Crimen Excepta is the fourth full-length album from Polish female fronted heavy/power metal band Crystal Viper. Crimen Excepta is one of a few albums I’ve taken note of from early 2012 that fits the style of heavy and/or power metal with female vocals that aren’t in the operatic style commonly associated with female-fronted metal, the others being releases from Sweden’s Hysterica, and USA’s Huntress and A Sound of Thunder. Hysterica and Huntress have produced really excellent albums with The Art of Metal and Spell Eater respectively while A Sound of Thunder sounds very promising with Out of the Darkness. Crystal Viper adds to the growing pile of high quality female fronted metal releases of 2012 that stand for more traditional values in metal. If Crimen Excepta and the other albums are anything to go by, then I predict that female fronted so call ‘true’ metal (well, heavy and power metal to be more accurate) is going become very big and very soon.
Although I’ve seen Crystal Viper mostly associated as a traditional heavy metal band, Crimen Excepta has a good deal to do with power metal as well, more so than it does heavy metal really, the guitar driven power metal that is, not the keyboard laden type. It’s easy to hear leanings towards both styles though, especially with the trad the leanings that are towards the sound of the NWoBHM. I don’t find it hard to imagine Iron Maiden doing some of these tracks actually, and Crystal Viper is clearly cut from the same sort of cloth; memorable riffs, strong vocals, and good soloing. I’ve encountered the band’s music before but only their debut album, and I think they’re definitely evolved a lot in the relatively few years between that and Crimen Excepta.
Maybe I should get my only real issue out of the way before I get any further, and this is the part where I question the need to place a short interlude track as every other track on the album. They are so short that they don’t really add anything; they only feel like they’re there really to give the listen the briefest of breathers before the band throw their next heavy/power metal anthem at them. I guess it that respect they’ve effective enough, but between every track? That’s most definitely overkill as far as I’m concerned but if you look beyond my current negative tone and consider that this is my only real complaint about the album then you’ll realise that we’re talking an excellent release.
While I wouldn’t say it breaks any moulds, Crystal Viper is one of those bands that do what they do so well that I can’t help but consider it worthy of the higher tiers of ratings that I give to albums. The opening track Witch's Mark sets the pace and level of quality with the fast paced riffs and frankly awesome vocals from Marta Gabriel that will have you in the zone for the rest of the album by the time the chorus hits. While one might consider it samey the album isn’t really long to get stale, clocking in at just under the forty-five minute mark without bonus tracks.
That’s not to say we don’t get treated to a few surprises. Keyboards get used in some places to add additional flavours to the sound, and in a move that goes against the norm for current metal music, they aren’t used in a symphonic manner, but rather to add an eerie layer to the sound that fits in perfectly with Marta Gabriel and Andy Wave’s pounding guitars, not to mention the album’s concept of inquisition, black magic and witches. David Bower from resurrected NWoBHM band Hell also pops up for what I hope will be a well received guest appearance during the title track, bring with him the theatrical vocals that made Hell’s Human Remains so special in 2011. His and Marta Gabriel’s voices work together really well actually.
It’s true that a couple of the tracks, such as Hope Is Gone, Here's New Law, aren’t quite up to the standard of the album’s best offerings such as Witch’s Mark, the title track and It's Your Omen, but we’re talking generally well crafted heavy/power metal tracks with all the aspects of a great classic metal sound covered. It’s a highly enjoyable affair.
Crimen Excepta is an impressive slab of heavy/power metal which I’m sure will fuel the seemingly growing market for female fronted acts in this style. It’s most definitely an album that you should be getting your hands on if the style of any of the other acts I’ve mentioned in this review appeals to you, or of much longer established artists such as Doro. But with a classic metal sound like this no metalhead should really go wrong with Crimen Excepta. All the songs are fast paced and true to the classic metal sounds and credentials of the 80’s.
(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven (http://metaltube.freeforums.org))