Scarcely a month since the Moon Chamber album came, we now get this, the latest from Marta Gabriel’s main long running and for me much admired band. Two years on from their pretty full throttle straight heavy metal album Queen Of The Witches comes this. Their first couple of full lengths the band has walked a tight line between heavy metal and power metal; sometimes tipping more one way, sometimes the other, so what have we here and how good is it?
The intro ‘Prelude’ with its gentle, lyrical melody gives no real clue beyond that it is another classy production. ‘Still Alive’ bounces in with a catchy riff and immediate hook which smoothly moves into very much power metal territory on the refrain. It shows two things; firstly that once again, for the gallery, the lady Marta has a fantastic voice. Powerful, hugely melodic but still capable of putting an edge in there when needed. No hyperbole; she could do Nightwish songs justice with her power and range. Which brings the second thing. This does indeed have a Nightwish symphonic feel with the sprinkling of keyboards and the huge hooks on the chorus. It’s lovely, immediate and superb. But definitely way into symphonic/power territory. This continues with ‘Crystal Sphere’, a similar paced song but with a lovely rumble to the rock-solid drumming and a distinct hook-line.
‘Bright Lights’ has a little more of a euro metal feel for me initially but soon scampers up the ladder back to the power metal. But again I can’t criticise it too much as it is a fine and distinct song.
I was, however, reaching for the knife sharpener when the slower and saccharine romantic melody of ‘Neverending Fire’ sloped in. However, it has a surprisingly gritty riff underneath and the lyrics though framed in fantasy have a feel which I think may speak directly to people who like Ms. Gabriel, have had turbulent times. There is a distinct Doro feel here, the yearning sound, the sway of the melody, but somehow still the Crystal Viper feel remains.
‘Under Ice’ is pretty fantastic. No, it doesn’t move from the power/symphonic feel but it kind of highlights what is so damned good here. The last time Crystal Viper pressed down on this power metal pedal on 2013’s Possession the song-writing let them down and for me it fell flat. Not here. If you have a soft spot for the odd bit of power metal then this should be no issue. And they do even kick up the heavy metal a good bit on ‘One Question’ with its furious kick rhythm and frantic, barking riff. ‘Tomorrow Never Comes (Dyaltov Pass)’ continues this grittier take and turns in a song with huge bite. And yes, look up Dyaltov Pass for some intriguing background.
‘Tears Of Arizona’ is a full on ballad, without much of the power. It has a delicate, magical feel, a nice enough tune and would be the chill out closer but there is a CD bonus track, ‘Dream Warriors’. This unsurprisingly has a fantastic 80s US feel as it is actually the old Dokken song from A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Hugely melodic, catchy and full of those 80s yearning lyrics and hooks. Funny, never thought about the song with female vocals but for me this beats the original, and the similarity between Marta Gabriel and Lee Aaron here is….ah just gives me goosebumps.
It’s a fun and wonderful end to a fine album where sheer song-writing trumps the potential power/symphonic pitfalls. I don’t think many fans of the band will have the slightest trouble with this, and even better there is a good chance that they could pull in new fans from this side of the divide.
After a fairly horrendous year, this is the second musical triumph for Ms Gabriel and ends 2019 on a huge high. Metal, eh? Love it and it will love you back.