘Tyrani Piekieł’, an interpretation which boasts a guest contribution from Vader mainman Piotr Wiwczarek. “It’s a classic heavy metal album, but I’m also influenced by death and black metal bands like Vader of course, Nifelheim, Dissection, Immortal, Marduk, Cannibal Corpse, and so on,” the vocalist acknowledges. “I truly like to listen to these kinds of bands as well. I was under the influence of these kinds of bands; the climate of this music is very dark, and it’s very, very cool I think. Crimen Excepta is a classic heavy metal album but maybe you can feel the climate of these darker, heavier bands, and there are some moments on our album where you will probably hear that influence.
“We also covered the Vader song ‘Tyrani Piekieł’ because it’s a death metal song. When we were thinking of recording a cover song for our album, we wanted to do something unusual and maybe something that nobody else has done in the past. Of course as I mentioned, I’m a huge death and black metal fan. We decided to record our favourite Vader song ‘Tyrani Piekieł’, and invite Peter from Vader to the recording. He was a little bit shocked because it was unusual for a classic heavy metal band to record a death metal song, but it was really, really cool to record with him because he came to the recording studio and was kick ass. It was a great experience to record with a great musician like Peter.”
In the past, the Latin words ‘crimen excepta’ were used to name the crime of witchcraft. “It can be translated into English as ‘ultimate crime’, or something like that,” the vocalist divulges. “It was taken from the pages of a book called Malleus Maleficarum. On the album, there’s a second song titled in Latin named ‘Medicus Animarum’, and it means ‘Souls Doctor’. It was a name for torturer, for people who were torturing witches, heretics, and other people. That’s also taken from the pages of Malleus Maleficarum.”
Marta’s husband Bart Gabriel handled production duties once again. “He’s the producer of Crystal Viper, and from the very, very beginning he has been our manager,” she explains. “He also produces other albums though; he’s not only a producer for Crystal Viper. I think he treats all bands that he works with the same way, because he’s very, very professional. While we are working together, both of us try to be as professional as we can. In everyday life we are husband and wife, but when we are working together I’m a singer and he’s a producer and manager. We try to work together in a very, very professional way, but on the other hand it is a fantastic thing that you can share your passion with the person that you love. It’s really, really fantastic.
“The producer is a very important person to work with, especially. He’s a person who can help you to choose the best sounds for guitars, for drums. He’s a person that you can always trust in producing an album. For example, when you’re listening to the album he’s very helpful when you know exactly what kind of sound you want to have. When you’re finishing the album, he can help you choose the right equipment for recording an album. It’s really, really important to choose the right equipment for recording the album. He’s quite an important person in the studio.”
Title cut ‘Crimen Excepta’ features guest vocals from David Bower of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal assortment Hell. “For Crystal Viper, not only recording cover songs but also inviting special guests to perform on our albums is a kind of tradition,” the singer reveals. “Our goal is to show to our fans where we take inspiration from and so on, and also, for us it’s very important to work with musicians that we really, really respect. We’re not only musicians, but fans of music. We have had chances to show respect to the fans that have inspired us. We all appreciate Hell. As we knew each other, we invited David to take part in our song. David is fantastic onstage, and is an amazing vocalist. He recorded William’s part for ‘Crimen Excepta’, and he did it in a fantastic way. I don’t think there is any other artist out there who could be better in the role of William than David, and we’re really, really honoured that he recorded the song us.”
Bonus track ‘Ghosts Of Sherwood’ is the title cut for the movie Robin Hood: Ghosts Of Sherwood. “It’s a horror style story about Robin Hood,” Marta summarises. “How did it start? We knew DigiDreams Studios for awhile, which is doing this movie. It turned out that Crystal Viper’s music would perfectly fit the atmosphere of the movie. I received the screenplay, and wrote the song and the lyrics. It’s worth mentioning that the song is quite different to the usual Crystal Viper stuff; it’s in the heavy metal style, but it’s really, really melodic. As far as I know the movie’s almost finished. It’s also worth mentioning Tom Savini is in this movie, who’s a great actor. He was great in From Dusk Till Dawn (1995). It’s such a great honour to record a song for a film he’s taking part in.”
Crimen Excepta’s vinyl version includes a rendition of ‘Night Of The Demon’, its original incarnation featured on the June 1981 album of the same name by NWOBHM band Demon. “New Wave Of British Heavy Metal has been a huge influence for us since the inception of the band,” the lyricist reiterates. “There are a lot of great bands from the genre who influenced us like Jaguar, Raven, Iron Maiden, Girlschool, Diamond Head, and many, many more. Of course Demon is one of our favourite ones, and ‘Night Of The Demon’ is a great song. The melody is fantastic also. As far as I know, it’s connected to the classic horror movie The Devil Rides Out (1968, based on the 1934 novel of the same name by Dennis Wheatley) by the Hammer film company. I’m a big fan of horror, especially Hammer films.”
French artist Chris Moyen returned to design the cover artwork for Crimen Excepta. “I can say right now that Chris Moyen is a regular artist for us,” Marta confirms. “He also painted the cover artwork for our previous albums. This one is also in his style, but it perfectly fits the album. With this album Crimen Excepta, for the first time the lyrics, the music, and the cover art are all one piece because you can see some characters from our album in the cover art. You can interpret the cover art in your own way, but in my honest opinion Chris Moyen did a fantastic job with the cover art. I truly, truly love it.”
Crimen Excepta was released in North America on April 24th, 2012 and in Europe on the 27th, all via AFM Records. The album was issued in Japan on May 23rd through Spiritual Beast Records.
Interview published in May 2012.
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