CRYSTAL VIPER released their eight album The Cult last week, and as the last one, 2019’s Tales of Fire and Ice was a bold move into symphonic territory, how does the new one sound? We are honoured to talk with composer / singer Marta Gabriel about what it’s like writing and recording an album over long distance, list some of her favourite horror tales, the best way to remember good song ideas, and for any traditionalist, nationalist identity-project types, perhaps having just the slightest concerns about just where all those populist slogans get you….Marta provides a human perspective on that for you. And of course, is she missing playing loud music, live? Or, maybe she’s enjoying being out of the limelight for a bit? Ha! No chance! Grimslath grabs a four pack of Tyskie, a bottle of Zubrowka, and gets some answers…
INTERVIEW BY GRIMSLATH
Hey Marta, hope all is well and the Covid restrictions aren’t troubling you too much! Did it cause many problems with recording the new album? I guess you couldn’t get to a studio or practice together?
That’s correct. It’s the first time in the history of Crystal Viper, when we recorded the album without seeing each other, without working together in the studio. I mean we were in constant contact, we exchanged thousands of emails, messages and calls, then we were sending all the tracks between each other, but we haven’t met all together. Members of Crystal Viper live in 3 different countries, in Poland, Germany, and Sweden, and it was (and still is) impossible to travel, without the risk of being quarantined. For the same reason we couldn’t do new band photos, or film proper music video, with all band members.
Eight albums is a fantastic milestone for any band and it’s testament to your ability that every album has been of such a high standard. How do you manage to write so much strong material? Do you ever suffer writer’s block and if so what are your strategies for overcoming it?
Thank you. Well, I wouldn’t say there is any strategy behind it, I never plan that, and I never know when I will be hit by another wave of inspiration. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and I turn my recording gear on, because there’s something I want to record playing in my head, sometimes an idea co-mes to my mind where I’m on a walk or when I’m in a car, and so on. I basically compose and record music all the time, almost every single day. Sometimes it’s just single riffs or melodies, sometimes it’s complete songs. Sure, the writer’s block sometimes happen as well, and I don’t have any new ideas for a couple of days, but it doesn’t happen very often.
There are certain authors that seem to provide endless inspiration for metal musicians. What is it about the likes of Lovecraft, Tolkien and Moorcock that sets them apart and makes their material so perfect for heavy metal?
They go hand in hand, their stories are epic, inspiring, sometimes scary or spooky, and we can say the same about heavy metal. That’s all that kind of art, that lets us forget about sad, gray word, relax, and virtually travel to some cooler place, and lets us forget about daily problems.
What is your favourite Lovecraft story and which did you find easiest or most enjoyable to turn into a song?
There are many Lovecraft stories I like, actually I would say I didn’t read any of his stories that I didn’t like. My favorite ones? Probably „The Thing On The Doorstep”, „At The Mountains Of Madness”, „The Color Out Of Space”, or „The Dreams In The Witch House”. But that’s very possible, that if you would ask me the sa-me question tomorrow, I would list some other stories.
Unusually, there is no ballad on The Cult. Was this due to the subject matter or did you just fancy an al-bum of rockers this time around? This seems like your heaviest album for a while; I’m really enjoying it!
No, there was no plan to „not have” any ballads. We never had this kind of scenario, we never plan things like that. You know, we don’t sit down and say “okay, next album should have a ballad” or „now we need to do a fast song”… It all comes out very naturally, and I believe it’s related to our inspirations in that particular moment or period of time. We all listen to different kinds of metal and music in general, and we’re all into different things – books, movies, games, art. It all inspire us in some way, and then what you hear on the album, is the result of all those different inspirations.
Which of the new songs are you most looking forward to playing once restrictions are lifted? I’d love to be part of the crowd for „Sleeping Giants” as it has such a great Whoa-oh-oh style chorus section!
All of those songs are very fresh, we never played any of them. Actually, due to Pandemic we didn’t play any shows for more than a year. I really can’t wait to perform some of those new songs live, and basically can’t wait to perform in general. Crystal Viper is a live band, we really miss the stage! We didn’t yet think which of those new songs will be played live, I personally think it would be super cool to play the entire album!
