Crystal Viper - Tales of Fire and Ice

Crystal Viper Tales of Fire and Ice cover
Crystal Viper
Tales of Fire and Ice
AFM Records
I’ve always considered Crystal Viper to be a decent but not overtly exciting trad metal band that neither annoyed or excited me; I would even go as far as to say, I found them rather likable. Somehow however this latest offering from them (there must be at least more than a dozen albums preceding this) feels a lot more glossed over… in a multitude of ways.
Firstly the cover was changed from a painting to a glossed over stylized and rather gothic picture of front-woman Marta Gabriel, who is also along with the rest of the band heavily stylized in the photos. Along with that the overall style feels a lot, I wouldn’t say exactly lighter, but the production more often than not, glosses the sound, taming them down, into something that feels comparable to what Battle Beast sounds like these days…
Thankfully it doesn’t entirely neuter the music, but it does steal some of its thunder away. Another negative aspect is Gabriel’s limited vibrato. She is rather unorthodox in her way of singing when she tries to be melodic thus resulting in an almost unintelligible enunciation of words.
“Crystal Sphere” is even more melodic, but has Mrs. Gabriel reaching for a screeching scream, just to wake up those that might have fallen into a glucose coma. The solo is also not too bad.
Bright Lights” is a more rockin’ tune, which breaks away from ultra-melodic zone into something slightly more representative of the band and fits Gabriel’s voice much better.
“Neverending Fire” gave me Heaven’s Gate flashbacks… but it’s a far tamer mid-tempo tune, that’s far from bad, but not entirely scorching either.
A soft “Interlude” and the ensuing “Under Ice” seem to steer things in the right direction, but the power metal here, is rather superficial and weak.
“One Question” is not the apocalypse, but at least it’s closer to what the band was known for. With barraging locomotive drums and screams a plenty, it’s closer to the Crystal Viper, you might know and love.
“Tomorrow Never Comes (Dyaltov Pass)” follows suit, but is a little more sophisticated overall. But it’s certainly something I could get behind.
“Tears of Arizona” is a super tame ballad, which feels like it was dropped in from a totally different album. You might even have a hard time understanding it’s the band… as MG only grits away a little towards its conclusion and her softer voice lacks the volume and power that characterizes most of the material. Very mediocre and completely out of place.
The CD features a bonus in the form of Dokken’s “Dream Warriors”, while the vinyl once of I-Ten’s “Alone” (popularized by Heart).
Well not bad, by any means, but I imagine destined to keep the band’s fans content, although some of them might not see the band’s experimentation with mellower forms as welcome.