Crystal Viper - Possession Review
by Matt Hensch
So, we all know Crystal Viper is awesome at this point, right? After living high on the hog with prime album after prime album, including the exceptional "Crimen Expecta," one would expect this Polish heavy metal machine to bust a valve or a gas line and officially put an end to the party. Every brand spanking new car builds up rust and eventually chugs out its last few miles in a rough, clunky haze, practically begging for someone to end its misery. Well, "Possession" is several thousand miles from the junkyard being an option, but Crystal Viper's attack is beginning to show the classic signs of an aging band losing some of its zest. However, for the group's weakest release thus far, "Possession" is still a smooth ride, usually.
The album's concept is a little goofy: it's about a demonically possessed girl who learns her demon is actually an ANCIENT ALIEN THAT CONTROLS THE WORLD AND THE GOVERNMENT, BRO. Although silly, I could never look at the body of work Marta Gabriel has created in her time as Crystal Viper's leader and ever call her anything short of incredible. As a vocalist, a songwriter, a guitar player, and a performer, she's proven herself to be one of the finest metal elites around. "Possession" has the semblance of dark emotion and Crystal Viper's own breed of conceptual horror à la King Diamond/Mercyful Fate (look at the artwork!), leaving the music to rely on an incredibly passionate and powerful vocal performance, I'd say Marta's finest yet.
The second half of "Possession" ventures into a melancholic, epic space that reminds me vaguely of Candlemass or Atlantean Kodex; Marta's voice is prime, and the direction of these anthems shows a kind of natural evolution that suits this band wonderfully-Crystal Viper is growing, not retracing. The group's real strength has always been the driving heavy metal anthem roasting with straightforward riffs and flashy guitar leads, which "Possession" has plenty of. "Fight Evil With Evil" and "We are Many" are perhaps some of the finest tunes from the Crystal Viper camp, boasting excellent choruses and superb musicianship. Come on, it's Crystal Viper: they aren't usually exploring experimental realms or pulling surprises out of their backsides, but do they really need to with sturdy riffs and addictive choruses everywhere?
My only issue with the album is its occasional flop. "You Will Burn You Will Die" is pretty mundane, and "Julia is Possessed" falls flat as Gabriel spits out lyrical nonsense opposite Desaster's Sataniac's growling grunts, which sound out of place and ineffective. Cool cameo, but little else can be said about it. I'm more fond of the minor role Harry Conklin of Jag Panzer and Satan's Host plays during a verse of "Fight Evil with Evil." Conklin's voice is natural in this setting, and it's not a far cry to call his brief show one of the better installments of the customary Crystal Viper guest appearance. "Possession" isn't much more than another slab of heavy metal goodness. Crystal Viper is still awesome, and the band's fifth full-length record lives up to the quality standard of the Crystal Viper brand with the same harsh bite and brawn. No complaints here.
Crystal Viper - Possession
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