posted on 3/2011 By:
It’s been said before (and it’s about to be said again) that Poland has a deserved reputation for metallic excellence but not necessarily for bold genre-expanding innovation – which is to say, if a generalization may be allowed, that Polish bands tend to be nearly flawless purveyors of sounds the basis for which already existed. That observation is certainly not intended as a backhanded insult – in most instances, it’s as good to be good as it is to be groundbreaking, and in some cases, it can be preferable. As much as I value something new or fresh (as does most every reviewer subjected to seemingly endless waves of the interchangeable and/or uninspired), in the cold light of reality, not every band can push the envelope, and more importantly, not every band should.
And Crystal Viper doesn’t reinvent any wheels.
But they do rock.
Taking the established power / speed sounds of Running Wild / Helloween and mixing that up with further dashes of a Maiden-esque epic-ness and Slough Feg-ian folk feeling, Crystal Viper sports that bouncy energy and sing-along melodic factor synonymous with European power-trad metal. Vocalist / guitarist Marta Gabriel has a soaring and powerful wail, at times snarling and at times clear as (ahem) crystal, reminiscent of vintage Michael Kiske and fellow frontwoman Doro. Gabriel and fellow guitarist Andy Wave rip through some speed-drenched tremolo riffs, catchy and often dancing around harmonized folky melodies.
Prior to Legends, I’d heard and enjoyed the Viper's debut full-length, 2007’s The Curse Of Crystal Viper, although I missed 2009’s Metal Nation. Compared to its eldest brother, Legends is a more controlled affair, less aggressive and more melodic. And that decrease in raw fire and fury is a double-edged sword – a few tracks stumble, although, in Legends’ best moments, Crystal Viper’s energy is not so much blunted as skillfully tempered. And thus, compared to Curse, Legends is a bit uneven. While tracks like the tandem of “Blood Of The Heroes” and “The Greed Is Blind” exhibit a stronger sense of super-catchy songwriting than that earlier effort, Legends has lost some of the careening exuberance that characterized Curse, sacrificing speed for melody amidst the band’s symphonic and epic dramatics. Though in some places it’s a fair trade, the absence of that extra kick does lessen Legends’ liveliness. The operatic ballad “Sydonia Bork” struggles most, taking its entire running time to build beneath its folk melodies and lighters-in-the-air drifting drowse and yet never quite arriving, and the midtempo following track “Goddess Of Death” plods on a bit too long to right the ship. Thankfully that mid-album slip is only a minor setback as “Night Of The Sin” picks up the pace again, with its tale of witches told in suitably driving fashion beneath a catchy chorus and more of those dancing guitar harmonies. The album proper ends with “Black Leviathan,” but I’m lucky enough to have the version with the bonus track, a well-done cover of Accept’s underrated late-80s single “TV War.”
All in all, with a step down in overall quality from earlier efforts, Legends is neither a slouching Viper nor a hidden dragon. It's a solid record, with a few lesser tracks and more better than not. If you’re looking for some new speedy, super-melodic and folk-tinged power-trad metal to put a smile on your face and a little bounce in your step, you could certainly do worse than Legends.
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