Interview by Tarja Virmakari – Photos by Wojtek Gabriel
CRYSTAL VIPER is a Female Fronted Heavy Metal act from Poland, founded in 2003 and led by the singer, guitarist and composer Marta Gabriel. After doing 4 full length studio albums, bunch of singles and compilation releases, after touring in most of the European countries, showing up on many festival stages (incl. Bang Your Head, Keep It True, Sabaton Open Air – Rockstad Falun, Metal Magic Festival, Headbangers Open Air or Magic Circle Festival), and mainly because of the classic songwritingand impressive stage presence, Crystal Viper managed to establish their positionas one of the most hard working bands of the genre. Now, one and a half year after premiere of their last full length album “Crimen Excepta”, Crystal Viper strike back with “Possession”, their brand new concept effort, released on December 13th on AFM Records.
Only a couple of days ago, Tarja Virmakari had a pleasure to interview the CRYSTAL VIPER composer, guitarist and vocalist Marta Gabriel, read below what she told about their 5th album “Possession”…
Hi Marta, i’m Tarja. Welcome to Metal Shock Finland! Your new album, Possession, came out on December 13, via AFM Records, what are the feelings right now?
Marta: Hello Tarja! I’m extremely happy, our new album has just been released, and it’s an incredibly great feeling to keep in hand fifth Crystal Viper studio album!
Before we’ll go to the new album, lets talk about these last 10 years, as 2013 is also your 10th Anniversary year. What are the biggest highlights that you’ll consider as cornerstones of your carreer?
Marta: I think we will rather celebrate 10th anniversary of our first album than 10 years of the band – as the truth is at the beginning the band was more a project we had for fun. The real Crystal Viper was born in 2006 when the first line up recorded first album, which was released in 2007. The biggest highlights? I would say release of our first album was the most important one for me, as then everything started, I mean a real band. And the fact we still go on after so many years is a big highlight as well.
What is your source and inspiration which drives you to write music and lyrics?
Marta: It’s something different every single time. Once it’s a book or a movie, the other time my mood and imagination, sometimes stories that I hear. And when I got inspired by something, I start to think if it’s a good idea for the album or for a song, if yes, I start to work on it. But usually ideas for songs come out totally unexpected, for example it happen quite often that I walk down the street and sing and record new songs on my mobile phone.
When and how you personally got involved in music?
Marta: Me and music, it was like call of the wild, I think. I was 6 years old girl when I saw the symphonic orchestra concert in TV, and told my parents I want to be a musician. Then they sent me to a music school, and I totally fell in love with music. I can say music was always very important in life, if not to say music IS my life.
Please introduce us Crystal Viper – band members and their best qualities …
Marta: I’m the composer, guitarist and vocalist in Crystal Viper. Tomek Danczak “Golem” plays drums, Andy plays guitar and we have Michal Badocha on bass. It would be a very long list if I would start to mention all our favourite bands that influenced us, as we all listen to a lot of different music. We can start with classical music, all rock and metal genres, such as hard rock, black and death metal, heavy metal… I think it’s very important not to limit your music interests, because when you are a musician, you learn for all your live, you still discover new music, and you learn new things. The one thing for all Crystal Viper members is the same: we all totally love Metal!
I’ve been listening to Possession quite many times in these past days, and it seems to be a mix of traditional heavy metal, fast and melodic songs, with the strong flavors of darkness and epic riffs. But what else you would like to tell and how you’d describe the album to those who don’t know your music yet?
Marta: I would say it’s a female fronted heavy metal album, with melodic songs and strong metal riffs, with a good story behind the lyrics. Some people say it’s traditional metal, other people say it’s power metal or heavy metal, I also heard we have some doom and thrash metal elements in our music. The bottom line is: we are METAL band and so “Possession” is a metal album.
How does “Possession” differ to your last release “Crimen Excepta” which was released last year?
Marta: I think our previous album “Crimen Excepta” was much darker, it was concept album about inquisition, killing innocent people, witches and so on, so it had this dark and evil atmosphere. New album basically is about possession, at least everyone think so: the story has an unexpected twist, which leaves huge question mark at the end. “Possession” includes elements from all our previous albums: slow and epic songs, fast songs, catchy refrains, dark and evil elements, lot of guitar solos, lot of guitar harmonies, plus we added few new elements such as choirs or acoustic guitars. But it’s very hard to compare these two releases, as “Possesiom” is our fifth studio album, and each release is a little bit different. Every single release represents some influences, some energy and vibe from particular period of time. While composing songs for each of our albums, I was influenced by different bands, by different books or movies. But fear not – “Possesion” is still 100% Crystal Viper.
