People who say Demons and Wizards sounds like Blind Guardian meets Iced Earth aren’t listening closely enough. This musical match-up of IE’s Jon Schaffer and BG’s Hansi Kursch is magical in a way that’s hard for me to explain.I’m a fan of both bands, and respect the talents of both musicians. Yet, neither creates music like this. IE’s music is intense, sometimes brutal that borders on the blatantly angry. BG’s music is also intense, but in a more lyrically optimistic way. On one hand, a friendship between Jon Schaffer and Hansi Kursch seems unlikely. Schaffer has never been accused of being a starry-eyed dreamer. And Hansi isn’t known for seeing the glass half empty. Yet, these two musicians bonded on their first tour together many years ago…and now regard one another almost with mystical reverence.On this, their first collaboration, Schaffer and Kursch achieve synergy — a magical blending of styles that draws upon the foundation of both bands, yet transcends each. Frankly, Schaffer’s guitar work never sounded better. And Hansi’s voice — an acquired taste to some — is at its melodic best.My favorite track is “Fiddler on the Green,” a song that arose from two real-life tragedies in Hansi’s life. (In case you didn’t know, the CD’s cover graphics are based on the story line of “Fiddler.”) This song has poignant lyrics, killer guitar work (both electric and acoustic) and stellar vocals from Hansi.If you’re a fan of Iced Earth and/or Blind Guardian, Demons and Wizards is a must-have. If you aren’t familiar with those bands, yet you like well-played metal with a lot of nice vocals — not to mention the aforementioned element of “magic” — you should give Demons and Wizards a try.If you like what you hear, you’ll be pleased to know that Schaffer and Kursch are working on the next Demons and Wizards album — an album that will surely top my wish list for 2003.