By Aniruddh “Andrew” Bansal
Pittsburgh-based metal band Icarus Witch released their fourth studio album “Rise” last Tuesday, an album that certainly opens up a new chapter in the band’s career, musically and otherwise. People who’ve seen Paul Di’Anno on his last couple of North American tours would be knowing of Icarus Witch as the ex-Iron Maiden singer’s backing band. Indeed, that’s where I first got to know about them too. While they did a great job playing those Maiden covers, I was definitely more interested in their original material. I was impressed by what I heard in their live shows, and found a liking for their three-album catalog. Those albums have a NWOBHM kind of vibe, but with a bit more melody and an element of occultism that fit the band’s name.
After the release of their third album “Draw Down The Moon” in early 2010, they parted ways with their singer Matthew Bizilia, and Chris Shaner took over. The following year, they also underwent drummer and guitarist changes with the entry of Dave Watson and Tom Wierzbicky. Enter 2012, this new lineup has brought about a huge change in the band’s musical style. If not for the “Tragedy” single which they released and performed in 2011, I would not have believed that the new Icarus Witch album would sound like how it does. But that single gave us a glimpse of the new material, and the album has turned out to be pretty close to what I expected.
Firstly, the band has completely shed the NWOBHM style that typified their previous albums, and the “Rise” album can be best described as melodic metal. In my opinion, that’s not a bad thing at all. It separates the band from the horde of traditional metal bands that have surfaced in the past few years, and the relatively more accessible sound of theirs gives them a greater chance to be noticed and recognized by listeners across the board, rather than just end up with a cult following. Secondly, this is definitely the best produced album they’ve ever released, which enhances the impact of the music even further, and does it complete justice. But most importantly, this change of sound has made Icarus Witch a better band. A lot of bands are changing their sound these days in order to give their careers a boost, but many of them fail, and end up losing their fan base entirely. Thankfully, Icarus Witch doesn’t belong to that category, because their new album will most certainly please fans new and old.
I thought new vocalist Chris Shaner did a killer job singing the old Icarus Witch tunes when I saw the band last year, but he has hit a whole new level on this album. It seems to be pretty much tailor-made for his voice. His vocals combine with the guitars to create a very strong melody which drives the entire album. With that being said, this is by no means pop music. There is still an abundance of guitar solos and trade-offs between Quinn Lukas and Dave Watson, while the rhythm section of Jason Myers and Tom Wierzbicky keep things heavy.
The album doesn’t take long to get into the listener’s head, and establishes itself pretty quickly with tunes like “The End”, “(We Are) The New Revolution” and “Rise”. This sequence of titles is also interesting because it kind of resembles the closing of the band’s previous chapter and the rebirth that followed it. After the title song, the short instrumental interlude “Asylum Harbour” leads into the rest of the album, offering yet more melodic metal awesomeness. Out of these, I’m really digging “Say When” and “Break The Cycle”. “Pray” is also a killer tune, and probably the most dynamic one on this album. It should be an interesting addition to the band’s live show. But “Tragedy” still remains my favorite tune on the album, but the other songs are growing on me rapidly as well. Besides the music, I love the album cover as well. I think it’s a very cool piece of art, and would look fantastic on the LP version of the album.
Overall, I’d say “Rise” is the best album Icarus Witch have released so far, and they’ve made the right career move. The album does more than enough to retain the interest of people who’ve been fans of the first three Icarus Witch albums, and in addition it opens up the band to a completely new legion of fans. If you’ve not heard the album yet, you wouldn’t do yourselves any harm by picking it up. Take it from me, the new incarnation of Icarus Witch sounds great, and is here to stay.
Record Label: Cleopatra
Release Date: July 3rd 2012
1. The End
2. (We Are) The New Revolution
4. Asylum Harbour
5. Coming Of The Storm
7. Say When
8. Break The Cycle
9. Nothing Is Forever
11. In The Dark
12. Last Call For Living