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Icarus Witch - "Songs for the Lost" (CD)

Icarus Witch - "Songs for the Lost" CD cover image

"Songs for the Lost" track listing:

1. Out for Blood
2. Written in the Stars
3. The Sky is Falling
4. Nature of the Beast
5. Mirror Mirror
6. Queen of Lies
7. Devil’s Hour
8. House of Usher
9. Afterlife
10. Smoke & Mirrors

Reviewed by on February 14, 2009

"The strongest point of the album, however, is the tight songwriting."

Icarus Witch wants you to know that classic metal is alive and well. Their second full length album, “Songs for the Lost,” harkens back to the time when metal gods sang about dragons and castles. And the album is in fine form.

The first song, “Out for Blood” kicks off with a twin guitar line and short solo, then roars off from there. A hard driving rhythm line through two verses and shouted backing vocals during the chorus drive the song to the solo break. More twin axe attack here – short and sweet. The song ends with one last quick chorus, and clocks in at a Van Halen-esqe three-and-one-half minutes. Just when the song is getting settled into a groove it ends, leaving the listener wanting more.

“The Sky is Falling” is one of the album’s highlights. An acoustic opening gives way to a slower, chugging bass guitar line, which is unexpected after the first two songs’ guitar-dominated arrangement. The addition of keyboards in the background adds another new element. The chugging verses and chorus give way to another multi-tracked guitar solo, but this time it is measured and thoughtful by staying within the boundaries that the first half of the song set. The solo fades into another chorus, which then leads the song back to the acoustic guitars for the finish.

The rest of the album mirrors the blueprint that “Out for Blood” and “The Sky is Falling” set. The twin lead guitars of Quinn Lukas (new on this album) and Steve Pollick rip, and the guitar team complements the strong vocals of Bizilia well. The strongest point of the album, however, is the tight songwriting. Only two of the ten songs clock in over five minutes. Icarus Witch avoids getting bogged down in over-indulgence, which keeps the album and listener fresh.

All is not rosy, however. Icarus Witch often stays too close to the classic metal they love. “Nature of the Beast” sounds like a “Piece of Mind” era Iron Maiden B-side. The only departure vocalist Bizilia has from Dickenson-Halford land is on the Def Leppard cover “Mirror Mirror,” and only because he sings backup to guest vocalist Joe Lynn Turner. Too often the band relies on one member to carry a particular part of a song, when the best moments are when the entire band works together to create a complete sonic array. Bassist Jason Myers often gets buried in the mix behind the vocals and guitars, which is a shame - his bass lines often provide the life under another riff. And forget about drummer Eric Klinger; his kit is mixed so far back he might as well be playing bongos.

Despite the tight songwriting, by the second half of the album the songs begin to sounds similar. “Queen of Lies” and “Devil’s Hour” sound like the same song; “House of Usher” attempts to break from the mold set on the first seven songs, but ends up being two extra minutes of the same fare.

The penultimate song “Afterlife” ironically comes to the rescue; a touch of spoken word, a more inventive acoustic break and guitar solo section, swirling and overlapping verses and bridges, rhythm and theme changes, Bizilia’s best performance by far. If only Icarus Witch had included some of these elements on the other songs…

Highs: Well executed classic metal with a handful of outstanding songs.

Lows: Too much filler and staying to the straight and narrow of classic metal archtypes.

Bottom line: Good classic metal album, but it should have been an EP.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)