Demons & Wizards - Touched By The Crimson King - SPV Records
10 Songs
Running Time: 49:24

The first thing that one must get out of their heads when listening to Demons & Wizards is that it has a life of its own, apart from whatever "supergroup" tag one wants to clip to its ear. Yes, the Hansi Kursch is the frontman for Blind Guardian, and Jon Schaffer has been something of a leading force in American power metal over the past decade, but if the project wound up sounding like the two bands slapped together and run through a press, what would be the point, really? Detractors will take exactly that position, while those fans who waited nearly five years for this sophomore effort will snap it up with full understanding of the effort involved in taking time away from two full-time bands to create a separate musical entity.

The syncopated choral chants and tight double-bass work that begin 'Crimson King' speak volumes to the level of professionalism the lineup on this album had going into the project. Bobby Jarzombek's drumming is spot-on, and Schaffer knows enough of his craft not to overplay at the expense of the song, even going so far as to have Jim Morris (of Morrisound Studios) reprise his role on the debut by taking over the chore of guitar solos. A better move couldn't have been made, in my opinion. Morris coming from an older school of technique gives much of the solo work a heartfelt tone ala David Gilmour, and goes a long way toward saving Demons & Wizards from being cast as a two-man show of musical masturbation. Kursch and Schaffer don't need Demons & Wizards to tell them how skilled they are at their respective crafts. They want Demons & Wizards, because it lets a different part in each of their personalities take its turn in the spotlight. One need look no further than the bombast of 'Terror Train' to see where this relationship benefits both parties, and in turn, us. For his part, Kursch gets to explore more of his minor range than would be allowed in the operatic near-speed metal of Blind Guardian, and Schaffer gets to loose the tight reins held on Iced Earth, and rely on someone else for a change. Morris calls up the spirit of Robin Trower for the fluid leads in power ballad 'Seize The Day', while Kursch's crystalline vocals carry the singalong chorus to the song's end. 'The Gunslinger' moves from a haunting bass/vocal intro to machine-gun attack in seconds, and blasts forward all the way to the melancholic resign of 'Love's Tragedy Asunder', which is more catchy than power metal has any right to be. I've never been one to advocate the purchase of an album for one song alone, but if I ever were, 'Dorian' is that song. In its retelling of A Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, Demons & Wizards manages to create one of the most memorable power metal songs of the past few years. 'Dorian' is theatrical without being laughable, epic without conceit, and draws you into the story, just as the author of the original. Musically, 'Dorian' is on par with anything Maiden's done since reuniting, and I say that without a shred of irony. The acoustically-dominated 'Down Where I Am' ends the original material on Touched By The Crimson King, which is brought to a close with a strange choice in covers, that being 'Immigrant Song' by Led Zeppelin. Thankfully, Demons & Wizards know enough to not fuck with the masters, but do add their own colour to one of Metal's first flagship songs in the form of background vocals and Jarzombek's added drum fills in the song's climax.

Honestly, any other band taking five years between their first and second album would pretty much be rebuilding their fanbase from scratch. In the case of Demons & Wizards, however, they knew that (regardless of who was in the band) the second album had to surpass the expectations of both themselves and the fans. In an age of power metal overkill, Touched By The Crimson King exudes class and shows us a band moving deeper into a sound they can truly call their own.

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