CRYSTAL VIPER – Recently, the forever Rockin’ HARD ROCK NIGHTS and Metal Odyssey teamed up for an exclusive interview with Marta Gabriel of Crystal Viper. Besides being the lead vocalist, Marta also is a guitarist, songwriter and lyricist for Crystal Viper, to name a few. Her knowledge of music and of course, Metal, is exemplary and radiates the skies from Crystal Viper’s recent release on AFM Records: Crimen Excepta.
Originating from the great country of Poland, Crystal Viper was founded in 2003 and plays Traditional Metal with potent relevance. After the success of 2010′s critically acclaimed Legends album (their first with AFM Records), Crystal Viper has become an international player in the world of Metal. Marta is surrounded by: Andy Wave (guitars), Tom Woryna (bass) and Golem (drums).
Marta talks about the band’s dynamic new album Crimen Excepta and songwriting to the worst moments her band has experienced on tour. Here is what Marta had to say:
Can you describe how the new album “Crimen Excepta” conceptually evolved?
Marta: “Before I started composing music, I wrote a story; a lyrical theme for the album. I was inspired by history, especially holy inquisition issues, and books such as “Malleus Maleficarum”, “The Name Of The Rose”, and others. After that I started composing the actual music, and that’s really why the whole album is so different in comparison to the previous ones we’ve put out; it’s darker, heavier; there’s more real feeling in the music. It all happened, because I had the whole story in front of my eyes whilst writing the actual songs; I was able to imagine situations described in the lyrics? I would say that this album is like a movie, but instead of pictures, it is told by music.”
What has been the turning point or momentum push thus far in the Metal career of Crystal Viper? Was it the (excellent) “Legends” album or something prior?
Marta: “Thank you first of all for the compliment; I’m glad you like “Legends”! I can say you’re right in some way, and that was a turning point, because “Legends” was our first album for AFM Records. It was a huge step for us, joining a bigger label.”
“Being part of good record company means better promotion for any band, which is very important, because, except for playing live, there are then so many more opportunities for new fans to discover your band. Joining AFM was, without doubt, a huge and important step, but I would say also, that every single live show, and every single album or single release is important too, as we truly enjoy what we do.”
I find “Ghosts Of Sherwood” to be an amazingly powerful song, both lyrically and musically. With “Ghosts Of Sherwood being the theme song for the 3D horror movie “Robin Hood”, how did this all come to pass?
Marta: “Well, we’d known the German company called Digidreams Studios, which is doing this movie, for quite a while; just through the scene and through video production. It turned out that Crystal Viper’s image and music for this record was going to fit perfectly to the atmosphere of the movie, so we started cooperating and it went from there.”
“I received the screenplay, wrote the song and the lyrics, and we were off. It’s worth mentioning that this song is quite different to the usual Crystal Viper stuff; it’s heavy but really melodic. I’m very, very glad that I composed a song for a movie; the film stars the great Tom Savini, and “Robin Hood: Ghosts Of Sherwood” (to give it it’s full title) will have its premiere during the Cannes movie festival, which is really a huge honour.”
What was the chemistry like between you and Andy writing the guitar parts for this new album? For that matter, the chemistry of the entire band while recording?
Marta: “Well, the chemistry was as good as always really; I wrote all the guitar parts and all the initial music, then we were all working on it, all together. I mean, the band, our producer, everyone gets involved.”
“We produced this album in a little bit of a different way though; everything was produced like in the ’80s; you know, Flying V guitars, tube amps, and real drums all the way, no copying or corrections? Everything you hear on the album was sung or played truly. I’m very proud of the final result, and I can’t wait to hear these songs on the vinyl release!”
“Crimen Excepta” shows an enormous musical strength through its balance. How difficult is it to not stray too far on either the heavy or the light side of the Metal sound?
