You can't include Crystal Viper in the mainstream metal bands, you can't even say that this Polish band is well known in the true metal circles, but that doesn't mean a thing. Crystal Viper's heavy metal music is well-crafted, inspired and imaginative, no one can doubt the band's musical quality and amazing musicianship. “Queen of the Witches” was a fantastic metal album and should not be missed by any classic metal fan! Marta Gabriel, vocalist and frontwoman of the band, and the rest of the guys visited again Athens, Greece, since they would participate in the Up The Hammers Festival 2018. A day after their live performance, Myth of Rock was honored to meet Marta and have a talk with her. What was discussed was very interesting – after all, any interview with Crystal Viper, a band which was formed in 2003 and has released six great traditional metal albums, until now, is an overwhelming experience. So let's cut to the chase and see what Marta answered to Dimitris Zacharopoulos questions!
Crystal Viper began as a project. How did you decide to make it a full band, Marta?
Yes, it all started in 2003 and I can say that Crystal Viper turned to a full band in 2007, when the band was complete, when I met the right people, the people I became friends with, the people with the same passion for heavy metal, for music. Finally, we were able to prepare our first album, to record it and so on. I think that the real beginning of the band was in 2007, after we did the first album together. Before that Crystal Viper was a project, since I just recorded some cover songs with different people, so in the first four years I tried to find the right people with whom I would be able to create the heavy metal band of my dreams.
Would you say that the current line-up of Crystal Viper is the best line-up until now?
Well, the current line-up of the band changed two years ago … Crystal Viper was on a break, we didn’ t rehearse, we didn’ t play or record anything for four years, because I had some health issues and I couldn’t do all that. After the break, our recording bass player told us that he wouldn’t play music any longer, that he would end up everything. We asked him if he maybe knew someone that he could recommend, someone who could take his place. He said that his best friend, Błażej (Grygiel), plays the bass. We met with Błażej and he is right now with us in the band. We also have a new, second guitarist in the band, because I am not playing the guitar in Crystal Viper any longer. Yesterday it was my last live show with a guitar in my hands – I want to have more freedom on stage, to run, to jump ... So we have a new member in the band, Erik (Juris), and I think that the line-up is perfect right now! The important thing is that we aren’ t just a bunch of musicians who play together, we are also very good friends. You can always ask for help from someone from the band, if you need it. We spend a lot of time together, not only while touring. I confirm that this is the best line-up!
How would you define Crystal Viper’s music? Is it true metal, is it traditional metal, is it just metal?
People usually say it is classic heavy metal. It is surely classic heavy metal … I personally listen to different genres, not only metal genres, but all genres of music in general. When I create music, I get inspired by many, many things. But in general, yes, I can say it is heavy metal.
You are from Poland. Is it difficult for a Polish musician to have a heavy metal career?
It is very difficult in Poland. Here we have a very strong death and black metal scene, we have Vader and Behemoth, I am sure you know them, they are great bands! So when I created Crystal Viper, it was a bit weird for people in Poland to see a classic heavy metal band on stage, a metal band being so melodic. But we were lucky enough, because we had the opportunity to play our music behind the border, to have our albums released by a record company from Germany, we have a very very good manager who helps us arrange everything. We still don’t play a lot in Poland, we play mostly in countries like Germany, Spain, Greece etc. This year we have scheduled two live shows in Poland, we are looking forward to it.
In 2017 you released your sixth album, “Queen of the Witches”. How do you see now this album?
To be honest with you, I love it. This album has a lot of positive energy, coming from all of the members of the band. As I mentioned before, we had a three-year break, so for us this album was like a comeback album. We began working the album in the studio, we were so enthusiastic, we were so happy that we were able to play music again, to spend time together, to tour together and so on. Musically to me, “Queen of the Witches” it isn’t so much different from the previous albums, it is still Crystal Viper, it is the music I listen to, the music I would like to listen to. However, as far as the feelings are concerned, this latest album is a little bit different. It is the most important album for us.
During this break, was there any moment that you thought that Crystal Viper is over and won’t play again?
Well, I had some thoughts, because I didn’t know if I would be able to sing again, you know, I was thinking that I could focus on the guitar and try to find another vocalist, but people were saying that my voice is so much recognizable and that they couldn’t imagine how Crystal Viper would sound with another singer. Yes, I was thinking of ending Crystal Viper, but not stop playing music, since I play the piano, the guitar, the bass guitar. There are many things I could do musically, not only singing and so on. Thankfully I am able to sing and play again!
You are going to release a new EP the following days in June.
In the beginning, we were planning to release it as a seven inch single, which would include only two songs, the title song, “At the Edge of Time” and the polish version (“Zwiastun Burzy”), as the b side. We found out though, that we had more music material to put on this release, so we switched to the ten inch. In this EP you can find, apart from the two versions of the title track, another new song, called “When Are You”. These new songs are inspired lyrically by Michael Moorcock’s works, “Stormbringer” and “Eternal Warrior” – the cover artist (the one and only Andreas Marschall) is also inspired by Moorcock.
We see you holding the Black Sword in the EP’s cover!
Yes, yes! … You can also find a new version of our song, “When the Sun Goes Does”, we call it the Giallo version, because of the keyboards I recorded for this song, they are in the style of old horror movies …
….Italian horror movies!
Yes, I recorded only a few keyboard parts, but the song sounds now completely different!! It is a cool version, that’s why we decided to put it in this release. Finally, we recorded a Quartz cover for this EP, “Tell Me Why”.
How do you select the songs you are going to cover?
