Icarus Witch was one of the more promising up-and-comers in the mid-2000s. In hindsight, albums like Capture the Magic and Songs for the Lost showed them at the forefront of the occult rock and traditional metal revivalist movement while never fully immersing themselves in either. And whether you liked the band or despised them seemed to depend on how you felt about original vocalist Matthew Bizilia’s John Arch meets James Rivera wails; they had a unique character but were ultimately an acquired taste.
After Bizilia’s departure from the Witch, the band moved forward with a new singer while Bizilia began developing a new group known as Habitual Sins. Unfortunately, both groups seemed to slip off the radar as the 2010s went on, diminishing the anticipation of established fans. As Icarus Witch seems to be returning from hiatus in 2017, Habitual Sins has also released its full-length debut seemingly from out of nowhere, leading those caught off guard to wonder how the Philadelphia group sounds.
With all this said, it would be foolish to expect Habitual Sins to sound like Icarus Witch. Personal Demons is more aggressive and dare I say more “metal” than anything they ever did. The tone is even darker in comparison with more bottom end and the drums utilize more double bass and technical fills. Bizilia’s vocals also don’t have the same timbre as they did in the past and take on a harsher approach that seems to be somewhere between Paul Di’Anno and Tim “Ripper” Owens.
Unfortunately, the enhanced aggression isn’t always matched with the most memorable material. The tempo changes are coherent and there is an established character at work so it’s certainly not an issue of sloppy compositions. There just aren’t many standout riffs or vocal lines as the guitars are based more around chugs, ringing chords, and sweeping power metal leads while the vocals deal out a mix of drawn out wails and sinister sneers. The performances are all excellent but there’s not as much for them to work with.
Fortunately, there are still plenty of good moments on here. The album’s first half is probably better as the opening “Ravens” and the bass heavy “Watch the Fire Rise” work in some solid atmosphere while “Far beyond Hades” is a more straightforward, moshworthy heavy metal number. Elsewhere, lead single “I Pray for You” and “Forever Be Tormented” play up their satanic charm.
Overall, Personal Demons is a pretty decent debut album that could afford to leave a deeper impression than it does. The band members’ performances live up a dark take on old school heavy metal but the songwriting approach results in fewer fist pumpers than one would expect. I imagine the material’s more theatrical aspects will shine more in a live environment and I hope Habitual Sins is able to produce a steady momentum to develop stronger follow-ups.
“Far Beyond Hades”
“Watch the Fire Rise”
“I Pray For You”