Please tell me about the concept-theme of Possession…
Marta: The concept told on “Possession” is a bit like a movie, but with no pictures, only music and lyrics, I had the whole concept in my head when I started working on the songs. I can’t tell you what exactly it’s all about, as it would be like telling you about ending of the movie you are going to watch. But I can assure you it has an unexpected twist, and I think it’s really cool story in general, very Metal, with many historical facts being thrown in, and few references to our previous album “Crimen Excepta” here and there!
On this album, there are some special guest appaerences, e.g. Harry Conklin and Sataniac from Desaster, please tell me more about these co-operations.
Marta: We wanted to invite Harry Conklin for a long, long time. He is absolutely amazing singer, we are his big fans, and we actually know each other, as we shared the stage few years ago in Greece, we met several times on various other festivals, and we keep in touch. On the new album he sings few verses as the exorcist. And Sataniac: he has amazing, very clean growling voice, and we are also friends with guys from Desaster. We had this vision to make the song “Julia Is Possessed” a bit more aggressive, so we asked Sataniac to help us out, and thankfully he agreed. We are very happy, it’s always very cool when we can have guests on our albums, it shows this unity between bands. We have this saying that we are Metal Nation, it’s true!
Still talking about the guests, one of the songs features more than 50 fans of yours, who were invited to “scream”… so, please tell me about this “scream” and how did you implement it technically?
Marta: We have really cool relationship with Crystal Viper fans, for example we have this Facebook group where all people can talk with us, ask us questions and so on. If there would be no fans, there would be no Crystal Viper and no other bands at all, no music without fans, right? So we decided to say “thank you” to those who support us, in this very special way. Now they can listen to the album, and say “hey, it’s me screaming there”!
You are also known for a tradition: recording cover songs of your favorite artists. The regular CD version includes the cover version of the RIOT classic “Thundersteel”. Why this choice?
Marta: When you will see all lyrics from the new album – with “Prophet Of The End” beeing the last song – and you know lyrics of “Thundersteel”, you will find out that “Thundersteel” can be taken as the song about something that got revealed in “Prophet Of The End”, or in more direct words – “Thundersteel” actually can be the thing described as “Prophet Of The End”! So actually this song fits the concept told on “Possession”, like it would be written for our album. I remember it was a long, long time ago when we came out with the idea of recording this song for the first time, but we were waiting for the right moment. When we finished pre-production of “Possession”, we knew it’s the best possible moment to record and add “Thundersteel” as the last song.
What can you tell me about the studio sessions?
Marta: In the recording studio everything usually goes smoothly, with no surprises. I mean we face most of the work while working on pre-production, because this is what the final sound of the album depends of. When we enter the studio, we know exactly what we have to do, everyone knows his job. Recording the album is a great thing, you spend whole days on recording your songs, and the feeling when the songs are ready is truly fantastic.
Now a personal question, the album was once again produced by your husband Bart Gabriel. How is it to work with a so close person in your private life, pros and cons?
Marta: There are no cons, and I think that I’m very lucky – I share one of the most important things in my life, which is music, with a person that I love, this is something beautiful. But even if we are a married couple, we are able to work on a very professional way, I mean we are able to draw the line between our private life and work. I can’t imagine someone else to produce our music, it wouldn’t be the same I think. We worked together on “Possession” from the very first stage, from the very first rough ideas, up to what you can be heard on the album, so I guess we can say Bart is integral part of how Crystal Viper sounds. Even if every single Crystal Viper album sounds a bit different, you will always recognize it’s us – of course it’s because all members of the band have own, recognizable style of playing, but also because he is making sure it’s still Crystal Viper. Of course it’s not like that, that he says “you can do this and this, and you can’t do this and that” – he gives us total freedom, and when he thinks something is wrong, we discuss it, and we try to find best possible solution together.
For Halloween you released the first track “Fight Evil With Evil” from this album for free download. How was the feedback and response from your fans?
Marta: It was a couple of weeks before release date of our album, and we wanted to do something nice for our fans, as we knew a lot of people were waiting to hear our new songs. As the Halloween is one of the favourite days in the year for most of the metalheads, we decided to release a free single that day – our fans are very, very important for us, they support us all the time, so this was a way to say “thank you” to them. And it looks like they liked this idea.