Marta: “Again, thank you for the compliment. But we never plan or think like that really… To say, “All right; this needs to be heavier” or something like that would be fake in some way. A good song is a good song; everything is very natural and real. What you hear on the album comes out from our hearts and soul. We play the music that we love and I compose music I would like to listen to, all the time…… We don’t want to record the same album again and again; that’s why each Crystal Viper album is a little bit different. “Crimen Excepta” is definitely the heaviest and darkest, but they’re all very different.”
Which song on “Crimen Excepta” proved to be the largest challenge for you to sing? I feel “Medicus Animarum” is a shining moment (among many), but this song certainly must push the envelope for vocal execution?
Marta: “There are many songs that are less and many more difficult than that on this album, but before entering the studio, I had a lot of time to practice, for sure – we rehearsed everything a million times. We basically always do a strong pre-production before entering the studio, so we know what to expect; what sounds good and so on.”
“We don’t like to waste time in the studio. Everything that you hear on the album was sung; we didn’t use any tricks or corrections! It wouldn’t have made sense to do that, as later, I wouldn’t be able to sing moments like that live on stage.”
“There are many bands that sound totally different on the album to on stage, or bands who re-arrange the songs to make them easier to play or sing? Of course, if they are happy with doing something like that, then fine; but it’s not our way.”
Chris Moyen created an absolutely brilliant cover for “Crimen Excepta”. How important is it to convey the music of Crystal Viper through the album artwork?
Marta: “Very… Chris Moyen did a great cover for us again – but, he’d already painted cover artwork for our second single and 3rd album, and so, now with “Crimen Excepta”, he is like part of the family. Of course, it is very important to have the right album artwork, and I would say it’s important in the case of every single band and album? The front cover artwork is like the face of the album, telling you what you can expect, so it should be chosen or painted wisely. In the case of “Crimen Excepta”, everything is one, solid piece: album artwork, lyrics and music!”
What can you attribute to the strong success of Traditional Heavy Metal in Europe over the years? Besides a dedicated and large fan base, could it be the variety of Metal festivals and ease of touring within Europe?
Marta: “The strong success of Traditional Heavy Metal, you mean? I wouldn’t say so, as some Metal genres are surely more popular these days than it; but the truth is, Heavy Metal has been here for many, many years; trends come and go, but Traditional Metal stays. I think this genre simply deserves that respect – even bands, who play more modern genres of Metal, have their roots in Heavy Metal. Old-School Heavy Metal, as well as classic rock, is a base for all genres of heavy music.”
“There’s also lately a kind of New Wave Of Traditional Heavy Metal going around; young bands playing Old School Metal, and it’s really, really great.”
Okay, what is the worst thing that ever happened to Crystal Viper while out on tour?
Marta: “Well, there are many stories to tell, and every band has some stories to share, don’t they? The one that comes to my mind, right now, sounds quite funny now, but back then it wasn’t.”
“We were playing on a small open air festival (doesn’t matter in what country…); the stage had no roof, and it started to rain. We basically had a lot of special effects on stage (guitar peddles, that kind of thing…), and as the stage got wetter, there were sparks everywhere; the stage was soaked. My guitar amp suddenly exploded because it got all wet! The roadies brought another one on, but it also exploded! It was truly a weird show, but we did our best!”
“We also once played on an open air festival in winter; it was like -10 degrees, and the organizers “forgot” to put heaters on stage? And forgot to organize any dressing room for us, as well? Pretty interesting experience, I can tell you!”
If Crystal Viper could perform at a “Metal Dream Festival”, which other bands (past or present) would be on the bill?
Marta: “There are many great acts we would love to play with, but if I could choose, then the bill would be like this: King Diamond, Nifelheim, Hell, Immortal, Black Sabbath, Candlemass, Iron Maiden, Virgin Steele, Judas Priest, the list goes on!”
“Thanks for the interview!!”
Thank you Marta for giving your time!
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LONG LIVE MARTA GABRIEL.
LONG LIVE CRYSTAL VIPER.