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It may not be their best album or even my personal favorite of theirs, but I've always had a bit of a soft spot for this 2005 effort. It was the first album that I bought of theirs after hearing a song or two off their MySpace and one that still holds up as the band's sound continues to evolve. Like the "Roses On White Lace" EP before it, it is also noteworthy for the energy that is on display and the numerous nods to the older ways of metal.
Musically, this album features many of the elements that had appeared on "Roses On White Lace." The guitar riffs are executed in the vein of Iron Maiden and early Ozzy Osbourne (The latter being evident on the cover of "SATO"), the vocals are performed in the signature nasally wail, the bass stands out on many occasions, and the lyrics continue with the band's love for high fantasy. However, there are several stylistic changes brought in as well. The production seems to have moved forward from the raw sound of the EP, a few slower tempos are introduced, and an almost epic feel becomes a little more apparent.
The songs are all pretty solid and all manage to sound distinct. You've got a few more upbeat tracks ("Storming the Castle," "Capture the Magic," "Forevermore"), mid-tempo rockers ("Soothsayer," "Nemeton Forest," "Awaking the Mountain Giants"), and a few back-to-back complex numbers ("The Ghost of Xavior Holmes," "Darklands"). "Xavior Holmes" and "Darklands" are definitely my favorite tracks of the lot though I also like "Storming the Castle" in particular for its energy. In contrast, "Nemeton Forest" and "Awaking the Mountain Giants" did take a few listens to really get my head around them...
The album is also worth noting for the guests that manage to show up on here. Frank Aresti of Fates Warning provides a particularly ripping solo on "Xavior Holmes" and Dokken/Lynch Mob guitarist George Lynch plays the lead guitar parts on "SATO." The latter is another great cover and manages to do the original song a good degree of justice.
The lyrics are also pretty intriguing and may be some of the band's most fantasy oriented to date. A great deal of subjects are references with many themes relating to history ("Storming the Castle," "Forevermore," "Xavior Holmes"), mysticism ("Soothsayer," "Darklands," "Nemeton Forest," "Awaking the Mountain Giants"), and general escapism with the title track. "Darklands" may feature the most memorable lyrics on the album; for some reason, it just reminds me of a more serious take on Iron Maiden's "Quest For Fire." Now that'd make an interesting cover...
All in all, this is a pretty good album though not of the band's strongest. I'd recommend looking into "Songs For the Lost" as a first purchase if you're curious about the band.
1) Improved production
2) Good expansion of the debut
3) Great guitar playing
1) Vocals may still turn people off
2) May be too slow or not aggressive enough for some
3) Slightly cheesy
My Current Favorites:
"Storming the Castle," "Capture the Magic," "The Ghost of Xavior Holmes," "Darklands," and "SATO"
Icarus Witch pretty well blew my socks off with their EP "Roses On White Lace", and I unrepentantly declared it one of the best classic Metal discs I had laid ears on since the glory days of Omen or Fates Warning. I have been keenly anticipating the release of their full-length, and lo, here it is. Does it live up to the hype? Almost, and that's saying something, as that EP produced a lot of high expectations.
For those sadly not in the know, Icarus Witch play unabashedly old-fashioned US Metal the likes of which few have heard since the 80's. There's a bit of old FW, a little Maiden, some Omen and Helstar, but that's the brilliant thing about Icarus Witch – they manage to be completely retro without sounding like a clone of any one band. This album is a highly enjoyable disc of old-style metal goodness, even though, as I expected, there is a bit of filler here on the full album. "Storming The Castle" is an OK opener, nothing great, but fun. The title track is better, and has a great chorus you will never stop singing. "Soothsayer" is a much more typical IW song, with a slow pounding beat and mystical lyrics. "Forevermore" is a more upbeat tune with some great melodies – a real album highlight. "The Ghost Of Xavior Jones" features Frank Aresti on guitars and is another slower, more intricate tune. "Darklands" is pretty good, if not a real firestarter. "Nemeton Forest" is one of the ones here I really love, as it's a dense, mystical epic like old-school Fates' used to write. "Awakening The Mountain Giants" is another song, like the opener, that just does not grab me. Enjoyable bits, but it never comes together. "S.A.T.O" is a cover of an old Ozzy song, and I guess it's OK, but I don't much care for covers.
If I had to level a complaint at this album, it would be that Icarus Witch never break out of their studied slow-to-midpaced groove and really rip. All these tunes are at a rather sentinel pace, and overall the album has a certain pall over it from the general similarity in tempo and intensity. The performances are all solid, especially the charismatic vocals of Matt Bizilia, but they are all, juuuust a little too . . . restrained, I guess is the word. This album is a definite grower, with tunes that get better the more you listen. It is not as direct, nor quite as aggressive as the EP, and the guitar tone is juuuust a tad smoother and not as heavy.
I like this album a lot, but I just wish for once Icarus Witch would really cut loose and wail. I like dark epics more than anyone, but a disc like this really could have used some faster cuts to spice things up. Anyone who loved the EP should certainly get this, just be prepared to give it a bit more time to sink in. Again, I see great things in the future for this band. Their masterpiece is yet to come, but "Capture The Magic" is a more than worthy debut.
Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com
American traditionalists Icarus Witch's first full-length hit stores in mid-2006 amid a surprising amount of fanfare and critical acclaim. Unfortunately, the attention may have been both premature and undue, and certainly Pittsburgh's throwbacks were burned by the over-exposure. Bearing an unsettling resemblence to the NWBHM bands of the late '70s and early '80s, the derivative (though fun) offerings on this album sound dated in the extreme.
Best described as a nine-track version of their debut EP, "Roses on White Lace," "Capture the Magic" continues with almost exactly the same material as its predecessor, and the overall quality suffers for it. Maintaining the same raucous energy within such a limited musical scope for an extra four songs is apparently a daunting effort, as the album passes the halfway-point and the tracks suddenly become indistinguishable from one another. This decidedly front-heavy offering is both listenable and refreshing, as Icarus Witch brings a youthful spirit to the aging traditional style.
Unfortunately, due to both the limitations of the style and the relative inexperience of the members themselves, there is little that is truly interesting to be found anywhere on the album. By now, listeners of the style have come to expect flailing guitar solos, wailing vocals, audible bass, and enough lyrics about dragons and sorcerers to qualify as a Dungeons & Dragons campaign; Icarus Witch delivers all of the preceding in spades, seemingly making a conscious effort to keep the listener from forgetting exactly what the band considers itself.
By doing everything right, all of it well, and none of it differently, "Capture the Magic" is everything metal fans have come to expect of the recent years' emergence of youthful bands that claim their fathers' music as main inspirations. Simultaneoulsy derivative and enjoyable, this album is worth at least a casual spin.