I just recently began my journey into the Pittsburgh metal scene; even though I have been (somewhat) in the area since 2010, it was not until this past winter that I actually began to pay attention to it. Icarus Witch is one of the more common names in the scene and their original vocalist, Mathew Bizilia, is trying to carve out his little slice of the scene with his project, Habitual Sins. It’s funny that my introduction to the scene was when I went to see Argus in Pittsburgh back in December because the founder/vocalist of the opener, the mighty Ironflame, now holds the spot that Mr. Bizilia once held. But it’s the debut album by Habitual Sins, Personal Demons, that is gracing my ears today. I also must gloat that I got my grubby little paws on this molten slice of metal directly from Mr. Bizilia himself.
Without any preconceived notions of how this should sound, being a novice to Bizilia’s previous band, I was kind of surprised that the album has a rather dark vibe to it, in a very good way. The opener, “Ravens,” has some dark riffs with an eerie feel to it. Mr. Bizilia’s vocals have the gruff of Jon Oliva (Savatage) and the tone of Mark Boals (Yngwie Malmsteen) that suites the music quite well. The song is not a speedy number. In fact most of the songs on this album are mid paced and have a touch of doom, groove, and a touch of prog. “Djinn” is another number that just rams home that doom sound. It’s slow and heavy as fuck. The guitar work on this album is top notch with killer solos and dual leads that are spot on.
As for the lyrical approach, there is a dark occult theme to it, which compliments the dark overtones of the music perfectly. This is actually the epitome of what some dub USPM (U.S. Power Metal). The emphasis on the power is these heavy as fuck riffs that crush. “The Prince of Wallachia” is a prime example of the dark theme with crunching riffs and soaring melodies. The song actually touches more on Vlad’s membership in the Order of the Dragon instead of his reputation as “the impaler.” It’s actually a really nice touch. The solos on this song are just godly. Guitarist Jim Dofka is a veteran of the scene and actually laid down some solos on the Ironflame debut album as well as guests spots on albums by Pharaoh, Necrophagia, and Bizilia’s former Icarus Witch. The closer, “When the Inquisition Calls,” needs mention as just being a beast of a track. This song picks the pace up a bit while still retaining that doomy, crushing riff motif that is really prevalent on this album.
I went into this not knowing what to expect and I think that allowed me to really enjoy this album without trying to compare it to Bizilia’s back catalog. This is a crushing slab of USPM that is well thought out and just flows from one son to another. There really is no song here that calls for the skip button. I like to consume albums whole rather than pick through songs and this album does not disappoint.