It's been a decade of growth, development, change and experimentation for the guys in Pennsylvania's Icarus Witch. The band that exists today simply would not have written albums like CAPTURE THE MAGIC or SONGS FOR THE LOST. Being completely honest, it just seems like a completely new band. Not only has this band gone through numerous member changes (I think they are the modern day Spinal Tap as I believe they are on drummer #5), but those new members have all instilled creative changes to where the music is different from what was first experienced. If your first taste of Icarus Witch is RISE, you would never suspect that this was once a traditional metal/power metal band only a few years ago. That said, it's doubtful you'd be disappointed either.
RISE is, by far, the most commercially friendly and accessible release that Icarus Witch has ever written. The reasons for the more commercial sound are many, but they start with new vocalist Christopher Shaner. Where their previous singer was decidedly old school in every way (delivery, actual voice...even his look), Shaner is a much more modern looking and sounding vocalist who has seemingly taken Icarus Witch to a new place. Not that their old singer couldn't sing, but Shaner simply has a more "ready for the big time" sound to his voice. To me, he sounds like a very polished version of Tom Englund from Evergrey. Hearing him sing on songs like "Coming Of The Storm", you can't help but think this song would play well on commercial radio.
Shaner is hardly the only difference maker on RISE. Guitarist Quinn Lukas sounds like a completely different player on RISE. Gone are the big, flailing power metal riffs. They've been replaced with a more blues oriented, arena-like crush. Tracks like the moody "In The Dark" showcase a whole new side of both Lukas and this band. Along with fellow guitarist Dave Watson, the guitar sound on RISE is greatly improved over their previous work. While these guys can't ever seem to keep a drummer, they always find a way to keep the bottom end strong. Bassist Jason Myers and drummer Tom Wierzbicky lay down a thick, driving foundation on songs like "Last Call For Living" and "(We Are) The New Revolution".
Musicianship is easy to write about, but the difference between the band's past work and RISE has little to do with the skill of the performances. To the contrary, it has everything to do with a decided growth in the songwriting within the band. Icarus Witch has grown by leaps and bounds since 2010's DRAW DOWN THE MOON was released. Hearing songs like "Nothing Is Forever", you realize that there's a certain amount of grace and development that simply wasn't there on previous efforts. Song-wise, RISE is a monumental step forward for these guys.
PITRIFF RATING - 92/100 - RISE is, without question, the most challenging release Icarus Witch has produced to date. My bet is that it will put off some of the old schoolers that keep the band in heavy rotation between Symphony X and Dokken in their iPods, but the band had to pretty much be ready for that by trying something so decidedly different from their past efforts. Could this be the release that breaks this band? It definitely could. The songwriting is strong enough, and the musicianship is stonger than they've ever shown. Icarus Witch is definitely on the rise with this release.