Crystal Viper - Marta Gabriel

Near the end of 2013 CRYSTAL VIPER released the awesome "Possession" telling the story of Julia who had an unpleasant encounter with an evil spirit... Anyway, METAL KAOZ grabbed the chance and submitted the following set of questions to the band's mastermind Marta Gabriel who gave more info about the making of the album, the band's touring plans and many more... This is a great way to start the 2014 'Interviews' season.

Happy New Year, Marta and welcome to METAL KAOZ! Allow me to congratulate you on the “Possession” release.
Happy New Year Dimitris, thank you for doing this interview!

What is the feedback you are getting so far from the fans and the media about the new album?
I would say it’s the same like with all previous albums: some people like it, some people hate it and some people don't care at all. We have seen few very ecstatic reviews and few average ones, but most important for us is the feedback from our fans, and they seem to like “Possession” very much. We didn't wimp out; we did just another CRYSTAL VIPER album and it's good to see people still like it.

Expanding the previous question, how much do you care about the reaction from the media, especially nowadays when everyone is trying to put out an album review without spending enough time listening to it?
Yeah, I can understand someone who doesn't like our albums or our music in general and it's totally OK; it's impossible to record an album that will satisfy everyone. And the truth is we never recorded albums to earn good reviews: we record music we feel, we love and which we would like to listen as fans and as long as people will want to listen to what we do, we will keep on doing that. Each time we release a new album, we get amazing feedback from our fans. This is what is most important for us. Yes, sometimes it's sad to see people write something about our album, when it's clear they didn't listen to it for even 2 minutes: you have 10-15 sentences in the review, and not even a word about the music. And sometimes it's also funny, like for example when someone states the album sounds bad on his laptop or phone speakers, or that he hates it because he doesn't like female vocals. So, do I care? Well, it's nice to read positive reviews, sure, but I won't stop recording and making music only because someone doesn't like it or didn't want to listen to it.

Let’s talk about the album itself; when did you decide to work on a concept album?
Actually I knew it will be concept album from the very beginning; it was similar like with our previous album “Crimen Excepta”. I had the story in my head and then I started to write music around it.

How did the story affect the song-writing process? I mean, did you try to write songs to match the story or was it the other way around?
Oh yes, of course! The story had to match the music, it would make no sense to do, I don't know - happy sounding melodic song about killing, or something similar. I always try to make sure that music is a good illustration to the lyrics, and to the story which is told.

Who had the idea to get the fans involved by adding their “screams” in the album? How did you implement this and for what song(s)?
I'm not exactly sure who came out with an idea to invite our fans to be guests on our album, but I know we discussed it during one of our band meetings and everyone liked this idea. As I wrote at the beginning, fans are very important for us; if there would be no fans, there would be no CRYSTAL VIPER, no Metal and no music at all I guess. Fans are the most important part of the scene - if there would be no fans, there would be no bands. Each time when we do a new album, we get great feedback from fans, so we decided to thank them in this special way and we invited them to record their screams which we later used in the final mix of the album. I think it's something really cool, we listed them all in the album booklet; all the guys and gals who sent in their screams are listed as special guests on our album.

How long did it take you to write and record the music for “Possession”?
Hard to say exactly as I basically write all the time. I have tons of songs which are ready to be recorded; for previous album I wrote something like 70 songs, for this one around 50. Very often I mix the ideas, like I take one riff from this song, chorus from another one and the bridge from another one, so it's possible that some of the ideas used on "Possession" are few years old, while others are totally fresh. Recording itself doesn't take much time, as always when we enter the studio we already know what we want to record, but we always spend a lot of time on pre-production, so I would say that "making" of the new album took a few months.

What did inspire you to write the story? Was it a movie or a book?
I'm a huge fan of horror and science fiction movies, books, conspiracy theories, and all the mysteries of the world, I've always been. I wouldn't say it's one particular movie or book that inspired me to write this story which you can find on “Possession” - I could make really long list here. But I can tell you that we wanted to achieve an atmosphere and concept comparable to this one from the “Fourth Kind” or “Paranormal Activity” movies.

You released a video for “Prophet Of The End” that is actually a video with a story and not just computer produced clip; who had the idea to follow a movie like concept? And the demon got in the priest, right?
We had this idea for a scenario from the very beginning. We wanted to make the video to the last song from the album where we could show the entire story told on the album. So if you will listen to the album carefully and if you will read the short introduction we put in the booklet before each song, and then you will watch “Prophet Of The End” video clip, you will understand everything. This is where CD and LP wins over mp3 downloads: the booklet, the story, the lyrics, the front cover artwork and the video clip, it all makes sense together, it's one solid piece. If you listen to random mp3, it's just a song, nothing else. And Demon? What demon? (laughs)

Are there plans to make another video clip? If so for what song?
I don't know yet to be honest. It would be cool to do another video clip, of course, but it's all a question of the budget. It's not a big secret that bands like us make no money, and things such as video clip or album recording are always very expensive.

