Draw Down the Moon

rating icon 7.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. Black Candles
02. Aquarius Rising
03. Reap What You Sow
04. Dying Eyes
05. Draw Down The Moon
06. Serpent In The Garden
07. Funeral Wine
08. Haunting Visions
09. The Ripper

While I've never outright "disliked" ICARUS WITCH, I've never found their albums to be especially impacting nor have I gotten in line with what seemed to be a parade of praise from critical circles. Solid albums, yes; ones with long-lasting appeal, no. Some of that had to do with Matthew Bizilia's silky smooth vocal style, which I felt resulted in too much softening of the edges, rather than bolstering of the compositions. In all fairness, the guy's skill is not sub-par by any stretch. It was simply an issue of a personal preference in that I found it a tad distracting and a little lacking in muscle tissue. So my assessments of both "Capture the Magic" and "Songs for the Lost" revolved around my issues with the vocals and song collections that boasted some standout cuts and a handful of middling ones (more so with "Songs for the Lost"),even though the NWOBHM-by-way-of-melodic-hard-rock approach held together pretty well.

Then "Draw Down the Moon" arrived and I was lamenting the prospect of a third review of an album from a band never really tickled my fancy, especially when there are so many other albums I'd prefer to review. Lo and behold, not only did I realize that ICARUS WITCH had grown on me and the top-to-bottom songwriting on "Draw Down the Moon" is arguably the act's most consistent to date, but I've made peace with Bizilia's vocals, which seem better suited to these cuts than was the case on previous albums. Then again, it may just be that I've gotten used to his style and begun to appreciate it more for its uniqueness. Ironically enough, this is the last album on which Bizilia will serve as lead vocalist.

The short of it is that "Draw Down the Moon" is a good heavy metal album that plays to the strengths of ICARUS WITCH. That is, the group crafts songs that never try to overwhelm the listener with speed and force, instead opting for melody-driven, usually mid-tempo cuts that stick to steady rock beats and offer subtler approaches by way of accent and texture that tend to become more apparent with repeat plays. This time around, the doomy touches are more pronounced; as is a mystical '70s hard rock feel. Wise use of space in the arrangements gives Bizilia room to move and in the process accentuates his natural predilection to expand and contract the edges of his soulful patterns to suit the mood and musical segment. Songs such as "Reap what you Sow", "Dying Eyes", and "Serpent in the Garden" — one that also features spine tingling bass work, notably when the riffs drop out — benefit the most from it.

While the JUDAS PRIEST influence has always been present, it is in some ways more prevalent on "Draw Down the Moon", whether in subtler form on the quicker paced (and album highlight) "Black Candles" or overtly on "Reap What you Sow", which is reminiscent of some combination of "Rocka Rolla", "Sad Wings of Destiny", and "Sin after Sin". Of course, "overt" understates the inclusion of a cover that amounts to an exact replica of "The Ripper", a song I can never ignore, no matter who is performing it.

I would not call "Draw Down the Moon" a heavy metal juggernaut, especially since there are no real grand slams here (a few almost get there though) and any increase in running time would have resulted in drag. It is, however, an album that should solidify ICARUS WITCH's status as a band deserving of its earned reputation as one of the more distinctive acts playing a vintage heavy metal style. So yeah, I like this album. And I'm not just saying that because there is an artist's rendering of a naked chick on the cover.

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