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Review: Crystal Viper - The Curse of Crystal Viper
Crystal Viper
The Curse of Crystal Viper

Label: Karthago Records
Year released: 2007
Duration: 45:47
Tracks: 10
Genre: Heavy Metal

Rating: 5/5

Review online: December 23, 2007
Reviewed by: Larry Griffin
Readers Rating
The Curse of Crystal Viper

Rated 4.09/5 (81.76%) (34 Votes)

I don't often like to think that I restrain myself to one genre of music in particular, and I generally like to think that, even though I love Heavy Metal, I can enjoy a wide spectrum of music and musical styles. Variety is the spice of life and all, you know the deal, you've probably heard it a hundred times before. A lot of the best new Metal bands are incorporating a variety of influences into their steaming, boiling cauldron pot of musical innovation, and it's rare to come across a band that doesn't innovate anything and still remains better than most everything else out there today. This is one of those albums, and Crystal Viper are one of those special one-in-a-million bands that re-ignites that good old, bare-bones Heavy Metal spark that I love so much. This isn't the least bit modern, punky, death-y, thrashy, or progressive - just a good old True Metal album. Crystal Viper is a band that reminds me why I call myself a metalhead for life, a band that makes me want to disregard any semblance of a "varied musical taste," tell the rest of the world to go fuck itself, and just headbang all afternoon long, and bands like this are becoming rarer and rarer as the years go by. The Curse of Crystal Viper is one of the most utterly METAL albums I've heard all year, and definitely the top contender in the Traditional Heavy Metal genre for '07.

The Traditional Heavy Metal genre is one that has never died, as some misguided souls might claim, but it's also becoming increasingly hard to find anything that really, truly fucking smokes, too. You know what I mean. It's not something that can be described in a few words, but just a certain feeling that a fan gets from the crunchy, balls-out metal attack of a truly stellar Heavy Metal release. That's what this is; a blistering, headbanging exercise in Heavy Metal the way it's supposed to be done. Crystal Viper cite both Manilla Road and Running Wild as influences, and I rarely see bands with influences that shine through so prominently without the band in question sounding trite or unoriginal - this band is clearly the offspring of the aforementioned metal giants, but never do they sound like anything resembling a ripoff or a clone band in the least. This is a damn good example of how a band can both stay true to their chosen style and not cling to the womb from which they were spawned. Crystal Viper are very skilled songwriters, managing to wrap their bold, clearly defined influences around a powerful, cohesive sound that will never get old or tired. An exquisite example of a band making a name for themselves within the confines of their own genre, without bringing in any outside influences or adding any eccentric, weird nuances at all. Someday, people will be able to say without hesitation, "that sounds like Crystal Viper!"

The riffs here are punchy and powerful, the solos are searing and screaming - and they even slow down to a cleaner, more folksy sort of tone at times - the vocals are wailing and ballsy (the singer is, ironically contrasting this comment, a woman, and she's better than a lot of male metal vocalists around these days), and the whole thing is wrapped up in a raw, dirty, crisp production that reminds heavily of early Running Wild or perhaps some of the more underground 80s metal bands. There's nothing modern or contemporary about this album, and it rips forth with a powerful, blazing assault that takes no prisoners and has no shame in melting your face right off. Most people probably wouldn't enjoy this too much, as it will likely come off as extremely inaccessible to one who is not already familiar with the eccentricities employed by Manilla Road and Slough Feg (who Crystal Viper also remind me of, with their jubilant, carefree approach to their music - yes, this is fun music in the end) and other such bands. If you're a fan of the archaic, underground True Metal sound that has been lurking below the surface for the last 30 years or so, though, then this will be right up your alley.

Naming standout tracks on this monolithic metal maelstrom is futile and pointless, as every song just flat out rules. Trying to find a weak track here is simply nitpicking. Several songs here draw from Running Wild's vigorous musical pool - fast, headbanging metal blazers like riveting, stomping opener "Night Prowler," with its shout-along chorus that could probably burn down a small village, the extremely catchy and addictive duo of "Shadows on the Horizon" and "City of the Damned" - both of which will remain lodged in your skull as if permanently glued there, the ass-stomping, fist-pumping, headbanging epic anthem "I Am Leather Witch" and the folksy, fun romp of "Fury (The Undead)," which packs a sticky, infectious melody line that will never come out of your skull. However, the band knows how to keep it exciting, and so they change up the tempo and churn out epic, majestic slower pieces that remind heavily of Manilla Road's weirder moments - the mid-paced stomp of "Island of the Silver Skull" and then the sorrowful album closer "Sleeping Swords" being perhaps some of the very best tracks here. This disc is endlessly replayable, fiendishly catchy and infinitely enjoyable, and it just gets better every time I spin it - even though it was already damned good the first time around.

I'm wholly impressed with this one. It's not often that a Traditional Heavy Metal album released in the past few years goes beyond "enjoyable" for me, but this one has gone from "enjoyable" straight up to "instant classic," something only Slough Feg and a select few others have managed. You'll love this if you love Manilla Road, Running Wild, Iron Maiden, Helstar, or any other 80s Heavy Metal act, so take my word for it and go get this. Crystal Viper is going places. One of the best albums of the year.

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