Crystal Viper - Possession (AFM Records)

I'm just not feeling it...
Release Date: 
21 Jan 2014 (All day)

Polish outfit Crystal Viper came highly recommended to me from people (who shall in this instance remain nameless) who have opinions in the field of power metal that I feel I can usually trust. I may be reviewing that situation shortly after listening to Possession

Despite a career spanning a decade and four full length releases I’ve not come across them before (or, perhaps more pertinently given the rather forgettable nature of the material, I can’t remember ever having heard them), so I must admit I was rather excited to have a listen to this album. Four songs in I was seriously considering giving the album up as a bad job – I kid you not, there’s not one memorable moment to be found in the morass of competent, unoriginal riffage put up on offer, and although fifth track Mark of the Horned One at least has a bit of catchiness about it even that track isn’t really that much to write home about.

I guess fans of old school heavy metal might find the raw, gritty production a bonus – certainly the guitars and drums benefit from an ‘authentic’ heavy metal production job, but vocalist Marta Gabriel is mixed way too high for my liking; her voice is too plain to hold such a prominent position, and by the middle of the album I found I was getting annoyed by her braying tone and slightly one-dimensional delivery.

Possession is a concept album dealing with, you guessed it. possession, and guest vocalists Harry Conklin (Jag Panzer, among others) and the amusingly-titled Sataniac (from Desaster) both help out playing other male characters in the tale, but even they don’t alleviate the tedium overmuch. There’s some truly great guitar playing on You Will Die You Will Burn (from Andy Wave), and a nice piece of Savatage-styled counterpoint vocalising on Why Can’t You Listen? (proving that Marta is actually probably a pretty capable vocalist – more of this would have been welcome!), but at the end of the day there’s little else of high enough standard included here to commend this to anyone. The final indignity comes when the band weighs in with a furious cover of Riot’s classic Thundersteel to round out the album which is, inevitably, the best track on the whole thing. As usual, there’s nothing actually bad about Possession, but sadly competency just isn’t enough these days. You don’t need this.