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Icarus Witch seems to share several similarities with Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow in terms of their stylistic evolutions over such short periods of time. This is not only made obvious by former Rainbow singer Joe Lynn Turner's guest appearance on the band's cover of Def Leppard's "Mirror Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)," but also in the band's interesting transition from a Maiden-esque sound to a more hard rock format. In fact, I like to think of this album as being the Witch's answer to "Stranger In Us All."
While Icarus Witch has always made subtle changes in their overall sound, the jump to this album from "Capture the Magic" may be their most drastic to date. The heavier guitar crunch of the past two efforts seems to have disappeared and has been replaced with songs based more around accessible mid-tempo riffs and catchy choruses. There is also an almost Renaissance/Baroque flavor on the more melodic tunes like "The Sky Is Falling" and the ballady "Smoke And Mirrors." Fortunately, the band is still recognizable with the bass always having a strong presence and the vocals still retaining their unique though nasally flavor.
Most of the songs are based around more laid-back tempos on tunes such as "Nature of the Beast" and "The Devil's Hour," but there are still several songs that manage to sound unique and memorable. "Out For Blood" is an energetic tune with upbeat riffs and almost aggressive vocals and "Smokes And Mirrors" makes for a pretty solid ballad. Like the other reviewers, "House of Usher" is probably my favorite track on here. It is not only one of the darkest and most aggressive songs that the band has ever written, but it also seems to hint at the darker sound that would come on this year's "Draw Down the Moon."
I'd also like to take a moment to look at the band's version of "Mirror Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)" for it may be the best and most fitting cover that the band has put out to date. I really like the band's take on Alice Cooper's "Roses On White Lace," but this song seems to fit the band's style and makes use of a good cameo. It also made me take a closer look at the earlier eras of Def Leppard with some interesting results to be found. It's definitely better than if they had covered "Pour Some Sugar On Me..."
While the changes on here do make for an interesting and enjoyable release, the album does have a few flaws. Fans of the band's old sound may be turned off by the newfound AOR elements and the some of the songs aren't as hard hitting as they could be. That and the vocals are still an acquired taste, though I don't know if that'll ever change. His voice may be slightly controversial and does sometimes need a little more charisma, but he always manages to sound unique...
All in all, this is probably my favorite Icarus Witch album and the one that I'd recommend as a good starting point for those interested in checking the band out. They may be comprised of old parts but the puzzle that is created is definitely something pretty new.
1) Interesting change of direction
2) Strong guitar and bass playing
3) Good song variety
1) Some fans may not agree with changes
2) Vocals still an acquired taste
3) Some songs could use more aggression
My Current Favorites:
"Out For Blood," "Written In The Stars," "The Sky is Falling," "Mirror Mirror (Look Into My Eyes)," and "House of Usher"