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Demons & Wizards: Touched By the Crimson King

A lot has happened with Iced Earth and Blind Guardian since the leaders of those two bands last joined forces six years ago on the first Demons & Wizards CD. Iced Earth underwent a major personnel change by acquiring former Judas Priest vocalist Tim Owens and then released The Glorious Burden in 2004 — a lethal piece of headbanging history. Meanwhile, Blind Guardian toured the world, including a headlining stint in the United States with Symphony X in 2002, and built up an adoring worldwide audience. Last winter, Iced Earth guitarist Jon Schaffer and Blind Guardian vocalist Hansi Kürsch found time to reunite and record the follow-up to 1999's self-titled debut at Morrisound Recording Studios in Tampa, Fla.

The result is Touched By the Crimson King, another prog-metal/power-metal riff fest, complete with Kürsch's gravelly vocals and Schaffer's signature muscular melodies. A handful of other musicians join Demons & Wizards on drums, bass, piano, backing vocals and guitar solos, making for a solid arrangement that lets both Kürsch and Schaffer show off their strongest elements — which they do on tracks like "Beneath These Waves" and ""Crimson King."

While heavy songs and operatic choruses dominate Touched By the Crimson King — think back to mid-period Iced Earth and Blind Guardian — Demons & Wizards also has a more organic component than either of those bands. In fact, time and experience have helped broaden the musical depth of these gentlemen and make Touched By the Crimson King a worthy and logical successor to Demons & Wizards. "Seize the Day," "Love's Tragedy Asunder" and "The Gunslinger" open with acoustic atmospherics and some of Kürsch's softest singing before unleashing explosive furies that reach epic power-metal proportions. On the somber, medieval-sounding "Wicked Witch," meanwhile, you can practically see the smoky haze, feel the dewy grass and smell the evil incarnate, and the spooky epic "Dorian" chugs along at a mid-tempo pace and sounds unlike anything by either Iced Earth or Blind Guardian. Nothing groundbreaking, granted, but these songs certainly make for a hell of a potent listening experience.

I'm not sure we need a Demons & Wizards version of "Immigrant Song," but if these two metal giants feel the need to cover Led Zep in order to show their roots, far be it from me to bitch.

Track Listing:
1) Crimson King
2) Beneath These Waves
3) Terror Train
4) Seize the Day
5) The Gunslinger
6) Love's Tragedy Asunder
7) Wicked Witch
8) Dorian
9) Down Where I Am
10) Immigrant Song

Added: August 17th 2005
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: SPV USA
Hits: 3994
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Demons & Wizards: Touched By the Crimson King
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-08-17 19:28:55
My Score:

Taking the creative minds of Jon Schaffer and Hansi Kursch is certainly going to give you a unique Metal experience and with Touched By The Crimson King, these two Legends certainly deliver. Given their already well-known work in Blind Guardian and Iced Earth it is pretty much expected for the combined efforts of Demons & Wizards to be nothing short of exemplary. The group also does not suffer any lag time with this second release from the project as each tune is fresh and very well put together. Originally I felt this record had more of a Blind Guardian feel to it, but lost that quickly after a few more listens. It is very important to note that this mindset of expecting either Blind Guardian or Iced Earth should be lost in order to fully appreciate this music. Use it as a frame of reference but enjoy the exponential growth this is able to offer you. Starting off the release is the title track "Touched By The Crimson King" and this is one rousing number. It also showcases the ever exciting drumming of Bobby Jarzombek (Iced Earth, Halford, Riot) who is a welcome addition to this group in my opinion. Thinking this is impressive in terms of drums will quickly have you second guessing when "Terror Train" begins. This is a blistering track and the guitar and drum feel that encompasses it speeds by you and yet is also very well laced with a technical flair. Hansi's voice is on point for the whole record as he showcases both his powerful side on numbers that dictate this be so as well as the softer side on the ballad type numbers. As I enjoy Metal ballads I found particular interest in the ones they did on this release. "Seize The Day" and "Wicked Witch" are great from a ballad standpoint.

"Beneath These Waves" is fast becoming a favorite and this holds a very traditional style to its metal content. There is a lot of this present on "Crimson King", but largely this release falls to the "Power Metal" motif more than anything else. According to Jon in a recent interview, Hansi had more to do with this release than he had as he had just become a Father and also had some health issues to deal with. Once things got back to normal pace the record was recorded and some of this piece is based on Stephen Kings "Dark Tower" books which Hansi is a fan of.

The band includes a cover of Led Zeppelins "The Immigrant Song" and it's nice to see these guys also have a little loose fun on the record. This is a high recommendation for anyone who follows their respective bands and wants to sample what the two can come up with together.

» Reader Comments:

Demons & Wizards: Touched By the Crimson King
Posted by Carlos Canales Vega on 2005-08-19 10:25:09
My Score:

I found this to be better than either Iced or Blind stuff and THAT is saying something.Especially compeling are the two first song but all the material is top notch songwritting and delivery.I would be hard pressed to find another cd of recent release by any other band that is as memorable as this, so any rating below 5 stars is disrespectful to the craft produced by these two geniuses.The cover song is infinitly better than the original just by the voice of Hansi alone and the crunchy modern guitar tone of Shaffer's guitar.The production is flawless: crisp and powerful.Bottom line: a must buy for anyone with even a remote interest in heavy metal.

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