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Amidst the booming 'retro' trad metal scene that has popped up in the late 2000s and early 2010s, Icarus Witch - one of the earlier examples of the resurgence - have mostly been cast to the side. I think that's a mistake, as Songs for the Lost is a kick ass album. I remember not liking this much back when I first heard it, but since then it's really grown on me.
This is just great heavy metal. The riffs are groovy and hooky as hell, and the vocals are a high, nasal whine with some real old school grit that recalls old Vicious Rumors or Metal Church, though the music is more old school than even that. The lyrics are dark and mystical and the atmosphere created by the music is fittingly ominous and dark. They also touch on something more original in the few spots where they utilize acoustic guitars - it adds to the atmosphere and gives the album more texture and depth. Frankly I'm surprised more retro doom/trad bands never tried this. There isn't one central musical influence here, and the band takes what they liked about really old 70s and 80s metal like Dio, BOC, Sabbath and Rainbow and updated it with their own flavor and sound. A lot of newer traditional metal bands seem afraid to go outside their borders, as if that would compromise their old-school throwback cred, but Icarus Witch were good songwriters first and retro second, which is an important distinction.
On songs like the brash, rocking "Out for Blood," with its gang shouts, and the groovy "Written in the Stars," the band is at their most accessible - with riffs and hooks Dio could have written on some of his old solo albums. But then you get "The Sky is Falling," a slower, doomier track with light sprinklings of keyboards and acoustics making for a hypnotic and addictive song. Others like "Queen of Lies" and the slow, eerie "House of Usher" follow suit - just great, dark metal alchemy. "Nature of the Beast" is a great track as well, with creepy chorus lines and a killer main riff. "Smoke and Mirrors" is a bleak acoustic ballad to close things out and it's another good track - a calm sing-along for your next camp-out at the local cemetery. There isn't a bad song on this album, frankly, even the Def Leppard cover "Mirror, Mirror" fits right in and sounds good in the context of the album.
There's a big fanbase these days for retro, old school heavy metal played by young dudes in leather jackets, but Icarus Witch was doing that years before it became cool again - and much better. Fans of melodic metal and rock needed this one yesterday, so go treat yourself to a listen if you haven't heard it.