Crystal Viper - The curse of Crystal Viper 4.5/5

Reviewed: 4-13-07





Tracklist:

1. I see him!
2. Night prowler
3. Shadows on the horizon
4. City of the damned
5. The last axeman
6. Island of the silver skull
7. I am leather witch
8. Demons' dagger
9. The fury (Undead)
10. Sleeping swords


Germany's Karthago Records are among a small group of determined labels that have cultivated a reputation in recent years for releasing high quality new recordings as well as reissues of obscure gems in the traditional/true metal field. Although I am a fan of many of the Karthago releases, I didn't feel that they had ever released a bona fide smasher of a new CD, as stuff like Ravage and Deja Vu was good, but not quite strong enough to ascend to the upper echelon. But all that changed in the first quarter of 2007, when Karthago unveiled 'The curse of Crystal Viper', the debut of Poland's Crystal Viper and the crown jewel of the label's catalogue.

Let's not mince words here: 'The curse of Crystal Viper' is a superb old-school true metal effort, and eclipses most of what I've heard in that genre in recent memory, with the possible exception of Sacred Steel's amazing 'Hammer of destruction' opus. The 9 songs featured on this debut (plus a spoken-word intro delivered masterfully by Sacred Steel's own Gerrit P. Mutz) are brimming with stellar riffs, catchy choruses, outstanding melodies and twin guitar harmonies. There's not a weak track in the bunch, with literally every song being a winner. Also, Crystal Viper show their versatility by smartly varying their tempos from song to song to keep the listener on his toes and avoid falling into a one-dimensional rut. Speedsters like "The last axeman" and the galloping "The fury (Undead)" sit comfortably alongside more midtempo crushers like "Island of the silver skull" and "Demon dagger". The 46-minute running time passes in the blink of an eye, and the only thing to be done at the end of it all is to hit play and commence the journey all over again.

The promotional description likens this CD to Manowar, Running Wild, Warlock, and Accept, and I can hear each of those influences at various times. The competent female lead vocals of Leather Wych (love the pseudonym) recall those of Doro Pesch, but also remind of Leather Leone, Kimberly Goss, Elisa Martin and the Backslash singer in places. There's also plenty of Iron Maiden influence in the guitar department (check out "I am leather witch" for a great example of this), which is of course a good thing. Actually, though, the comparisons that I think are most apt for this Crystal Viper CD are Twilight Odyssey (although Crystal Viper's song structures are not as elaborate and their lyrics are not as intricate as the New Yorkers') and the revered X-Wild. Coming from this reviewer, those comparisons are glowing praise indeed, given my high regard for those mentioned acts. Another band that comes to mind is Omen, and Crystal Viper gets extra credit for dedicating the fantastic "The last axeman" to the memory of Omen's fallen singer, the much-missed J.D. Kimball, whose signature songs included "The axeman". The Crystal Viper tune is not a cover, but definitely pays respectful homage to the spirit of Omen and the talents of Kimball.

Bands like Crystal Viper are certainly subject to criticism for not being original and for sounding too much like their influences. But to the old-school, chains-and-leather, Keep It True crowd, such a critique may be dismissed as hogwash. If this genre of music flows through your veins, if you have reveled in Sentinel Steel's recent label releases, if you wish you were attending this weekend's Keep It True festival in Germany (which will include performances by Destructor, Laaz Rockit and Twisted Tower Dire, among others), and if you appreciate well played true metal delivered from the heart, then Crystal Viper is a mandatory purchase. These Polish upstarts have stormed the scene with a blast of energy, enthusiasm and great ideas that immediately set them apart from most of their peers. The top-notch, memorable songwriting has really endeared this Crystal Viper debut to me, and I would not be at all surprised if it found a place in my top 10 list for the year when the dust settles on 2007. Recommended, indeed.



KIT




MORE REVIEWS... FULL REVIEWS

MORE REVIEWS BY KIT... KIT


MAIN - A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - P - Q - R - S - T - U - V - W - X - Y - Z - MISC



Email: metalcdratings@yahoo.com