Demons & Wizards - III

Demons & Wizards III cover
Demons & Wizards
III
Century Media Records
2020
5.5
Ah… the problem with Demons & Wizards is one of inspiration. Maybe they were based on a couple of cool tracks that were written and included on their debut album, ages ago, but after a sophomore album that failed to really ignite passion or beget them a serious tour and with both band leaders, Hansi Kursch and Jon Schaffer busy with their own bands, they were put on ice for more than a decade… and were only resurrected now, presumably because some time was found, or just to give the “dayjob” bands a small break.
 
But how does this album fare… up to a point it feels like the logical sequel, but there are a number of issues with it, which will be discussed in greater length shortly.
 
Opener “Diabolic” begins with a nice intro and is permeated by a simple, but effective riff, but while Kursch build it nicely, half of its chorus is basically “Heaven Denies”… that much of a self-reference… feels intended, but at the same point one could very easily point the finger and accuse the band of lazy writing. Both views would be sort of valid too. While the song is pretty good, that big loan from the past mars it pretty badly.
 
“Invincible” begins with a fade in and a riff, reminiscent of Alice Cooper’s “Eighteen” with Kursch just doing, himself really… up to the chorus it really feels as if he’s singing on a “different song” almost. The chorus is pretty cool, but the whole hard rock atmosphere is probably a little unexpected.
 
“Wolves in Winter” has a very IE riff, but quickly it feels as if Blind Guardian have hijacked the song… resulting in a rather uneven combination, with Kursch basically doing all the heavy lifting with his inspired vocal melodies.
 
“Final Warning” begins with a pretty cool intro and some passionate Hansi vocals, but hits a wall, as soon as the main riff is introduced. This vain attempt at symphonic Iron Maiden is more reminiscent of Iced Earth, when they started to lose the plot (around “Horror Show”), with Kursch’s best efforts undermined, by the busy, but ultimately underwhelming musical backdrop.
 
“Timeless Spirit” spends a lot of time with Kursch maudlin over some acoustic guitar, before it picks up some steam with him wailing about some pseudo mythological mumbo jumbo. A nice solo ensues and the same thing repeats, until the song clocks over some nine minutes… unnecessarily long, for what it offers.
 
“Dark Side of Her Majesty” features some orchestra and maybe even a proper choir (not only HS overdubbed), but while it has nice dynamics, it lacks an awesome chorus; I mean it feels fair, but doesn’t manage to capitalize on its “difference” at best sounding like it just took a page out of the better moments of Iced Earth at their most epic and made an approximate Xerox of it, that it embellished with orchestrations to the point it neutered it.
 
“Midas Disease” is basically a lot more rock ‘n roll inspired. It felt a lot like… maybe WASP during their “Idol” phase… down to how Hansi sings it… not bad, but I am not sure if and how it fits along with the rest of the tracks on offer.
 
“New Dawn” is not far, from the MO of many of the songs of the album, but here the less aggressive riff seems to be more agreeable with the melodies that Kursch is singing. While it’s not some out of the world, great tune, this one sounds quite good, actually.
 
“Universal Truth” is another song that has a fade in, making me curious on why… while it almost sounds like a band on autopilot, with the background harmonies sounding distantly 80s poppy, it continues the streak its predecessor started of actually not sucking.
 
“Split” sounds pretty IE like, with Judas Priest inspired riffs and it tries to be superbly epic, but ultimately only half succeeds in replicating what seemed to be a given for Schaffer in the 90s.
 
“Children of Cain” is the last song on the album and is over ten minutes long, a reasonable mid-tempo tune, lost somewhere within the minutes of dodgy acoustic “atmosphere”, complete with ukulele or whatever the fuck that might be.
 
The deluxe edition features rough “demo versions” of “Final Warning” and “Children of Cain”, which is a whole two minutes shorter and probably all the better for it and a little heavier here. A second CD includes the entire album in instrumental form, which is probably an overkill geared only towards die hard or karaoke fans, as it’s not really something “that” impressive.
 
A very mediocre third album, with only a couple of decent moments and one of the better songs, just borrowing half the chorus, from an older “hit”. Only worth due to Kursch’s spirited performances, as Schaffer seems to be entering a second “dry spell” with his recent works, with only a couple of standout tracks (max) per release. I think I’ll pass…