Let’s talk about the guests on the album; you had the legendary Harry Conklin singing with you in "Fight Evil With Evil"; how did this cooperation come up and what was Harry’s input on this song?
First of all: we are die hard fans of Harry's voice and die hard fans of his bands, JAG PANZER, TITAN FORCE and SATAN'S HOST. I just listened to the new SATAN'S HOST album “Virgin Sails” - it's amazing! We are in touch with Harry for some time now, as we actually shared the stage on a festival few years ago, we met on other festivals and so on. We always try to invite members of other bands to be special guests on our album, we invite people we respect and like. So it was the same with Harry. We sent him demo version of the song, and he recorded his vocal line in the studio that belongs to Mark Briody, guitarist of JAG PANZER. He actually sent us three different versions of his vocal line, and told us to choose the one we like most, so we did it, and you can hear it in the final version of the song.

The second guest appearance was by Sataniac who did some growling, so I guess he played the role of the demon, right?
Again, what demon (laughs)? Both Harry and Sataniac are actually singing as The Exorcist, in case of Sataniac we had the vision of very aggressive vocals in “Julia Is Possessed”. As we are fans of DESASTER, and as Sataniac has great, deep sounding growling voice, we invited him to sing few lines - and thankfully he agreed.

The press release says that CRYSTAL VIPER wanted to expand its sound; did this happen during the song writing process or was it a decision before even starting making music?
I wouldn't say we "wanted" to expand our sound, I would rather say it came out this way. When I write the music or when we record something, it's never that we say "we want to sound like this and this". The truth is there are some new elements on the new album, like acoustic guitars or choirs, more slow and epic parts. People who heard the album as the first ones, said while it's still 100% CRYSTAL VIPER, it has many new elements, so this is where this press release about "expanded" sound comes from. You know, all members of CRYSTAL VIPER are fans of different bands, and the truth is we all love almost all genres of Metal, be it Heavy, Thrash, Speed, Black, Death or Doom Metal. And you can hear many different influences in our music, while it's still kind of traditional or classic Metal, you will find elements taken from other genres here and there as well.

Did you really record the vocals in the dark? How was it like?
Yes, I prefer to record when it's dark around, as nothing distract me and then, I can feel the lyrics and put more emotions into what I sing.

By the way, in album’s cover artwork there is a CRYSTAL VIPER poster in the back of Julia’s room; what does this poster show and can we blame CRYSTAL VIPER for the possession of Julia? After all, some say that Heavy Metal is all about Satanism… (laughs)
Oh yeah, as they say "God gave rock n roll to you - and Satan twisted it into Heavy Metal" (laughs). No, our album has nothing to do with Satanism. It has some religious references - but very general, as you have things like exorcisms and possessions in all the religions of the world. Can we blame CRYSTAL VIPER for Julia's possession? If she would get possessed by Heavy Metal, then yes, probably (laughs). The truth is we wanted to have very classic looking old school Heavy Metal artwork, with as many details as possible - the artwork we have on “Possession” looks great especially in vinyl format, when you can notice all the details. Actually almost each song from the album is "shown" on the artwork. The poster on the wall is kind of inside joke, like the mascot on the bed - Willie (William), our wolf, you could see him on the last two albums or on “The Wolf And The Witch” single artwork.

CRYSTAL VIPER was added to Cyprus’ ‘Power Of The Night Festival and you have planned something special for this, right? Can you reveal some of your plans for this?
This will be kind of "best of" show where we will play songs from all our albums in chronological order; it will be also the "blood" show, like these we had after “Crimen Excepta”. When we promoted a previous album, which was a concept about inquisition, we had this bloody image, like the band members would just leave the torture chamber. The current album hasn't so bloody and evil kind of story, but our fans liked the bloody image so much that we will keep on using it from time to time, and this show on Cyprus will be one of them!

What are the rest of the touring plans? I see one date in Poland and one in Spain, so what do you have in mind?
When something is confirmed we immediately publish the date on our website. We hope to play as many shows as possible, we were born to play; stage is our home!

Since METAL KAOZ is based in Chicago, can you tell us if there is any US tour on the talks for this year?
Sadly no. It's a pity because I know we have many fans in the United States; we have amazing feedback from your country but so far no offers from your promoters. So if there is some promoter reading this: CRYSTAL VIPER is ready to come and to bring you Heavy Metal!

Looking at the CRYSTAL VIPER back-catalogue I see no DVD; what are your thoughts about filming one?
We were thinking about it, and if there will be such opportunity we will surely do it. But I think it would be better to release bonus DVD with the next album, instead of doing separate DVD release. You know, in times of YouTube it's very risky to release visual material - it's pretty expensive to do good looking DVD.

You also recorded two bonus tracks; one for the vinyl and one for the CD; how did you choose those tracks and how did you decide in what format (vinyl or CD) to put them?
We always wanted to record cover version of RIOT's “Thundersteel”, as it's one of the greatest Heavy Metal songs ever written, but we were waiting for the right moment. Recording it as the bonus track for new album was a perfect match, because when you will see all lyrics from the new album - with “Prophet Of The End” being 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”. We are actually in touch with RIOT members, and they were between first persons who heard it - they like it very much, so it's a big honor. One trivia here: when we were recording this cover, we tried to mix both versions: the original demo version which was recorded by NARITA (Mark’s band he had in 1985), and version that everyone knows from the RIOT album. It was used on the regular CD version. We also wanted to give something extra to fans that would decide to buy the LP version - and as we keep on playing "heavier" version of “Night Prowler” for some time - which song taken from our first album - we thought it would be cool to record it, and give it on the LP as the bonus cut.

That’s all Marta! Thank you for taking the time to answer to METAL KAOZ’s questions and hope to see you live in Chicago soon.
Thank you very, very much for your support! Long live the loud!