|Review: Crystal Viper - Possession|
Label: AFM Records
Year released: 2013
Genre: Heavy Metal
Review online: December 21, 2013
Reviewed by: Christopher Foley
Rated 3.07/5 (61.43%) (14 Votes)
Ah, the ever-reliable, ever-brilliant Crystal Viper. Over the years Marta and the guys have been going from strength to strength, culminating in two of their finest releases; the pristine, infectious Legends, and the all encompassing, darker mastery of Crimen Excepta. Hot on the heels of the aforementioned, Crystal Viper bring horror to the season of goodwill, with a concept detailing all the delights of possession, and capped off with a riotous cover of "Thundersteel" to keep everyone happy.
As is the custom by now, album artwork is unveiled a few months prior to the actual release and in the past Crystal Viper has been known to adorn their work with some imaginative art. At first glimpse I was a little worried, (I'm one of those guys who judges artwork as an indicator of quality, shallow I know) as it really looked like typical, computerized drivel, although closer inspection reveals this is painted and surprisingly a lot more detailed than a thumbnail would reveal. Whilst I still don't think it's great, there is a certain charm that reminds me of eighties-style horror movie posters. I was kind of right on the indicator to quality, though...
Yeah, I hate to say it; but I feel Crystal Viper have lost a little steam. It's hard to top a good run, and following your two finest releases is always going to be a testing task. Fortunately the band doesn't fumble in terms of rehashing old material, or even a decrease in energy for that matter; I just feel the songwriting dips somewhat. The production is a little more in terms with their prior opus, opting for a darker approach that at times feels a little more airy than it should, but for the most part sharpens the Viper's already venomous swords.
Of course this is Crystal Viper, and even a little dip in songwriting quality won't stop them from steamrolling. The horror aspects introduced thematically bleed through the sound perhaps the best they ever have, and the production helps it. Although the inclusion of screams, (see the end of "Why Can't You Listen"), King Diamond-style musicianship, and well utilized guests vocals sells it. In spite of that, Marta's vocals keep the album from becoming too harrowing, or something the band isn't. Her distinct, jolly delivery ensures that even when singing about Julia being possessed, or the voices in her head, that you're smiling, snapping your fingers, and best of all banging your head.
As I've said, they aren't content to rehash older material, and to further expand on that I'd say the band have incorporated some relatively fresh sounds into their brand of heavy/power metal. The album's closing track "Prophet Of The End" sees an introduction of true, epic metal into the sound that at times isn't too far away from classic Fates Warning, or even Atlantean Kodex. It certainly adds a new dimension to the band, and is something that could be expanded on in the future. The aforementioned King Diamond-style musicianship is displayed to fine effect in "We Are Many" with a truly chilling, ultimately ripping pre-chorus riff.
Whilst I might have lamented a slight decrease in songwriting quality, for the most part Possession is still a cracking release. It can't match what came before, but with some fresh ideas which are utilized particularly well, and some enjoyable numbers in their classic mold featured in the earlier half of the album; I can't really warrant all that much of a complaint. If the polished approach of the band à la Legends was the be all, end all of Crystal Viper, then you might be put off from the darker production and wider songs here. In saying that though, if you dug the last album then I can imagine you'll get a fair amount of mileage here.
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