There is something incredibly great about the European bands like Crystal Viper that keep the sound of classic power metal so true. This Polish foursome, led by singer/guitarist Marta Gabriel, one of the few women who sing and solo in metal, sound like they haven’t paid much attention to anything since, say, the first few King Diamond solo albums. As a matter of fact, the members of Crystal Viper probably view bands like Agent Steel and Iron Maiden as the music’s high water mark. More power to them. (And you wouldn’t get an argument from me on the Maiden praise anyway).
The Crimen Excepta press release states the disc is “about holy inquisition, black magic and witches, where fiction meets historical fact.” That is probably true. But what Crimen Excepta is really about — at least to these aging ears — is great throwback fun. This is the type of album that would have been reviewed favorably in the fanzines during the glory years of the Powerline print edition.
It’s nice to be reminded of the strength and swagger of early power metal, where the guitars charge like battalions and singers can invariably hit notes as high as the sun. Gabriel might not be the most gifted vocalist or ferocious guitarist but damned if someone forgot to tell her that.
If these songs are intentionally big, veering on the elusive epic, Gabriel’s approach and attack aim even higher. The songwriting here is strong and thought-out without any particular cuts standing out as great. Old-school metalheads almost have to love the aim of a tune like “Child of the Flame” if only to be reminded of the ridiculous heights our 80s bands aspired to. There’s some nice arms-arms-in-the air speed to “It’s Your Omen.“ The title track features a guest vocal spot from Hell’s David Bower. In act of Polish solidarity, the band includes the Vader bonus-track “Tyrani Piekiel” with Vader main man Piotr “Peter” Wiwczarek acting as guest at his own party.
There is nothing new on Crystal Viper‘s new disc. There’s not even anything that wasn’t done more than 25 years ago. That doesn’t prohibit Crimen Excepta from being a welcome document to the never-say-die spirit of classic metal. I’m sure most of the Powerline staff wouldn’t mind hear more music like this.