Artist: Demons & Wizards
Label: Century Media Records
Created in 1998 by Hansi Kürsch of Blind Guardian and Jon Schaffer of Iced Earth, Demons & Wizards is known to many power metal fans as one of the best collaborative side projects of in heavy metal history. Having released their self-titled debut in 2000 and its Stephen King -influenced follow-up in 2010, fans have been waiting a full decade for any new material. Having started making appearances at festivals in recent years, D&W hinted that it was time for something new at long last! Their third album, simply named III, is set for release on February 21st, 2020.
Opening with the first single, “Diabolic,” the listener is immediately given a decent epic, introducing the demon, Jon Schaffer, with his traditional chugging guitars, and the wizard, Hansi Kürsch, who never fails to impress with his incredibly unique and powerful voice.
While the album has definite highlights and clearly experiments with potential sounds that the band can utilize, such as the western guitars in “Timeless Spirit” and the groovier style of “Midas Disease,” the album maintains a more mid-tempo pace than the speedier power metal of Demons & Wizards and Touched by the Crimson King. Songs like “Wolves in Winter” have a bit more speed with powerful melodies, tempos, and vocal layers that you can’t help but love, and “Timeless Spirit” is compositionally similar to the ever-beloved “Fiddler on the Green,” starting in ballad territory with a climax that pushes the dynamics. “Universal Truth” has a fairly catchy overall melody but could have pushed the energy a bit more.
The sound and style you hope for from D&W remains, and at no point do Schaffer or Kürsch fail at what they do best. The performances across the board are very well done and the soundscapes and styles that make D&W what they are are ever-present throughout the album. However, the general dynamics of III don’t quite push the envelope as much as they could. Songs like “Final Warning” and “New Dawn” serve fantastically as background music but when actively listening through the album, we found ourselves not feeling as interested or excited as we might have hoped.
The album ends with the 10-minute-long “Children of Cain,” which is a well-made and emotive piece with strong acoustic guitars, and a rich-sounding story. It’s a very nice piece but again lacks a little something extra to push it to the best of its potential.
It’s hard to summarize this album well. The overall feeling on listening is positive, but perhaps not as positive as we would have hoped. The things you want to hear in a D&W album are there: the classic Schaffer guitar riffs and emotive and beautiful vocals by Kürsh are ever-present. Perhaps this album feels a bit less creative than its predecessors and lacks a bit of speed and oomph. Nevertheless, it’s not as though we were left disappointed. The album has a lot to offer and takes a few listens to really get to know, so don’t let first impressions dissuade you from giving it a proper chance. It might also benefit from the lyrics – perhaps there’s a story that better-suits the music than we’ve understood without access to the words.
Rating: 7/10, 4 stars
3. Wolves in Winter
4. Final Warning
5. Timeless Spirit
6. Dark Side of Her Majesty
7. Midas Disease
8. New Dawn
9. Universal Truth
11. Children of Cain