|Release Date||22 November 2019|
Crystal Viper is one of the few bands that I think have never released an album that was less than great. From The Curse of the Crystal Viper to Queen of the Witches, all they’ve ever given is the best that classic metal has to offer, from more occult heavy metal to the regular, driving stuff. It’s been a non-stop onslaught of destructive riffs and traditional excellence with one of the best women in metal, Marta Gabriel, at its center.
Or, well, it was, anyway. Unfortunately, and much to my disappointment, Tales of Fire and Ice breaks this chain of greatness in an uninspired, commercial mess. Sure, it’s easy to understand why a band would want to try to replicate the recent success of bands like Battle Beast, who have also made this stylistic shift, but the trick to that is retaining what makes your music good while exchanging other elements to make your music more accessible, both of which Crystal Viper have failed miserably at.
Also, what’s not so easy to understand is the fact that, even though Crystal Viper have proven themselves to be one of the best classic metal bands in the business, they would want to abandon this and almost entirely change their sound. It’s not like it could never work, but I’m not so sure that they’re self aware enough to know what made them so fucking great in the first place. Where did the sick riffs go? Where’s the heaviness? Not here, that’s for damn sure.
So, what exactly am I bitching about, anyway? How is their style so underwhelming and different? Well, let’s start with the obvious; there’s no oomph anymore. That’s the root of the problem, really. Crystal Viper used to be in-your-face and shameless, but Tales of Fire and Ice lacks any sort of attitude. It’s no secret that Marta is a total badass, because she’s been showing it for the past fifteen years. However, she’s all but abandoned the aggression and authority that made her voice so iconic, and the rest of the band has followed suit. Aside from this, the songwriting has gone downhill, the melodies are substantially weaker, and (but this is actually a plus-side) the production quality is cleaner.
The closest Tales of Fire and Ice gets to having actual Crystal Viper songs are ‘Still Alive’ and ‘Bright Lights’. The former begins with a promising, thumping drive, but ultimately falls short due to its simplicity. On the flip side, ‘Bright Lights’ is actually awesome from beginning to end. It proves that the band is more than capable of recovering from this hiccup of an album. Most of the solos are still really good, too, so there’s that.
Between the piss-poor ballad ‘Tears of Arizona’ and the blatant monotony of Tales of Fire and Ice, you really won’t be missing much if you leave this one by the wayside. If you’re a hardcore Crystal Viper fan like me, I’d still check it out, otherwise, November has dropped so much excellence that you shouldn’t feel bad for skipping it.
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