Icarus Witch - Capture the magic 3.5/5
1. Storming the castle
2. Capture the magic
5. The ghost of Xaivor Holmes
7. Nemeton forest
8. Awaken the mountain giants
Last year, a new name in unapologetically old-school American metal emerged from the steel mills and iron works of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: Icarus Witch. These youngsters stirred quite a few cauldrons with their 5 track, 17 minute EP, 'Roses on white lace', featuring a dynamite Alice Cooper cover and several smoking originals. Based on the superb, throwback songwriting and impeccable sonic punch of the EP, many in underground metal circles tipped Icarus Witch as a breakout act for 2005. Now, with great fanfare and no small amount of scrutiny from the international metal community, the band have unveiled their debut full-length CD, 'Capture the magic', on the upstart Magick Records label.
Musically, Icarus Witch scream 80s U.S. metal in all departments. I hear traces of Shok Paris, Malice, Omen, Metal Church, Breaker, Obsession, Dio and other bands of that ilk in their sound and stylistic lineage. A band like San Diego's Cage (circa their 'Unveiled' debut) would be another comparison point. Tempos remain almost exclusively in the mid-paced realm, with the riffs being simple but effective and heavy. For better or worse (I'd say better), they've foresworn the layers of synths, choirs, guitar ear-candy and other assorted bombast that are so prevalent on modern-day power metal productions, instead offering a stripped-down, focused, straightahead classic metal sound. Song structures are fairly typical, with one or 2 exceptions, and generally lack the myriad twists and turns that complicate so much of today's metal songwriting. A listener raised on a diet of today's ADD power metal conventions may find the direction too linear and too predictable, in the same way that many NWOBHM recordings might be. I, for one, find it refreshing to hear a CD recorded in 2005 using state-of-the-art production techniques, but still managing to capture the spirit, the vibe, and yes the magic of those halcyon mid-80s days.
Surprisingly, 'Capture the magic' seems to have attracted a fair amount of flak from certain quarters in the heavy metal universe. 3 criticisms, in particular, have bubbled to the surface. First, some lament the lack of speed on the CD. That's a valid concern, as the band shuffle along at a languid midtempo gait from which they rarely deviate. I would have preferred more variety in tempos, but I hardly view this as an insuperable flaw. 2nd, the vocals of Matthew Bizilia have been panned as being too "glam" and not sounding sufficiently "metal". I don't buy that one. To me, he sounds like a cross between Bruce Dickinson and Martin Steene (Iron Fire/Force of Evil). Bizilia may not be a remarkably gifted singer, but he does his job capably. 3rd, a recurring theme has been, "But the songs on the EP were better!" I agree, to an extent. "Curse of the ice maiden", "Winds of atlantis", and "Dragon ryder" were all monster tracks on the EP, and I've not heard anything on Icarus Witch's new opus that quite matches their lofty heights. But that doesn't mean that the new songs are weak; to the contrary, there's more than enough spunk, spirit and bite in songs like the piledriving "Storming the castle", the title track and the compelling maritime ode "Ghost of Xavior Holmes" to satiate even the most ravenous rivet rat.
In the final analysis, 'Capture the magic' is a good CD that I recommend to enthusiasts of classic traditional U.S. metal from the 80s. Double-bass mavens and European power junkies need not apply, but those of you with bullet belts and patch-covered denim jackets will understand and appreciate what Icarus Witch are all about. That said, I think these Steel Town stallions can do even better, and I fully expect them to find the elusive 5th gear on their sophomore full-length CD, much as Cage did. All the ingredients are there, and I have high hopes that Icarus Witch will deliver a potent potion of inspired metal genius next time.
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