When I was a teenager in the mid-2000s, Icarus Witch was one of the first underground metal bands I ever discovered. I always appreciated the Pittsburgh group’s mid-tempo, occult-minded take on old school metal, even if it could be an acquired taste at times. The fact that Goodbye Cruel World is the band’s first full-length album in six years would be enough to tickle my nostalgia, but the stakes have been raised dramatically with the recruitment of the insanely talented (and prolific) Andrew D’Cagna for vocal duties.
Newcomers will likely draw comparisons to Ironflame or Brimstone Coven, but Goodbye Cruel World picks up where 2012’s Rise left off. It utilizes a similar AOR metal style, as their Maiden/Queensryche-inspired guitar work serves as a mid-tempo foundation for soaring vocal harmonies. The title track provides the best example of these tropes at work thanks to its explosive start and swift yet catchy transitions.
Considering how Rise used these elements with rather vanilla results, it’s a relief that Icarus Witch remembered to incorporate their pagan roots this time around. “Through Your Eyes” stands out in this regard as its building chugs and ominous air would help fit right in on Draw Down the Moon or Songs for the Lost. Adventurous territory is further explored with the instrumental gallops of “The Flood,” the spooky tinge of “Possessed by You,” and the subdued duet with guest vocalist Katharine Blake on “Antivenom.”
But while there is a mix of old ideas, the attitude-laden musicianship helps set this album apart from anything the band has done before. A lot of this could be attributed to the new blood, as D’Cagna offers consistent charisma while session drummer Jon Rice’s performance offers subtle hints at his extreme metal roots. Thankfully the group’s core members can keep up as bassist/founder Jason Myers remains as prominent as that Steve Harris influence suggests and Quinn Lukas holds down the fort well as the album’s sole guitarist.
Overall, Icarus Witch’s fifth full-length album is a good balance of the band’s signature elements reinvigorated by what may be their strongest lineup to date. The songwriting isn’t quite top tier but it’s refreshing to see their unique yet familiar style in such a varied fashion. This is a declarative statement of return, but I think there’s something even greater in the horizon. In the meantime, I’m glad to have them back and I hope the core is able to keep it together.
“Goodbye Cruel World”
“Through Your Eyes”