Icarus Witch are a band behind the times. However, that statement isn't an affront to the Pittsburgh outfit. Rather, it's an acknowledgment of their traditional metal stylings--a clean, melodic, high-energy approach associated with Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and others who staked their reps in the '70s and '80s. While Icarus Witch have definitely gained steam by opening for Coheed and Cambria and Heaven & Hell, as well as playing backup to Paul Di'Anno, Maiden's original singer, the act has not been without issues. A horde of members has joined and/or left the band since they formed in 2004. The current Icarus Witch lineup has been set since March and touring steadily behind Draw Down the Moon, their third album. In anticipation of the band coming to the Galaxy Concert Theatre in Santa Ana Thursday, Jan. 6, for a show alongside Di'Anno, Without Warning and Eden, OC Weekly caught up with guitarist Quinn Lukas for a quick chat about metal, witchcraft and potentially being inspired by breakfast.
OC Weekly (Reyan Ali): The band has been through a considerable number of lineup changes over the years, including the replacement of the lead vocalist. How have those changes in personnel affected the band's dynamic, and why did so many happen?
Quinn Lukas: In past lineup shifts, we went through a lot of drummers, trying to find someone that didn't want to overplay all the time--someone that wasn't expecting to come in and play progressive metal behind a kit. Guys would come in and be like, "Yeah, I'm down with the old-school metal thing." You start writing stuff with them and they're back there playing drum fills. "Ah, that ain't gonna work, you know?" Through all the lineup changes, the dynamic of the band's always remained the same. If everyone is willing to work and put the time in, everyone gets what they want out of it. The happiest people in the band are the people that put the most work into it. We encourage that with new members. Everything tends to work out that way.
Do you guys follow other types of metal?
Absolutely. Everyone starts off listening to maybe a handful of bands, beside the ones that are ingrained in the whole classic metal thing. I'm a huge thrash metal fan. That really does bring a lot to the table for me as far as aggressiveness for writing guitar parts and whatnot. Our other guitar player [Ed Skero] is just a really big classic rock fan. He loves the Stones and bands like that. We take things from different parts. Jason Myers, our bass player, was really into the industrial stuff for a little while.
What do you enjoy as far as thrash goes?
Oh, Testament, man. Dream Death, Nuclear Assault, Exodus, Overkill. That's one thing that I like about new thrash bands, like Warbringer and stuff. They really bring it. It's true to the form and I really enjoy it.
Oh, absolutely. You have bands such as Eclipse and Cauldron that are putting a face to their idea of traditional metal, and they both seem to be doing well at it, so I do see a rising in that. No matter what time it is, people still want to jam to good, melodic metal. It never hurts to be able to break out an old-school Iron Maiden shirt, too.
Jason has also spoken about the witchcraft elements within Icarus Witch's music. He mentioned that Draw Down the Moon was reference to a witchcraft ritual. Elsewhere, he said that Icarus Witch's name came to him through a séance or something similar.
Yeah, we all have different stories about that. I let people take it where they want to. That is part of the band. Some of those beliefs have been ingrained in the band from the get-go. [The name] could have came up [through the séance], or it could have came out in a dream. People get inspiration from all places: the deepest, darkest parts of their souls--and also staring at breakfast.
Is the idea of witchcraft vital to getting deeper into Icarus Witch's music?
Any great music paints imagery for someone to consider, not just aurally, but also grabbing the cover of the album and really digging into that and the artwork and the lyrics. It definitely has a lot to do with our lyrical content, so yeah.
What value does the band find in playing classic/traditional heavy metal versus getting into thrash, deathcore, doom metal or any other variation on the genre?
This type of heavy metal has all the roots to everything else, to the ultra-heavy death metal to the super-fast black metal, then the progginess [of] Dream Theater. It all extends from one type of classic, universal rock & roll/heavy metal. That's what it makes it so enjoyable. It has elements of so many things in it. You can have guys who are internally and personally [different], but we all find that common thread there. It's all about writing the music we want to hear the way we want to hear it.
Jason also said, "Draw Down the Moon is by far the most stripped-down, raw, classic effort of our four-disc catalog." Do you agree this is what separates this release most from the band's other material?
Yeah. At first glance, it's definitely raw and dirty rock & roll/metal. It's something we were all trying to achieve. "Let's just strip it down and see how it feels." There are no "sprinkles," as we call 'em. Now that we've done that, we're a band that like to keep moving and trying different things. I still don't think we've hit our super-polished, Queensrÿche-y album yet. I'd like to do that in the future.
Aside from the membership, what's been the biggest change that you've seen within the band since you joined?
Over the past three years, we've just really honed our live chops and been road dogs. Right now, we're on our third U.S. tour [in one] year. We're really putting our nose to the grindstone as far as playing. It's one of those things where now, we just step onstage and let fire take over and go for it. Something about the band is really firing on all cylinders. There's never a cylinder that's misfiring or someone who's not really putting forth the effort. Everyone really wants to be here. That's something we've dealt with in the past, so we're really happy about it now.