Talking of playing live, OMM just interviewed Rick Fisher – how did it feel singing Flaming Metal Systems onstage with him at KIT 2019?
It felt great, although the circumstances were bitter-sweet. It was amazing to once again – and rather for the last time – perform the Manilla Road songs with guys from the band being on stage with me, but at the same time it was a bit weird, we are really missed Shark that evening.
You perform a cover of King Diamond’s Welcome Home on the new album and its creepy as hell! It se-ems like you tried a few different things with your voice. Was it fun to break out of your vocal comfort zone for this song? Would you ever consider doing a full album of covers?
It was both challenging and interesting to record that song. I tried many new things when it comes to my voice, as I really wanted to capture that theatrical atmosphere of the original recording. Doing full album with cover songs? Why not, who knows what will happen in the future. I love recording, and I love recording both my own songs and covers. And there are so many great heavy metal songs I would love to record!
You’ve said previously that piano was your first instrument so I’m guessing metal wasn’t something you were playing initially! At what point did you get into metal, both as a fan and musician? Was there a specific song or album that turned you into the Leather Witch we know today?
When I was a kid, I saw an orchestra on TV, and I told my parents that I also want to play. They took it seriously, and they sent me to music school – I was seven years old back then. For the next years I was playing tens if not hundreds of shows as a pianist. It’s actually very possible, that I played more shows as a pianist, than with Crystal Viper, than as a metal musician. When I was a teenager I discovered rock and metal bands, such as Scorpions, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Virgin Steele and so on, and then I decided that it’s what I wanna do in life.
Your post on Facebook was the first I’d read about the situation in Poland with women, despite massive protests, being stripped of their rights. The more I’ve read about it the more shocked and angered I’ve become. Is there a sense in Poland now that women are seen as second class citizens? What is the next step in reversing this decision? Finally, have you suffered any backlash as a consequence of speaking out against the government?
People from outside of Poland think that it’s only about limiting abortion law and women’s rights, but the truth is it‘s just small part of the problem. Polish government is led by right wing extremists, who turn Poland into catholic regime. Right now they banned the abortion even if it will be clear the child will be born deformed, and won’t survive outside the womb. The next step they announced is to ban abortion completely, even if women got pregnant because of rape or incest act. The same with underage girls, they officially said that even 11 years old girl should give birth. They also currently started official campaign against In Vitro method, so it’s not only about women’s rights, but about human rights in general – these new laws will harm whole families. At the same time, the church is untouchable – each few weeks we hear about children being molested or raped by priests, and no one is doing anything about it, as guess what, the courts are no longer independent. Instead of fighting with the Coronavirus, or to support health-system, Polish government spends public money on their own goods and their propaganda: millions are donated to church, national Polish TV (which is full of an awful political propaganda and catholic programs), or for example used to buy hundreds of new cars for politicians, while at the same time hospitals don’t have enough of beds so people lie on the floor, or are dying in the ambulances because there are no places in the hospitals. Like that wouldn’t be enough, they officially fight against European Union laws, for example we have the “LGBT free zones” here, and they mean exactly what you think they mean. Regarding these protests that are going on here, in theory, Polish constitution says we are allowed to peacefully protest – but in reality, Polish Police attacks peaceful protesters with steel batons and tearing gas, because they got such orders. Polish deputy prime minister called protesting people “anti Polish”, what gave a green light to nationalist groups, who are also attacking protesting women… We have some kind of protests or something bad is happening almost every single day. Yesterday almost all the independent and private media were protesting: TV, newspapers, online news services and radios, almost everything (except the government owned TV) was turned off, as Polish government announced new super high taxes for all non-government owned and independent media. The planned taxes are so high, that it’s clear almost no one will be able to pay them, and everyone knows what it’s all about: only the regime owned media will survive…
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. Good luck with with the new album and I hope to see you on the road in the not-too-distant future! Anything you would like to say to new and old fans?
Thank you for this interview, and for your support. I’m glad you like our new album, and I hope your followers will have similar opinion about it! Stay safe, long live the loud!