Published on March 10th, 2020 | by Justin G.
Demons & Wizards: III (Century Media, 2020)
Until just a few months ago, did anyone really think we’d be starting 2020 with a new album from Demons & Wizards? After all, it had been 15 years since the supergroup – featuring Blind Guardian vocalist Hansi Kursch and Iced Earth guitarist Jon Schaffer – last released an album. Still, after a flurry of live appearances the pair (augmented by Iced Earth alum Brent Smedley and Jake Dreyer) unveiled their latest collaboration: the appropriately-titled III.
This is one of those albums that was never going to meet expectations. Even if you set aside how untouchable the first Demons & Wizards album was, coming at a time when both artists were in their prime, just following up the strong and memorable Touched By The Crimson King was going to be tough. For the most part, III gets the job done. These guys have such obvious creative chemistry, and hearing Hansi’s distinctive vocals over Schaffer’s equally distinctive riffing is always a joy. I’d argue it’s the best thing either of these guys has done in a decade, but it doesn’t quite recapture past glory.
III is a really solid album overall, which it pretty much had to be given the talent involved. There are moments of greatness within these songs, even if relatively few of the songs are true standouts. Early single “Wolves In Winter” is probably the best song III has to offer, and the one that comes closest to that classic Demons & Wizards sound. The longer songs like “Diabolic” (8 minutes) and “Children Of Cain” (10 minutes) have some great parts, but don’t quite come together the way you’d expect a great epic song to. It’s the shorter, sharper tracks like “Universal Truth,” “Invincible” and “Midas Disease” that satisfy the most.
We’re probably past the point where Demons & Wizards is going to dominate the heavy/power metal scene with a new album, but it’s still great to hear new music from these guys. Especially new music where Hansi sings over actual guitars and isn’t about fringe politics and conspiracy theories. If you loved the previous two Demons & Wizards albums and can keep your expectations reasonable, there’s plenty to like about III. It’s hard to settle for “good” when greatness is possible though.
Summary: It's great to have them back, but they're not setting the world on fire with this one.