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I find this disappointing. - 70%

Empyreal, November 27th, 2009

Those who by some chance read a lot of my reviews might know how much I loved the first Crystal Viper album back in 2007. It was a wonderfully old-school album full of driving songs, epic leads and crunchy riffs, and I fucking adored it. Being that they came out with a new album called Metal Nation this year, my expectations were obviously through the roof. Did they deliver? As much as I hate to admit it…the jury is out on that one.

Metal Nation is not a departure from the band’s previous sound. It is not a sellout, is it not weak and it is not badly written. So why can’t I get into it as much? I guess the best way to say it is that the band just sound restrained here. It’s like they were holding back on the manic energy that made the first one so good. The quality of the songs here is uneven, with some of them being really good and others just sounding a bit uninspired and stunted in growth. None of them are bad - okay, the Agent Steel cover is pretty piss poor at times – but none of them, even the great ones, reach the heights that I know these guys are capable of. The hooks are not as good, the riffs not as powerful and the songs don’t really feel as natural as before.

Listen to “Metal Nation,” the title track. Or maybe “1428.” They’re too vocal-driven for this band; we don’t listen to Crystal Viper for the vocals, as catchy as the choruses might be at times. The riffs are way more stock Paragon/Iron Savior than before, and they’re just not as exciting, despite some tasty Maidenish opening licks and leads. These songs are not bad, but they’re not great either. “Legions of Truth” is only OK, without any really catchy moments, and “Gladiator, By the Blade” is just kind of boring. The Agent Steel cover “Agents of Steel” isn’t very good, either – very by-the-book, and kind of stale in its presentation. Bland.

The good stuff here includes the hyper-catchy, lead-happy “Bringer of the Light,” the volleying “Anvil of Hate” and the Running Wild-esque “Zombie Lust” – the latter two of which could have easily blended in on the band’s debut. These songs are energetic, fueled with exactly the kind of traditional metal smashing I expected out of these guys. But that is only three songs, not near the full-album slaughter of the debut.

“Her Crimson Tears” is a ballad. Not a pussy ballad, but a ballad, even opening with some somber keys and actual feminine singing from Missus Leather Wych – quite a surprise, really. I guess this is the closest we’ll get to the Manilla Road side of the band that was so prominent on the debut, especially since they go so far as to re-use some of the same vocal nuances. Weak. But the song is still pretty original for these guys, though, and it pretty much works. It doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the album, but I do like it.

So I guess no band is infallible. Metal Nation would be a fine debut album from a band just starting out, but this kind of inconsistency just isn’t that appealing in a band like Crystal Viper. This album does not flow all that well and some of the songs just don’t stack up to what this band can do. I’m chalking this whole thing up to sophomore slump, and hopefully the band will live up to their real potential next time. Good try, but the band fell short of themselves in 2009.

Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com

Enough guts and glory - 70%

autothrall, November 9th, 2009

Crystal Viper is a female-fronted power metal band out of Poland, and they temper this sophomore effort with enough guts and glory and old school fervor to have rocked my face off on a Saturday afternoon. This is a superior effort to The Curse of Crystal Viper and it should appeal to both young and old fans of melodic metal with some bite to it.

"Breaking the Curse" leads off, a symphonic intro comprised of acoustics and glorious synthesizers, weaving a tragic and brief tale to herald the arrival of "Metal Nation", which uses some of the same base melodies to create a nice continuity. Vocalist Marta Gabriel, errr...excuse me, Leather Wych has a pretty raw tone to her voice that I appreciate, you also catch a hint of her accent. Works for me. This is not fairy metal, so if you're seeking ridiculous operatic vocals and songs about teenage vampires and wizard academies, you'd better fuck off. Leather Wych occasionally busts into a higher register which seems a little too pompous for the album's sake, but these moments are brief. The leads are scorching, pure Euro power metal and the band can really fire you up like in "Bringer of the Light" or "The Anvil of Hate". I wasn't big into the more balladic side of the band as on "Her Crimson Tears", but at least it has some nice leadwork. Other crushers include "Gladiator, by the Blade" and "Legions of Truth".

The album sounds tight but not overproduced like many other power metal efforts. The guitar tones are crunchy and Marta's vocals truly soar. There are also some great guest vocal appearances from Lars of Stormwarrior and fucking Frank Knight of X-Wild (oh yes, it's true!). Both fit straight in opposite the frontwoman. There are some less than original riffs present (it's power metal...) and the album is far from perfect, but it's a rousing good time if you like some fury and melody with your traditional fist pumping. Fans of Helloween, Gamma Ray, Scanner, Iron Savior and others should check it out.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com