Trust me, it is never easy to choose the cover song! I mean, which one?! The list is very, very long! When we are picking a song to cover, it is a cool thing, because we are fans of music, we are fans of metal, and we are also musicians, so we are able to play our favorite songs, not only listen to them! There are so many great songs that we would like to play live, not only to record them, it is a lot of fun for us, you know, not to sing them only under the shower! It is also a way of showing to our fans which our roots are, musically, to show our fans which is the connection of Crystal Viper music with other bands. It is a tribute to musicians that we respect, that we love. We will keep on doing that in the future – the only problem will be which song we will choose as our next cover (laughs)!
One of the things I admire in Crystal Viper is your way of singing. Which are your vocal influences?
There are many, many great vocalists I am influenced by. I love Tony Martin, David DeFeis from Virgin Steele, Rob Halford, Doro, Leather Leone …
What’s your opinion about the female fronted symphonic/gothic metal bands? Have you ever thought of introducing some symphonic/gothic metal elements to Crystal Viper?
Maybe not in Crystal Viper, because I would like to keep Crystal Viper as a classic metal band. But personally, I listen to several genres of music and from the genre you just mentioned I like Delain, Within Temptation … There are some things I like in this genre and not only in this genre, in gothic rock/metal. I also listen to death metal, black metal, I also like some pop music, there are so many things, classical music, thrash metal …
Any possibility to add some pop elements to your sound? For example like Battle Beast, who are very popular nowadays?
No, no in Crystal Viper, I don’t think so (laughs) … Crystal Viper is inspired by classic metal bands. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying something bad, Battle Beast is a great band, I am a huge fan of Noora’s vocals, her voice is amazing, their music is very powerful and they kick ass on stage, however, Crystal Viper is Crystal Viper. If we bring pop elements to our music, we wouldn’t be as heavy as we want to be. It isn’t something we would like to do. Also, our fans would be kind of disappointed. I wouldn’t have a problem to do some of this stuff with another band in the future, a band which would play something completely different from Crystal Viper.
As we said before, you used to sing and play the guitar in Crystal Viper. How is it to combine singing with playing the guitar?
In the very beginning, it was kind of challenging … we had a problem some years ago, in finding another one guitarist for Crystal Viper. And you know, heavy metal with only one guitar, hmmm … I was already learning to play the guitar, since I was composing the music … One day at the studio I brought my guitar and tried to play, to see how it sounds. The guys in the band saw me playing the guitar for the first time and said to me: “OK, we already have a second guitarist, we don’t have to look for another guy!”. For me, in the beginning, it was challenging, because I was only singing or only playing the guitar during the composing process. So, I had to learn to do both things the same time, but I rehearsed a lot, I learned it and by now it comes out naturally, I go on stage, I sing and play, I don’t think about it, I just focus on what I have to do.
Marta, are you the main composer of Crystal Viper?
And lyrics writer?
Your lyrics have fantasy and horror themes. Why is that?
Well, life sometimes is gray and sad, you know, politics, war, religion, all this kind of bullshit is around us, it surrounds us, I want to get away with music from all that stuff. Writing music and concept albums based on fantasy themes is like making a movie, like writing a book, you do something that can take you away from all these things that aren’t so much pleasant. You can get away with music to a totally different place.
In your latest album, “Queen of the Witches” you have some famous guests: Ross The Boss, Mantas and Saracen’s Steve Bettney. How did it come and you collaborated with these well-known musicians?
For us, inviting a special guest to our albums is like … it is the same situation with cover songs: we want to pay a tribute to our favorite artists and to show people where we are musically, where our musical roots come from, what kind of music we like and so on. And of course, for us it is something totally fantastic, to be able to work with all these fantastic musicians! Steve Bettney is one of my favorite vocalists, Ross The Boss … well, I don’t have to mention anything!!! … And Mantas! …Well, they are great! It is a huge honor for us that they agreed to take their part in our songs.
At the production helm, you have Bart Gabriel. How much important is it to have Bart with you?
Actually, it is the best thing that happened to Crystal Viper, because in personal life, Bart is my husband. So, we know each other very, very well, we like the same kind of music. He knows me, not only as a person, but also as an artist, he knows the band very, very well, he knows our music. Working with such a person in the studio, with a person who is also your life partner, is a perfect combination. There is a fantastic understanding in the studio. Apart from that, he is a great producer who doesn’t want to change the sound of the band, he doesn’t say “You have to sound like this …”. He only wants us to sound like Crystal Viper.
Let’s talk about decision-making in Crystal Viper. Are you the one who makes the decision or do you discuss things with the other guys?
When you play in a band, it is not like that you are the only person who decides about everything. You have to co-operate with different people. You have to co-operate with the guys from the record label, when you play live, you have to co-operate with the sound engineers. There isn’t only one person who says to the others what to do. There is a huge team of persons who co-operate and want the best thing for the band.
Your record label is the German AFM Records. Are you satisfied with the guys?
Yes, of course! And I hope that we will co-operate for many more years in the future!
Yesterday you played in front of the Greek audience. How was it?
It was fantastic as usual! A few years ago we played in the Up The Hammers Festival and played some other shows here in Greece. It is always, always great to be back to Greece, because you guys are so enthusiastic. It is fantastic to share your energy with all these metal maniacs in front of the stage. Greek fans are so supportive of heavy metal, it is beautiful.
Any similarities or differences between Polish and Greek fans?
There are more heavy metal fans in Greece in Poland … but in general, in all places, heavy metal fans try to enjoy the live show as much as they can. Yesterday it was amazing, I felt all this energy coming from the people!
Future plans? Apart from the upcoming EP!
Very soon, in the summer we will release a new video clip. And I will also be recording the album of my other band, Moonchamber, it is the band I created with Rob Bendelow from Saracen. We have some plans to play some more live shows with Crystal Viper, to promote our new EP and to start working on our next album.
Finally, your message to the Greek fans!
Stay as great as you are! Go to live shows, support your favorite bands, buy CDs and stay metal!