ALBUM REVIEW: Demons & Wizards – III

It’s hard to believe that fifteen years have passed since power metal supergroup Demons and Wizards released their last album. A collaborative effort between Hansi Kürsch of Blind Guardian and Jon Schaffer from Iced Earth, the two frontmen finally found the time amid their busy schedules to work together once again, returning to the project so widely anticipated by their legion of devoted fans.

With only two full-length releases to their name, it’s a notable achievement that the buzz surrounding Demons & Wizards has never actually faded away. This was illustrated perfectly last year as the prospect of brand new material sent their faithful followers into a frenzy when the band toured for the first time in nearly twenty years, even playing in the US for the first time ever. So, with expectations at an already comically unrealistic level, third album III (Century Media) is finally upon us. And yes, it’s totally been worth the wait.

Released as a promo video at the end of last year, it’s highly likely that barnstorming opener ‘Diabolic’ will be already etched firmly into the minds of many as the album lifts off straight away and never looks back. From the soaring, mid-paced ‘Invincible’ to the more aggressive but still typically melodic ‘Wolves in Winter’ and ‘Final Warning’, Kürsch’s unmistakable voice is in fine form, Schaffer driving each song forward with his trademark staccato riffing. ‘Timeless Spirit’ switches from jangling acoustics to something more dramatic, even throwing in a tasty blues-infused guitar solo before Hansi unleashes his inner Ian Gillan.

‘Dark Side Of Her Majesty’ speaks pretty much for itself, while the downbeat AC/DC meets Scorpions ‘Midas Disease’ crawls its way under your skin in no time at all, Hansi returning to his harsher vocal sound, occasionally even sounding like W.A.S.P. frontman Blackie Lawless. ‘New Dawn’ and ‘Universal Truth’ are full of welcome twists and turns, both coming equipped with killer choruses, while the dark penultimate track ‘Split’ features some excellent off-kilter guitar work, and ten minute closer ‘Children of Cain’ evokes the spirit of ‘Fiddler on the Green’ without ever leaning on it too heavily.

Despite its rather uninspiring title, III still sits happily alongside the band’s best work. Cohesive, memorable, and above all, deliriously enjoyable. The choral sections are orchestrated perfectly, Brent Smedley‘s drums are resonant and powerful, and while a sixty-five minute run time might seem a little excessive, considering how long this latest collection of songs took to arrive in the first place, it’s best to not quibble over trivialities such as that.

9 / 10

GARY ALCOCK