Fifteen years ago, Demons & Wizards, an epic collaboration between power metal legends Blind Guardian’s frontman Hansi Kürsch and Iced Earth’s guitarist Jon Schaffer, released the wickedly fantastic “Touched by the Crimson King.”
Power metal fans around the world pondered if the dynamic duo of Kürsch and Schaffer still had some musical ferocity left in them. The final product turned out to be anything but a haphazard cash in. Demon’s & Wizard’s third album, simply titled “III,” despite its decade-and-a-half hiatus, showed the metal world that they have returned with fiery authority.
Right out of the gate, the album and the band’s presence prove that assessment with demonic intensity as it opens with “Diabolic,” a spiritual successor to the band’s first album’s opener “Heaven Denies.” After presenting an acoustic and doom metal-esque opening, the minute that Schaffer starts to shred on the guitar for the song’s scorching riff and Kürsch’s harmonic vocals, the song takes a vicious hold of you and never lets go.
One of the many improvements from the devilish dyad that differentiate this album from its predecessor is the production. In their past recordings, their music’s presentation felt somewhat similar to Iced Earth albums from the early 2000s, where the songs sound compressed and lack power. The percussion feels clean and thin, like the drummer is hitting the bottom of a Home Depot bucket.
For “III,” however, the production is polished and satisfying, with ruthless riffs and the ballistic drums blasting with maximum force. The addition of Kürsch’s soothing choir of voices, a motif that Kürsch would use in his lionized Blind Guardian albums like “Imaginations from the Other Side” and “Nightfall on Middle Earth” as a helping hand showcasing the atmospheric menace of Kürsch’s voice, sending chills down audience’s spine.
The album represents this as seen on the biggest standouts of the entire recording. Tracks that pull it off are “Invincible,” containing glorious solos and vibes reminiscent of Bloodbound’s earlier work, ” and the melancholic, ominous “New Dawn.”
The number that steals the show is the gritty, merciless head-banger, “Wolves in Winter.” The song will make metal fans howl at the moon and embrace their inner wolf, with some of the best chest-beating choruses that Demons & Wizards has to offer.
Kürsch and Schaffer also included a tribute to Malcom Young of AC/DC in “Midas Disease,” containing a mixture of groove and good ol’ fashioned rock and roll that’ll get the stereo cranked to the max. No matter the runtime, the speed metal slayer “Split” and the longest track of all, the 10-minute epic, “Children of Cain” have everything you need in a Demons & Wizards song.
Long have metal fans sought a full-length release of the combined talents of Kürsch and Schaffer. Now all their wishes are at last granted with “III,” one of the biggest metal comebacks of the decade thus far, and an album that shouldn’t be ignored.