• 6/10
    DEMONS & WIZARDS - III - 6/10


Century Media Records
Release date: February 21, 2020

User Review
6/10 (2 votes)

Demons & Wizards features of the talents of vocalist Hansi Kürsch of Blind Guardian (vocals) and Jon Schaffer of Iced Earth (guitars). Their friendship spans nearly 30 years and their previous collaborations have yielded two studio albums. They’re back after 14 years and Schaffer states their growth “will be obvious from the first listen. You will hear classic and progressive rock influences, even an alternative vibe in a few places. But it is a pure and dynamic heavy metal album through and through.” Kürsch adds: “We have accomplished a lot. A lot! This third album is the peak of our career for sure. Mark my words, you will love this album!”

After listening to III from start to finish, the album is often the opposite of dynamic and comes up short of a career peak. Some of the problem stems from the mix which heavily favors the vocals and rhythm guitar at the expense of the lead guitar. (Full disclosure: this reviewer’s promo copy mp3 bit rate is only 160 Kbps) This lopsided mix often leaves songs melodically challenged. Another significant issue is the lack of tempo changes within songs. The resulting one-dimensional songs are too heavy a lift for the prodigious talents of Kürsch to overcome.

The best songs are early. “Diabolic” has long intro atmospherics that eventually take off at a gallop with layered vocals and aggressive guitar passages generating a menace familiar to Iced Earth fans. While delivered at a hurried pace, it’s nonetheless comfortable exploring every nuance of the core riffs and chorus elements. “Invincible” is an inspiring sword and shield anthem providing a platform for vocal heroics recognizable to Blind Guardian fans. The layered and multi-channeled chorus delivery dominates the song. Later, “Midas Disease”, Schaffer’s tribute to AC/DC’s Malcolm Young, delivers a highlight featuring a simple chugging riff, a strong chorus and tasteful hard rock guitar soloing.

Songs such as “Wolves In Winter” and “Dark Side Of Her Majesty” employ relentless stuttering riffs that initially peak a listener’s interest but become one-dimensional. “Timeless Spirit” and “Universal Truth” suffer from periods of muddy mid-tempo rhythm guitar and equally thick vocal accompaniment. None of these songs have the outsized vocal delivery and inspirational chorus necessary to elevate them above average.

With the combined pedigrees of Schaffer’s and Kürsch’s musicianship and such a long time between releases, expectations are indeed high for III. Aside from limited highlights, it’s a disappointment due to patterns of oft-repeated riffs, underwhelming lyrics, underpowered melodies and unvaried tempos.


TRACKLIST (Highlights: 1, 2, 7)

  1. Diabolic (8:01)
  2. Invincible (4:34)
  3. Wolves In Winter (4:18)
  4. Final Warning (3:46)
  5. Timeless Spirit (9:16)
  6. Dark Side Of Her Majesty (4:38)
  7. Midas Disease (4:36)
  8. New Dawn (4:22)
  9. Universal Truth (5:05)
  10. Split (6:02)
  11. Children Of Cain (10:07)



Hansi Kürsch – Lead & Backing Vocals
Jon Schaffer – Rhythm and Lead Guitars, Bass Guitar, 6 and 12 string Acoustic Guitars, Mandolin, Keyboards, Backing Vocals

Guest Musicians:
Brent Smedley – Drums
Jim Morris – Additional Guitars, Backing Vocals
Jake Dreyer – Additional Guitars
Ruben Drake – Bass
Thomas Hackman, Olaf Senkbeil, John Jaycee Cuipers, Zakery Alexander, Jeff Brant, Todd Plant, Jerome Mazza – Backing vocals
PA’dam chamber choir – Classical Choir


  • Zac Halter

    Zac was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio, hailing from Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. His interest in heavy music began in the 70s with his father’s Johnny Cash albums. After cousins introduced him to Steppenwolf, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, KISS, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, Johnny Cash didn’t stand a chance. The 80s were spent in full pursuit of everything Metal: searching for new music at record stores, listening to albums, studying the covers and sleeves, and attending concerts. In the 90s, he preferred Death Metal over Grunge and hosted the Death Metal Juggernaut on WUPX in Marquette, Michigan. It was advertised as the only prime time Death Metal radio show in the country.

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