Demons and Wizards – III

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Demons and Wizards

Reviewed: April, 2020
Released: 2020, Century Media
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Erich

Nearly ten years ago, in November of 2010 I asked Hansi Kursch in an interview when/if fans could expect a third Demons And Wizards album. I got my answer in February 2020 when the blandly named III was released. Most reading this review already know the story, but briefly Demons and Wizards is the side-project collaboration between Blind Guardian singer Hansi Kursch and Iced Earth guitarist Jon Schaffer. Their 1999 self-titled debut excited many people, and I was unabashedly on board, finding it in some ways more satisfying than either of the duo’s main gigs. The debut felt like an album of equal contributions and is one of the few places you will hear Schaffer write a song in a major, cheerful key (“Path of Glory”), while Hansi had to sing over gruffer, less ornate and heavier guitar passages than he was used to in Blind Guardian.

TOUCHED BY THE CRIMSON KING came out in 2005 and felt more forced and more Hansi. Sure, there are plenty of heavy, piston pounding Schaffer riffs, but the orchestral, operatic elements rear their heads immediately on the opening track. The album is semi-conceptual, drawing lyrical inspiration from Hansi’s love of fantasy literature. The source material was Stephen King’s Dark Tower Saga. Many jumped off the wagon here, and I found only about half the album enjoyable.

III comes fifteen years later, and perhaps recognizing the long gap, the band has given us sixty-four minute of music to digest. Happily, everything is back in balance. From the opening gradual build of first single “Diabolic”, and its hooky riff you hear that balance. Hansi soars with variety and personality while Schaffer brings the heft. The band has always shined on the mid-paced and melodic songs while speedy ones often sounded out of touch and dated. III shows the band learning this lesson, where even the heaviest songs are balanced by careful mid-paced choruses and an abundance of melodies such as on second single, “Wolves Of Winter.”

Hansi & Jon
I would be disappointed, as would others, if Hansi did not include songs inspired from literature. “Final Warning” is inspired by Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives while the excellent and uplifting “Invincible” is about the character Lyra from Philip Pulman’s His Dark Materials. “Timeless Sprit” is the expected ballad, and while decent, it cannot compete with “Fiddler On The Green“ or “Down Where I Am.” Hansi gets to indulge his love of the classical and symphonic on “Dark Side Of Her Majesty”, with the PA’dam Chamber Choir chipping in to help. The album closes with the epic and inspiring “The Children of Cain”, where once again we here an atypical music key for Schaffer to work in and spiritual, resounding guitar lines midway through the song.

III emphatically redeems some of the missteps of TBTCK and competes with the debut for their best album. There is no question that Kursch and Schaffer came to this album fully committed, as the excellent album art, vinyl package, liner notes and lyrics attest. Most tellingly, they have figured out that their best chemistry lies in the melodic and the mid-paced. The previous two albums were mostly dark and foreboding, but III opens the clouds and lets rays of light shine in more frequently and in ways that speak of hope rather than despair. III is also the most complex album of the three and perhaps the best compliment I can pay to any album is I have been unable to stop playing it, as each listen reveals subtle things I missed before. Anyone that is a fan of the band, but apprehensive about investing time after TBTCK, rest assured III will be time well spent.



Track Listing: Jon & Hansi

01. Diabolic
02. Invincible
03. Wolves In Winter
04. Final Warning
05. Timeless Spirit
06. Dark Side Of Her Majesty
07. Midas Disease
08. New Dawn
09. Universal Truth
10. Split
11. Children Of Cain


Vocals : Hansi Kürsch
Guitars : John Schaffer
Bass: Ruben Drake
Drums: Brend Smedley
Choir: PA’dam Chamber Choir