Crystal Viper – Crimen Excepta (AFM Records)

Monday, 25th March 2013
Rating: 7.5/10

Female-fronted power metal bands can’t be counted upon to make any sort of major leaps and bounds when one year separates their releases. In the case of Poland’s Crystal Viper, last year’s Legends was a rich, but true-to-form power metal offering, with the leather-lunged Marta Gabriel doing most of the dirty work while her bandmates flaunted various Maiden-isms to relatively enjoyable effect. The same holds true with their new Crime Excepta…it’s practically a carbon-copy of its predecessor.

For starters, the biggest downer of all is the overdone storyline regarding the persecution of supposed “witches” during the inquisition. And since no one has been able to top King Diamond’s The Eye in relation to this concept, bands should be advised to stay away, especially traditional power metal bands like Crystal Viper. Then again, with Gabriel in the ranks, one can see where the storyline parallels can be drawn. Hard to picture a dude portraying a witch being burned at the stake, although King Diamond and his 800 different voices managed quite nicely.

The band is still overly-enamored with gallops, so much so, that most of the album could be considered one big gallop-fest. Tracks like “Witches Mark,” “Medicus Animarum,” and the title track all take the plunge in this department, albeit to heroic effect. Gabriel occasionally gets out of hand with her screams, but for the most part, she’s in control of the album, imposing her will on solid numbers like “The Spell of Death” and “Hope Is Gone, Here New Law.” Additional props to the band for covering Vader’s “Tyrani Piekel.”

While no female-fronted band may touch A Sound of Thunder this year, Crystal Viper have become predictably reliable in their execution. Crimen Excepta may be saddled with a lot of power metal clichés and sub-Maiden ideas, but it’s a spirited affair nonetheless. And as a sidebar: The best song on King Diamond’sThe Eye? “The Curse,” of course.

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