Crystal Viper – “Possession” (AFM Records)
WTF – it’s only been a year or so since we last heard from these Poles?! Crystal Viper are a regular feature on the Euro metal circuit and have been going since 2003 when they were formed by singer and multi instrumentalist Marta Gabriel, who incidentally writes all the material. This time round they’ve gone for a concept album – about a possessed girl named Julia – and while I wasn’t over duly excited about the theme, the standard of the material did surprise me in being highly impressive, certainly the best the band have done in a while. Varying their trademark power metal sound with more mid tempo metal a la Maiden has worked a treat, allowing Crystal Viper’s musicianship to shine through in all areas. Marta’s normally raw-ish vocals are now supplemented by singing, and the guitar work, especially in the slower or quieter passages is very classy indeed, showing there is more to this band than their normally expected meat n potatoes style. Most of all, it’s the melodies that shine on epic songs like ‘Prophet Of The End’ and ‘Mark Of The Horned One’ – highly catchy and memorable, backed by passionate vocal harmonies and the aforementioned stylish guitar playing. Just to show they’ve not lost their dragon breath they’ve boldly covered Riot’s ‘Thundersteel’ and with Jag Panzer’s Harry Conklin and Sataniac from Desaster guesting, I have to say this is probably Crystal Viper’s best album in a long, long while so I hope they keep it up!