Released: 2000, SPV
Demons & Wizards, dungeons and dragons, "circles and rings, dragons and kings weaving a charm and a spell." Ooops....slipping into Ronnie James Dio territory - yeah I'm sure Dio's lyrical influence is a factor here. So...here I sit, enraptured by the sounds of "Demons & Wizards." Yes it's GREAT, but no real big surprises. Some songs are kind of different and do not conjure up visions of either Blind Guardian or Iced Earth. However, if you can imagine Iced Earth with Hansi on vocals, then you have a good idea of what to expect. The sum of the parts do not exactly equal the whole, resulting in the creation of a new beast, one that fans of both Iced Earth and Blind Guardian will love.
For those living under a rock, Demons & Wizards is the brainchild of Hansi Kürsch (lead vocalist of Blind Guardian) and Jon Schaffer (guitarist of Iced Earth). Joining Jon and Hansi on the CD are former Iced Earth drummer Mark Prator and helping on lead guitar - Jim Morris himself (I didn't realize he played, I thought he was just a producer/engineer). All music and lyrics were written by Jon and Hansi. The two have become friends over the years of both their bands touring together, this being where the seed was planted for what has now grown into Demons & Wizards.
Upon hearing the CD a few times there are two elements that to me a prominent in the mix. First is Jon's awesome staccato riffing found in many of Iced Earth's songs like the insane riffing on "Angel's Holocaust" or "Birth of the Wicked." This makes for the more intense elements in the band and is prominent on tracks like "Rite of Passage", "Blood On My Hands" and "Winter of Souls." The second element that stands out is the epic element in the song writing that I would attribute to Hansi's influence as evidenced on many of the epic tracks on Blind Guardian's CD "Nightfall in Middle Earth." These more complex songs offer more texture and don't go immediately for the jugulator. Tracks in this vein include "Poor Man's Crusade", "Fiddler on the Green", "Winter of Souls" (I love the chorus on this one, it's most memorable). Like the concept trilogy found on Iced Earth's "Something Wicked This Way Comes", Demons & Wizards has a trilogy of their own which is told within the songs "Tear down The Wall", "Gallows Pole" and "My Last Sunrise." The trilogy tells the tale of a gnome, Azrael (no not gargemelle's cat haha) who decides that the universe he has created was not what it was cracked up to be so he begins disassembling it - yeah weird stuff. Besides the excellent music on this CD there is the CD artwork and layout which is phenomenal! The cover art (as you can see above) is amazing. The CD layout is also excellent with full album lyrics, pictures and artwork.
You can't go wrong with picking this CD up. I'm sure most of you already are fans of both Blind Guardian and Iced Earth - so you don't need to read any other reviews to decide if this CD is worthy - just get it and drool!!!