Released: 2017, AFM Records
It has been just over 3 years since we last heard from Marta Gabriel and company on 2013’s POSESSION. Due to health issues with Gabriel, the band had to stop their relentless pace of 5 albums in 6 years. With the extra time to write and recuperate, QUEEN OF THE WITCHES storms back with a vengeance. No one, including the band themselves, would ever accuse Crystal Viper of being unique. However, they continue to execute their traditional style of metal that they love, and the passion of the delivery has positioned them as one of the most renown Polish metal bands today.
Impressively, Gabriel wrote all the music and lyrics for the entire album, and while it is another concept album along the dark themed lines of POSESSION, it is also one of the most diverse of the band’s career. Kicking things off in PAINKILLER-like glory is “The Witch Is Back”, an aggressive and heavy song that serves as the clarion call for the return of Crystal Viper. “When The Sun Goes Down” is an anthemic mid-paced thumper that pulses with energy and recalls the triumphant days of Doro Pesch and Warlock. “Trapped Behind” is piano ballad that briefly derails the momentum before things resume on the strength of “Do Or Die”, which features Ross The Boss guesting on guitar. Ross is one of three guest appearances, the others being Mantas of Venom laying down a solo for “Flames and Blood”, while Steve Bettney of Saracen shares a duet with Gabriel on the power ballad “We Will Make It Last Forever.” “Flames and Blood” is worthy, while the Bettney duet is forgettable.
The CD version concludes with a spirited cover of Grim Reaper’s “See You In Hell”, a song that fits seamlessly on this album of traditional metal. Essentially, remove the two ballads and you have seven original tunes of full-fisted metal and one very appropriate cover tune. Combine the quality of the songs with Bart Gabriel’s bruising and meaty production, and QUEEN OF THE WITCHES serves as a fine return after the band’s longest hiatus between projects. For fans of Crystal Viper, the new album is a no-brainer. However, if you have yet to discover the band then fans of Chastain, Primal Fear, Warlock, and Vicious Rumors will find a kindred spirit in Crystal Viper.