Just recently you released the first video from this album “Prophet Of The End”. You have stated that “This is probably the most unusual song I ever wrote, I sometimes think it’s even best song I ever composed.” Marta, this song is really one of my absolute favorites in this album, since the first time i heard it, it is stuck to my mind and i find myself humming it all day long so please tell me more about this song and how these tunes and lyrics saw the daylight?
Marta: Thank you very much for such a nice words, I’m really glad you like this song. Yeah, I really think it’s probably the best song I’ve ever written. But composing process was exactly the same as with the other songs: it started to “play” in my head, and I recorded it. But even back then I felt that this song will be important for me, I mean there are a lot of Crystal Viper songs that I really like, but this one has something special, maybe it’s the melody, the vibe, maybe important lyrics with a straight message. I’m very happy that we did a video for this one.
The album covers and the ideas behind them always interest me. Looking at Possession, the possessed girl is evident to the album concept. But what else you want to tell me about its creation?
Marta: The girl on the cover is Julia, main character of the story. You can know her better if you will follow the lyrics, and the whole story. I should also mention that almost every single song that landed on “Possession” is represented on the front cover artwork. When you will listen to the album carefully, and you will focus on lyrics and stories that are printed in the booklet, you will find many cool details. There is also small band’s inside joke there: the mascot on bed is actually Willie, our wolf – you could see him on “The Wolf And The Witch” single artwork, and on artworks of our two last albums, “Legends” and “Crimen Excepta”. We had no idea how to “locate” him on “Possession”, so here we go, he became a mascot!
And now that the album is out, what will happen? will we see you touring in Europe in the near future?
Marta: We hope to play in countries we never visited before, and we hope we will return to places we already know! To make long story short, we are ready to bring Heavy Metal to the world!
Marta, recently you started your own clothing brand “Thunderball Clothing”. I graduated, many years ago, as a fashion designer, so it would be interesting to hear more about this passion of yours…
Marta: I started from making stage clothes for myself and for my band mates. Then more and more people started to ask me for doing something for them, and here we go: I already did clothes for members of bands such as Sabaton, Vader, Wizard, Steel Horse, and of course Crystal Viper, and I launched Thunderball Clothing for good. For me, personally, it’s next way to do something creative and unusual, next possibility of making art.
Marta, You are also a respected session musician: you have joined on stage with such legendary acts as VADER, MANILLA ROAD, TYTAN and JACK STARR’S BURNING STARR, just to mention a few of them. What are the nicest memories of these collaborations? and what is the dream-band with whom you would like to sing/play one day?
Marta: It’s always something great for me to be invited as a guest on someone’s record or live show, and it’s even better, when I have possibility to do something together with musicians that I respect, or who influenced me. But one of the best experiences for me is becoming a live guitarist for Jack Starr’s Burning Starr: we played together at the Keep It True festival, it was a fantastic experience! They are an amazing people, and extremely talented musicians, I learnt a lot from them. Jack is a brilliant guitarist, there aren’t many musicians with such a great feeling, when you look at him while playing, you can see he truly loves it, that his guitar is his whole world. It looks like I became live guitarist for Jack Starr’s Burning Starr for good, as you will see us playing live together in 2014 again, I can’t wait! To answer the second part of your question, I don’t really dream about working with one specific person, as working with other people always gives me a lot of joy, and almost every time I can learn something new.
Talking about the 2014 what are your plans? next album or something else?
Marta: There is always something to do, musically. There are a lot of various ideas that I would like to bring to life this year, but it’s too early to say something more.
The Xmas is just behind us, what was the greatest gift Santa Claus brought to you?
Marta: I think that this whole christmas fever, presents and so on is not really for me… But I managed to get few days for myself, so it was quite cool!
And now the last quesion Marta. What are your greetings to your fans and to Metal Shock Finland readers?
Marta: I wish you all the best, never stop playing the music, let it be with you all the time!
Thank-you ever so much, Marta, for this interview! hope you have a great New Year’s Eve, and ofc I hope to see Crystal Viper on stage soon!
Marta: Thank you for supporting Crystal Viper! Metal greetings to all the maniacs! Remember about supporting your favourite bands, keep on buying original albums, keep on going to live shows – the future of Metal is in your hands! Horns up!
More information on Crystal Viper HERE.