Crystal Viper - Possession
AFM Records
Epic Heavy Metal
9 songs (41' 38")
Release year: 2013
AFM Records
Reviewed by Andy

When I first heard Crystal Viper, for some reason it didn't make much of an impression on me. Then I re-listened to it a few months ago and was blown away -- go figure. While Metal Nation was unfortunately collecting dust in my playlist, Marta Gabriel and her band of merry men have been releasing an album almost yearly. Possession, their latest, is a concept album about demonic possession a la King Diamond, which could quite easily have strayed into lifeless campiness, but the band's songwriting skills and Gabriel's distinctive vocals turn out a powerful performance.

Voices in My Head starts with a driving, NWOBHM-style riff with big, echoing drums, but not quite as much melody as was typical of them in the past. Gabriel's vocals have only improved with time, however; her ragged-and-tough but clean delivery always reminded me a bit of Leather Leone from Chastain. Julia Is Possessed starts with acoustic guitar, but almost immediately goes to another blasted set of riffs with guitar/bass galloping. Though relentless in their heaviness, Crystal Viper never lets those riffs get boring, and even when the verses lack melody, they make up for it on the choruses with powerful tunes that let Gabriel thoroughly pummel the listener. They have some guest vocals on here for the male parts of the album, including Harry Conklin from Jag Panzer, an inspired choice. The band introduced Possession as a foray out of traditional heavy metal and into a more epic and dark sound, but it's difficult to tell the difference from the sound, except for the subject matter of the lyrics, until later. Tracks like Mark of the Horned One are straight heavy metal, but it's doubtful that any metal fan would dislike their pure headbangability and excellent soloing.

Why Can't You Listen is where the whole "epic" part comes in. It certainly has all the ingredients -- the longest track on the album, it's plodding, ponderous and bass-heavy, and crunches its way along with Gabriel's vocals as a counterpoint, with screams at the end (consisting of about 50 lucky fans recruited off Facebook). You Will Die You Will Burn is faster, but crunches and thuds even more deliberately and heavily than the preceding track. A lot of female-fronted metal bands occasionally soften their sound to match better with their front woman's vocals, but if anything, Crystal Viper seems just to get heavier, and when they speed up and launch into another, fast, melodic solo, all that heaviness doesn't go away. Meanwhile the lyrics are taking a bit of a twist. The whole album is pretty much an exorcism scene and has all the usual parts one expects from a King Diamond album (the priest exorcist, worried parents, girl being possessed, etc), but by We Are Many the demon is revealing himself as one of a race of aliens from Zeta Reticuli (the source of the Roswell-crash aliens, according to conspiracy theories), who created the human race and has an urgent message to stop killing each other. One always wonders why aliens, if they're so smart, always try to speak through someone who statistically has the least chance of being heard, but Crystal Viper knows their audience -- the shift from one corny epic metal subject to another made me smile. We Are Many is a decent song but really just moves the story on to the final Prophet of the End, which isn't the heaviest track (that honor goes to You Will Die You Will Burn), but is definitely the most epic. The melody, slow and winding, is sung beautifully and as solemnly as Gabriel is capable of.

Crystal Viper has always been reliable in terms of turning out high-quality heavy metal, and they deliver here again, just heavier. Although their "epic" flavor this album is not quite as pronounced as they implied, they've nonetheless expanded their sound quite well in Possession and continue to evolve.

Killing Songs :
All of them, but You Will Die You Will Burn and Prophet of the End were standouts
Andy quoted 86 / 100
Other albums by Crystal Viper that we have reviewed:
Crystal Viper - Crimen Excepta reviewed by Bar and quoted 79 / 100
Crystal Viper - Legends reviewed by Cory and quoted 70 / 100
Crystal Viper - Metal Nation reviewed by Thomas and quoted 90 / 100
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