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Review: Crystal Viper - Queen of the Witches
Crystal Viper
Queen of the Witches

Label: AFM Records
Year released: 2017
Duration: 43:19
Tracks: 10
Genre: Heavy Metal


Review online: February 24, 2017
Reviewed by: Bruno Medeiros
Readers' Rating
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Rated 3.42/5 (68.33%) (12 Votes)

Marta Gabriel and her companions Andy Wave (guitars), Tomek "Golem" Danczak (drums) and Błażej Grygiel (bass) are back to attack with Queen of the Witches, a somewhat concept album that tells the tales of witches and true evil. As it is with all their albums, this is stacked with references and influences from the great old ones such as Cirith Ungol, Warlord, Manowar, Virgin Steele, Manilla Road and more, all while maintaining the already characteristic vocals and style of play of Crystal Viper. The effort quickly heats things up with "The Witch Is Back", starting with a vigorous scream and well-crafted heavy riffs. A good opener, the song hits the bullseye on building the album atmosphere in the form of a mid-paced endeavor. "I Fear no Evil" comes next and tears everything apart with Maiden-esque leads and a catchy chorus. Special attention to Błażej Grygiel on this one, who steps up his game and delivers a killer effort on the bass, while Marta's vocals range from a more aggressive approach in the verse to melodic and accessible in the chorus.

There are two ballads that seem out of place for me and could have been crafted better or modified to fit the atmosphere in a more cohesive way: "When the Sun Goes Down", which is not actually a ballad in the true sense of the word, but is slow-paced and too light not to be considered a ballad, and follow-up "Trapped Behind" – this one a full-time ballad – which completely terminates the fist-pumping atmosphere created in the first two songs, making the album lose its climax almost entirely. Things pick up once again with the awesome "Do or Die", a song that features living legend Ross the Boss on the guitar; the chorus is headbanging-friendly with pumped-up choirs and the entire song is constructed as a galloping and full of attitude anthem. The album is actually stacked with an old-school vibe and special appearances by renowned traditional metallers such as Mantas of Venom on the bombastic "Flames and Blood" (one of the best songs here), where he delivers a good guitar solo, and Steve Bettney of Saracen fame – a band that is considered one of the most beloved of the NWOBHM movement – who sings a duet with Marta on the power ballad "We Will Make it Last Forever", song that doesn't offer much but is somewhat fun. "Burn My Fire Burn" further consolidates the classic vibe and is well constructed in all its parts. Some bands, though, save the best for last, and Crystal Viper did that with "Rise of the Witch Queen", an absolute monster of a track. Heavy, powerful, loud, fast and aggressive, it shows the entire band inspired and the best performance by Marta on the album; great way to close the album.

"But wait, Bruno, where's that cool cover Crystal Viper always does of a classic heavy metal band?" Oh, it's here, my lonely friend, don't worry. The honored ones this time are Grim Reaper and Exciter, with the songs "See You in Hell" and "Long Live the Loud". Both have the Crystal Viper cover seal of quality, as they are respectful and competent renditions of the original ones, but also feature a cool twist here and there. Sadly, though, you will have to choose one, as "See You in Hell" will be released as a bonus track for the CD version and "Long Live the Loud" for the LP version (oh, what the hell, buy them both). Marta was in charge of the songwriting and lyrics and the album was produced by the very competent Bart Gabriel (Cirith Ungol, Sacred Steel, Mythra), who mixes his works in the best way possible to fit that old-school sound, and the artwork was created by Andreas Marshall (Running Wild, Kreator, Blind Guardian and a thousand more bands), so you know it's a killer one.

All in all, Crystal Viper actually has some catching up to do when it comes to the cream of the crop of the NWOTHM and Heavy Metal bands, but managed to achieve a great comeback given the circumstances (Marta's health problems). At the same time accessible to the masses and complex enough to satisfy the hardcore headbanger, Queen of the Witches does the job right, despite some minor setbacks; as a fan of the band since its inception and avid critic of good music, I find the album worthy of the band's name. Recommended.

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