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VELVET VIPER Respice Finem

By Daniel Höhr, European Correspondent
Tuesday, March 27, 2018 @ 6:44 AM


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VELVET VIPER
Respice Finem

GMR, 2018




Twenty-six years after The 4th Quest For Fantasy, German metal legend Jutta Weinhold returns with a new line-up of her band VELVET VIPER and also a new studio album, Respice Finem. For the present release, Jutta Weinhold teamed up with guitarist Holger Marx, bass player Fabian Ranft and drummer Micha Fromm. The eleven tracks on the album were written by Jutta Weinhold, Holger Marx and Uwe Seemann.

The Latin title of the album alludes to the phrase “quidquid agis prudenter agas et respice finem“, meaning “whatever you do, do it wisely and consider the end.” Or even “the result”. And as far as this record is concerned, the result is magnificent. Each of the tracks breathes the spirit of ZED YAGO, Jutta Weinhold's band that released two highly acclaimed albums in 1988 and 1989, thereby creating the concept of dramatic metal by making use of themes from literature, mythology and, most notably, the works of the German dramatist and composer Richard Wagner. This concept was continued on the first two VELVET VIPER albums in 1990 and 1992 as well as on her solo albums and has now been given a fresh musical and sonic impetus on Respice Finem.

The opener, “Don't Leave Before Wintertime”, with its balladesque beginning that soon turns into a riffy, guitar driven classic heavy metal track, sets the tone for the rest of the album. The melody in the verses and in the lead guitar part after the intro respectively is one of the many earworms on the album while the solo part showcasts the stellar musicianship of guitarist and Jutta's co-writer Holger Marx. “Shadow Ryche” opens with another captivating riff and develops into a gloomy mid-tempo groover that finds its climax in the chorus, where Jutta's signature vocals are appropiately backed up by a choir. The title track, “Respice Finem”, is exactly the kind of song that touches you the first time you play it and that's not just because of its ballad-style intro. The combination of the meaningful lyrics, the bass-driven mid-tempo groove and the melodies make this epic song a masterpiece. What strikes the reviewer, though, is the anglicised pronunciation of 'respice finem', which might be frowned upon by many a purist but otherwise perfectly matches the melody and is therefore to be booked under artistic freedom. The most important thing, however, is that “Respice Finem” really takes its time to develop. The instrumental middle section – a wonderfully atmospheric and expressive guitar and keyboard solo – gives the music enough breathing space, a virtue which is seldom enough found these days.

“Fraternize With Rats” is a straightforward heavy metal number that will doubtlessly be a killer live while “Eternally Onwards” comes grooving along in true NWOBHM fashion and has an anthemic chorus that will ultimately make you turn the volume up a notch. “Ogaydez” pays homage to the Flying Dutchman's daughter. It's a slowly creeping and incredibly intense song filled with drama and tension. “Dangerous” is definitely one of the catchier numbers with a classic rock feel thanks to the Hammond sound of the keyboard. The double time part, however, makes it impossible not to headbang and sing along. “Raven Evermore” – yes, you've guessed correctly – was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's poem The Raven and VELVET VIPER find the appropriate lyrical and musical means to turn the subject-matter into an intense heavy metal epic poem.

The tempo of “Stormy Birth” is not as fast as the title suggests; it's more the calm before the storm” that manifests itself in this downtempo epic tale. The real storm, however, breakes loose on "Law Of Rock", a fast driving heavy metal track with a chorus that will make the crowd shout along. With the final track, “Loherangrin-Lohengrin”, Jutta Weinhold returns to Richard Wagner, maybe not so much musically but rather topically. This time, as the title says, she uses a theme from Wagner's opera Lohengrin. This multi-layered and fairly complex song actually tells the story that Wagner used for his opera with the first lines almost directly quoting a passage from Wagner. And this is exactly what Jutta Weinhold has always achieved, giving heavy metal music a deeper artistic meaning by placing the songs in a certain literary and cultural context.

Produced by ex-HELLOWEEN and GAMMA RAY's Kai Hansen, Respice Finem sounds absolutely state of the art, heavy but still crystal clear. Jutta Weinhold's singing has lost nothing of its vocal power and expression and there is no trace of a doubt that she is still one of the leading heavy metal vocalists out there. And amidst all the power metal outfits drawing on mythological themes, it is good to have the original back.

VELVET VIPER's Respice Finem may well be the comeback album of the year and most certainly one of the hot candidates for my top-ten list 2018. Hopefully VELVET VIPER's consideration of the end, as the album title suggests, is meant metaphorically rather than literally because this album makes you want more of this music.

5.0 Out Of 5.0


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