Released: 2005, SPV
Everyone by now knows that Demons & Wizards is the project fronted by Blind Guardian vocalist Hansi Kürsch and Iced Earth mastermind and guitarist Jon Schaffer. This is the pair’s second release following up the self-titled album from 2000.
On my first couple of listens to TOUCHED BY THE CRIMSON KING, I was not as taken with the album as I was with it’s predecessor. The main reason was simply due to the amount of clean guitar and slower songs...and listening to this album when running on a treadmill is not the ideal situation. You’re best off listening to this album in a quiet environment. Also, the novelty of hearing Hansi sing over Iced Earth riffs has worn off, at least on my part. What eventually turned my opinion of this album around began with listening to the album in a much more suitable and quiet setting. The album does open with a bang with the driving track “Crimson King”. This has all the elements you expect from the band - Jon’s trademark crazy speedy riffing, double kicks and Hansi’s resonant and multi-layered vocal approach. The second track, “Beneath These Waves” is more subdued and is one of the more powerful tracks of the album. “Terror Train” is one of about 3 of the songs on here lyrically inspired by Stephen King. The other, more mellow, side of the album is best represented with “The Gunslinger” which I liked for it’s change from the clean guitar to it’s heavier parts. Other songs that stand out include “Love’s Tragedy Asunder” and “Dorian”.
The album’s closer is a cover of one of Led Zeppelin’s better songs for it’s driving rhythm and cool lyrics. Of course I'm referring to “Immigrant Song”. Demons & Wizards play it safe and give a rather pedestrian cover of the song adding nothing to it whatsoever and not coming close to the magic of the original. I am not sure why my version had this on the album, considering the digi-pak has two non-album original tracks (“Lunar Lament” and “Spatial Architects”) which I would much rather hear.
TOUCHED BY THE CRIMSON KING is a great album, albeit predictable. You’d think that the band would raise the bar after their self-titled album from 2000. Instead they keep things safe and offer a solid but uninspiring album. You’d also expect that maybe these two masterminds would use this band to break new ground on a musical level which fits neither into the Iced Earth or Blind Guardian framework. Instead, Demons & Wizards is more about two good friends getting the opportunity to work together, rather than about the creation of something entirely new. As a big fan of both Iced Earth and Blind Guardian, my rating is perhaps a notch or so higher than what the average listener might give the album.