CRYSTAL VIPER is proof that Poland has more to offer the world of heavy metal than just first class death metal. "Metal Nation" is one hell of a power metal album! With a giant set of balls and sing-along anthems to die for, the album is one of 2009's best kept secrets. But hopefully not for long.Formed by husband and wife team Marta Gabriel (vocals) and Bart Gabriel (producer/music journalist), CRYSTAL VIPER begins with a lilting keyboard intro called "Breaking the Curse" and comes crashing through the gates with the title track, the first of many fist-pumping fire breathers. Also one of many tracks where the HELLOWEEN influence takes center stage, the title track drives like a semi truck through a Denny's and brings with it a chorus that immediately rings the nostalgia bell and gets the adrenaline pumping. It is a sentiment that can be stated about so many of these songs, thanks to the meaty riffs and hot leads of Andy Wave and a fantastic vocal performance from Marta that hits like a mix of Doro, Geddy Lee (RUSH), and Veronica Freeman (BENEDICTUM). Marta's work throughout the disc shines and should place her right near the top of the world's best trad-metal vocalists (translation: the woman is on fire!). The blend of IRON MAIDEN twin leads and the aforementioned HELLOWEEN speed romps will get your attention every time, but it is the choruses that will really grab you by the throat, "Bringer of the Light" and "The Anvil of Hate", along with the title track, some of the best examples. CRYSTAL VIPER is not without a few tricks up its sleeve either. The beautiful keyboards and soaring vocals of power ballad "Her Crimson Tears", on which Marta shows her versatility, is a stunner, while the operatic singing toward the end of a triumphant mid-tempo march called "Legions of Truth" lend depth to an already well-written album. This is a group that takes its songwriting seriously. Finally, the band couldn't have picked a better cut in AGENT STEEL's power-driving "Agents of Steel" to close the proceedings. You'll need several minutes just to catch your breath after the final notes fade out before the desire to do it all over again takes hold. The guest contributions from Manni Schmidt (GRAVE DIGGER), Frank Knight (X-WILD), and Lars Ramcke (STORMWARRIOR), and a mixing job from Andy La Rocque (KING DIAMOND) form the icing on this sinfully delicious cake. The short of it is that "Metal Nation" is one of the year's best power metal albums, if not the best.
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