Polish female fronted metal band Crystal Viper have returned with this concept album following up to the remarkable ‘Crimen Excepta’ album released some 18 months ago. The concept is based around a girl called Julia which is pretty much like a movie storyboard who has an unexpected twist. The album was written musically and lyrically by multi-talented front woman Marta Gabriel who I caught earlier this year playing guitar with Jack Starr’s Burning Star. The talent is clear, but what I do notice about this is the move back towards their traditional and power metal stance, their previous recording was a lot more in your face riff wise and included some marginal NWOBHM references. These are gone for ‘Possession’ but at least it doesn’t follow the “usual” concept album, it still has balls and each track is individual in its own right.
I love the tom-tom drums at the beginning of ‘Voices in My Head’, its gives me a real buzz, the track itself powers ahead as you would expect from most current US bands within this genre. ‘Fight Evil with Evil’ features Jag Panzer vocalist and industry stalwart Harry Conklin and follows the path of Conklin’s band via his own strong vocal talent. But rather than being content with this, Crystal Viper invited up to 50 fans to add their “screams” to the albums recording, a nice touch for their fans.
The track ‘Julia is Possessed’ actually grinds my goat a little as the chorus is a little too limp, I might say a little toward symphonic metal in Europe, but then the album kicks back into life with tracks such as ‘We Are Many’ and a nice cover version of Riot’s ‘Thundersteel’. This album reminds me a lot of the album ‘Shock Waves’ by Leather (Leather Leone – the solo release by Chastain’s female vocalist), it is wavering on the edge of classic but unfortunately just misses a little something extra.
Critically, I see ‘Possession’ as a step back towards the bands earlier material, it has character yes I would agree, but it’s lost that riff oriented snarl or bite of its predecessor which is a danger when you go into concept album mode and limit the amount of song writers. But as an album in its own right regardless of the bands previous material, it sits alongside releases by current artists within this field, a traditional/power metal release that has an acquired but respectful hypothesis.
(7/10 Paul Maddison)