Crystal Viper are a Polish outfit that has decided to use the historical relationships between torture, Jesuits and witches in early seventeenth century Germany as the basis for the concept of their fourth album, 'Crimen Excepta' (lit. trans: the crime of being taken out).
To add tension to the piece, the band have thrown in numerous inter track sound bites of screaming women, tormented babies, clanking doors and various otherworldly dark mutterings. It's a challenging subject; one that lends itself to Heavy Metal interpretation but for the unwary it is loaded with minefields of clichÃ©.
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Front woman Marta Gabriel has been quoted as saying this album will be different from previous platters. It is certainly heavier and the band have made an awkward attempt to add a bit of melodic variation but the mix sounds like it would have preferred it not to have bothered.
'Crimen Excepta', despite the lady's ambiguous statements to the contrary, is a good old fashioned traditional Heavy Metal album that would not disgrace the outer bailey of Doro's fortress.
Despite the album not completely avoiding all the clichÃ© traps it still has plenty of things going for it. 'The Spell Of Death', 'Witches Mark', the title track and 'It's Your Omen' clatter along merrily. 'Medicus Animarum' has a gratifying Metal chug and 'Ghosts Of Sherwood' (from the Robin Hood: Ghosts Of Sherwood motion picture soundtrack no less) comes the closest to being the album's killer track, building quite impressively into a dramatically melodic Metal fest from the standing start of comparatively restrained harmony guitars. Unfortunately though, the good bits do not come as often as they should.
With 'Crimen Excepta', Crystal Viper have had a damn good go at trying something that takes them a little out of their comfort zone. There are moments on here that suggest that with a little more thought and less ham fisted bravado the band could have done a lot better.
Had they stuck to what they know best and concentrated on perfecting their Metal barrage then they might have been snapping at Doro's tail instead of eating her dust. The fact is, 'Crimen Excepta' is good but not good enough.
It will easily satisfy the demands of most Metal heads but only for the lack of something better. The band not having played to its strengths has damned 'Crimen Excepta' as a gravis Metal silentium.