Despite its bright and monumentality, Demons & Wizards, Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian) and Jon Schaffer (Iced Earth) side project has a quite poor discography, which contains only two albums. That’s understandable: each member has his own main band so there is no time for Demons & Wizards and this is without taking geographic aspect into account. But something happened in 2019: first Demons & Wizards toured in North America then performed at main metal festivals in Europe and soon, after 15 years their third album concisely named III will be released.
According to press-release, III “… fusing the dark ‘70s-like vibe of Demons & Wizards and the complexity and furiosity of Touched by the Crimson King with many new elements, demonstrating 14 years of songwriting growth.” “We have grown indeed”, Schaffer says, “and that will be obvious from the first listen. You will hear classic and progressive rock influences, even an alternative vibe in a few places. But it is a pure and dynamic heavy metal album through and through. A journey of epic proportions!”
III opens with dark bass riff and choir: the very first song “Diabolical” masterfully escalates the atmosphere. Jon’s guitar collapses from nowhere and here the pace goes faster, riffs become heavier and Hansi Kürsch’s voice transmits a whole gamut of emotions. The song changes mood for a couple of times, going to drama or some grim and ominous mood and it ends with the same bass line which started it. Yes, that’s exactly what the fans were expected form the band: multilayered composition, which easily changes the mood. Although, the next one, “Invincible” is much more straightforward song with quite simple structure. Nevertheless, here we got a good, catchy chorus, great solo and Hansi’s vocals, of course, which adds diversity to even this, pretty simple song.
“Wolves In Winter” and “Split” are the heaviest songs in the album. They are fast, aggressive, with Jon Schaffer’s signature guitar riffs. And if “Wolves In Winter” can be relatively distinctly divided into Iced Earth and Blind Guardian (verse and chorus respectively), “Split” is a pure Iced Earth from the beginning to the end. At the same time there is not only heaviness presents in these songs but “that one atmosphere” or, if you’ll excuse me, Demons & Wizards‘ magic. It’s not only about Kürsch’s vocals or Schaffer’s guitars but a lot of tiny, meticulously thoughtful details. Another powerful song with heavy sound here is “Dark Side Of Her Majesty”, a real Metal hymn. It has sublimity, solid riffs and plenty of choirs of the background which take the song somewhere to Symphonic Metal territory and it teetering between symphony and hymn a-la Manowar. Typical Hansi’s expression and emotionality work here extremely well, seems like his Blind Guardian Twilight Orchestra experience affecting.
The most unexpected song here is “Midas Disease”: middle pace, smooth powerful bass and simple riff, very similar to AC/DC. And when you hear the vocals, which sound like Blackie Lawless from W.A.S.P., you start to doubt unwittingly: do I really listen to the Demons & Wizards‘ III? Nevertheless, it’s a groovy song with lots of drive that cause you to shake your head. It’s a good piece but really unanticipated from this band.
“New Dawn” and “Universal Truth” disappointed me a little bit. They do have a lot of emotions, dense sound but it’s still too smooth and predictable, without any surprises. Seems like excessive expectations affecting because these are really not bad songs for another band. But you expect something more than classic radio-friendly metal ballad from Demons & Wizards. Anyway, this is the only downside.
The album ends with ten minutes long epos “Children Of Cain”. It’s a multifaceted song with lots of instruments, multiple changes of the mood and complex structure. Jon Schaffer is marvelous here: his string instruments (not only guitars; I wouldn’t list it to keep an intrigue) equally to Hansi’s vocals tell the story, create the atmosphere and easily change it.
Well, as for me III had fully met the expectations (except two songs I wrote above, which are not so bad at all). You expect heaviness, epic, depth and brilliance from Demons & Wizards and this album has it plenty for everyone, no one will remain resentful. And I really hope that the next album will see the light of the day before 2035.
III will be released on February, 21th via Century Media Records.
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