Crystal Viper – The Cult Review

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little afraid of picking up the new Crystal Viper. Having never let me down, the band’s 2019 release, Tales of Fire and Ice, was truly disappointing. In fact, it’s so disappointing, that after three-to-four spins, I erased it from my computer and threw out the review I was writing. Sadly, its only mention was as a 2019 Disappointment o’ the Year. So, yeah, I was a little worried. My frustrations were the slower approach and, what sounded like, Gabriel trying her hand at the ballady Slayes styles of Unleash the Archers. Do I have any less respect for the woman? Hell no. I have more respect for her than most of you do for your own mother. She’s a guitar-totting siren that would probably kick my ass if she found out what I said about her and her band in 2019. But, I still can’t bring myself to listen to Tales of Fire and Ice again. Yet, it’s this respect for Crystal Viper that made me suck it up and grab The Cult. I couldn’t write it off just because I’m a grump.1

The most encouraging part of The Cult is that Moon Chamber isn’t releasing an album in the same year. In Moon Chamber, Gabriel lets her clean voice ring out, surrounded by calm, melodic metal structures. But, that’s wrong for Crystal Viper. Here, she releases her Doroness and devours tasty riffs living and breathing in the ’80s. From bands like Dio and Maiden to Warlock and Running Wild, Crystal Viper is all bangs and hair spray. And, maybe that was the problem with Tales of Fire and Ice. Maybe writing and recording a Moon Chamber album at the same time was the issue. Regardless, The Cult is here to help redeem the band. Gabriel’s gruff is back, the songwriting has more pop and passion, and the choruses are meant for festival audiences.

After a short instrumental, the title track jumps down your throat like a fucking face hugger. Its ballsy, galloping riffage charges along with a renewed determination. Like other moments here, the chorus is catchier than Covid, and it has an energy you pray will continue to the album’s end. The opener showcases some fun, old-school riffs with both guitars charging along in classic duo fashion. For more guitar pairing and even some solo dueling, check out “Down in the Crypt” and the sinister closer, “Lost in the Dark.” The Cult also contains some addictive stylings that include the Dio march of “The Calling,” the Dream Evil power of “Asenath Waite,” and the Iron Maiden/Blind Guardian mashup in “Forgotten Land.” And there’re no ballads this time. Crystal Viper is hellbent on the fast and the fun.

For the last couple of albums, the vocals seem to be all I hear. So, it’s great to hear some top-notch riffs coming out of The Cult. That said, Gabriel works effortlessly to blend the things I dislike with the ones I do like—in a positive way. For example, though she may sing from Abyss to Apex on “Down in the Crypt,” that Slayesishness isn’t on the whole album. Gabriel also retains that gruffness that hasn’t been as strong on the last couple of releases—the strongest appearing in the closer. Along with the Slayesisms and gruff-badassery, Gabriel, et al. deliver soaring Maideny ooo’s and awww’s on the back-half of “Flaring Madness,” and punch out the album’s most addictive chorus on “Sleeping Giants.” Vocally, Gabriel combines her past with the present to produce something exciting and memorable.

Once again, Crystal Viper awards us with one of two bonus tracks. Which one you get depends on the format you buy. This time around, you’ll have a choice of Satan‘s “Trial by Fire” or King Diamond‘s “Welcome Home.”2 I was lucky enough to get both. And if you wanna hear the true variations of Gabriel’s voice, you gotta check out “Welcome Home.” To top the whole thing off, The Cult has the best dynamics of the year (so far and probably for the rest of it). It’s important to note that while I wouldn’t call this new album “safe,” it’s more accessible. And, that’s not a bad thing. Initially, I wasn’t convinced, but after a couple of spins, I noticed the details. In the end, though, it’s fun, full of energy, and packed to the gills with riffs straight outta last century.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 10 | Format Reviewed: 320 kb/s mp3
Label: Listenable Records
Websites: crystalviper.com | facebook.com/crystalviper
Releases Worldwide: February 12th, 2021

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Don’t sell yourself short. You’re a super-mega-grump. – Steel
  2. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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