Even the rocks will know by now that Demons & Wizards are the side project band of Hansi Kursch and Jon Schaffer, two very popular characters thanks to the work done the former as singer of Blind Guardian and the latter as leader of Iced Earth. It's long time that the most different rumors have been moving round about this project of theirs: Hansi and Jon have never hidden their feelings of mutual sympathy and started writing something in common already in 1997. Their duties with the respective original bands, kissed by a very great success of audience and critics everywhere in the world, have then lessened the process of gestation of this album excessively, work that only after about three years from the composition of the first song has been finally finished. A long and enervating wait then for the very several headbangers of the planet, but even a wait that has been paid back very well by a work that does not disappoint our expectations confirming again the huge songwriting skills of Hansi and Jon: though not reaching the level of the fantastic "Nightfall in Middle Earth" nor anyway the one of the excellent "Something Wicked This Way Comes", the work of Demons & Wizards reveals from the first listening to be better than any other album of the genre released in 1999 (with the one exception of "The House of Atreus" by Virgin Steele). Demons & Wizards does not strays much from what Hansi and Jon have already been able to make us listen in the past and in particular it's Iced Earth of the U.S. guitar player that are recalled the most from the stylistical point of view. Various songs are all much simple, without particular technicalities and complex harmonic woofs, characterized by an easy structure and by almost essential rhythmical arrangements in which the fast tercets by Schaffer and the flashes of double bass drums of Prator's drumkit strike for their scarny immediacy. But one mustn't believe that this expressive minimalism translates into thinness and insubstantiality, on the contrary the simplicity of instrumental section allows Hansi's very refined voice to rise in all its natural beauty. The key to understand this work must then be found in the performance of the German singer, impronted not on the concept of sound assault (as the essentiality of the songs could make believe), but on the contrary on the search for telling atmospheres. In the albums are in fact present many references about the subject of "narration" so loved by Blind Guardian, from the cover (that someway recalls the artwork of "Somewhere far Beyond") to many lyrics (among which it appears the final trilogy inspired to the legend of the gnome Azrael and the creation of the world); it is as if for once the bard Hansi had prefered using a less complex (but not less effective) structure to tell his stories and to enchant his listeners. In line with the conceptual nature of the album the quiet and reflexive atmospheres prevail evidently over the epic/warring ones and even the most energic tracks present some crepuscular and suffering melodies that anaesthetize the rawness of the rhythmical section. An album then that encloses together the adrenalinic charge of Iced Earth and the bigger expressive maturity of Blind Guardian effectively: I don't think you need further words to run to your favourite CD seller…

Fulvio "Araya"

Spv / 2000 / 52.35 min.

Hansi Kursch (vc)

Jon Schaffer (gt)

Jim Morris (gt)

Mark Prater (dr)

Blind Guardian - Nightfall in middle earth

Iced Earth - Something wicked this way comes

Iced Earth - Alive in Athens


Rites of passages A very short and gloomy instrumental track that introduces the album; ready for the assault that is about to come
Heaven's denied Fresh and disruptive, the song starts with a very fast rhythm and a lead guitar in perfect Iced Earth-style, but only to make room for the frenetic verse where the hypnotic voice of Hansi stands out. The rhythm doesn't ever slow down along the song practically, even during the chorus where voice and guitars challenge creating a great emphasys that turns out only during the latest two final minutes, formed by a very sad row of arpeggios on which the voice reduces to a sad whisper
Poor man's crusade Characterized by a rhythmical and rocking walking, the second song in the album hits for the tension it succeeds to create verse after verse. Particularity of the song is that when the tension reaches the top it does not flow into the foreseeable epic and screaming refrain, on the contrary into a depressive chorus in which Hansi sings afflicted and resigned. Inspired song (like the title shows) to the happenings of the crusaders in holy land and to the uselessness of religion wars. Very sad
Fiddler on the green Song divided into two parts. The first one acoustic completely, dreamy and evocative, true bard-song that projects us into a faraway world made of gnomes and fairies. Just a soft lead guitar accompanies the voices on the acoustic carpet of Schaffer. After about three minutes and a half the distortion explodes, but the lead melody remains unchanged. Still prevalence of quiet atmospheres for the song that refers to the cover of the album
Blood on my hands So we come to the other Metal ride, the one present in the album along with the starting episode. Strophe supported by the double bass drums, evocative bridge with arpeggios, chorus in Blind Guardian style where the influence of Hansi becomes more evident. Epic and bloody song
Path of glory So we come to another semi-ballad, where the acoustic and sad verses act as counterpoint to the distorted and rocking chorus. The song is very simple, minimal both for arrangements and structure, but it's really thanks to this simplicity that it has the power to enchant in an unbelievably way. It owns hopeful lyrics, but the atmosphere isn't too happy or thoughtless for sure. One of the best episodes in the album
Winter of souls Sounds become at once more electric but rhythms remain contained. The song recalls in an evident way the melodic constructions of Blind Guardian, and in fact this is the only episode where the influence of the German band rises in a predominant way. Very nice chorus thanks to an ever chameleon-like and perfect interpretation
The whistler Silent and dark start entrusted to the soft arpeggios by Jon Schaffer. Tension increases bluntly after not even a minute, but the songs does never accelerates alterning electricity flashes and moments of bigger acoustic quiet. As far as I am concerned it's the less successful, supported by the talent of the two but sometimes even a bit usual
Tear down the walls So we come to the final trilogy about the legend of Azrael. Fourth masterpiece in the album, built on the contrast between the contained verses in which tension is taken to the top and the epic chorus to scream at the top of one's voice…a not so innovative construction but anyway perfect that exhalts the nicest refrain in the album. Involving never foregone epicness. Effective and misleading final acceleration
Gallows pole The huge epicness of the previous episode turns into suffering melancholy. Alternance of feelings of rage and quietness in the verse (even characterized by the huge use of effects) that turns into a chorus of huge melancholy, almost a fitting lullaby with the story told: Azrael, weary with the universe he created, decides to destroy it completely along with himself
My last sunrise Last episode of the album and even first song that the couple Schaffer/Kursch has ever written for this project. It recalls the gloomy atmospheres of the previous episode, but it is characterized by a less convincing and effective walking. A bit anonymous ending for an album excellent anyway
Chant Very short ending instrumental