After buying and listening to their first released, I was thrilled when “Touched By The Crimson King” finally came out. For me, it was well worth the wait, for both of their other bands are my two favorites: Iced Earth (Jon Schaffer’s band) and Blind Guardian (Hansi’s Band). This release leans more over to Blind Guardian’s sound with just a touch of Iced Earth, while the first album sounded more like Iced Earth, yet still having a completely different sound than the two respective bands. This cd combines heavy thrash style metal with epic, choir like vocals, thus having a very strong B.G. feel to them. My personal favorites are: “Touched By The Crimson King”, “Love’s Tragedy Asunder” “Dorian”, and “Down Where I Am”. Overall, this is a great release for anyone who is a fan of Iced Earth or Blind Guardian, and highly recommended to new fans of the two bands and also Metal in general.
Can you think of a line that describes the emotional microcosm of a fan better than the initial words of Terror Train, one of the most impressive tracks on the new Demons & Wizards album, Touched By The Crimson King? ”I´m awake, you better feed me now”, sings vocalist Hansi Kürsch, hitting the nail on the head. Mind you, the international metal community has been wide awake ever since the self-titled Demons & Wizards debut arrived at the stores in 2000, waiting impatiently to be fed with more songs. The fact that they had to wait another five years is in the nature of things; after all, Hansi Kürsch’s chief occupation is his band, Blind Guardian, while guitarist Jon Schaffer has launched several major projects with his main group, Iced Earth. One the one hand, Touched By The Crimson King continues the artistic tradition of its two protagonists, Kürsch and Schaffer, and on the other it seems directly connected to the Demons & Wizards debut. ”The common denominator that links the two albums lies in the fact that the tracks are constructed in a simpler style than the regular Blind Guardian and Iced Earth material”, Kürsch describes of his new album. ”At the same time, the music has more of an acoustic focus. You can tell that we approached the song-writing without any preconceptions. The term ‘mellow’ springs to mind whenever somebody asks me to describe the mood on the album. Even when the Demons & Wizards debut came out, fans told us that the music is a symbiosis of its two creative forces. Some even said that parts of it sounded like early Blind Guardian and early Iced Earth. I think this description also applies to Touched By The Crimson King. The overall impression of the album is marked by a certain rawness, together with many atmospheric moods.”
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Before this album was released I was reading many reviews that said CK did not stack up to the debut album. I was very pleasantly surprised when I popped this album in to find out that it is definately as good if not better than their debut. I think the main reason is the songs are better front to back. Sure there was some killer tracks on the first album but there were also a few songs that I didn’t care for either. I can’t think of a dull track on this album.
The combination of John’s hammering rhythms and Hansi layered vocal harmonies create a great atmosphere and unique sounds. There is quite an even mix of heavy and acoustic parts again as John’s acoustic playing really shines on this album. Usually I get turned off by too much mellow stuff on a metal album but Demons and Wizards pull if off so well I can’t help but like it. Don’t worry there is still a lot of heavy songs and most parts that start mellow always kick in and get heavy. Like I said before I like every song on the album but my personal highlights include ‘Beneath these Waves’ killer song and great chorus!, ‘Loves Tragedy Asunder’ a powerballad done right, ‘Down Where I Am’ another powerballad, can’t explain why I like it so much, and ‘Lunar Lament’ supposedly a bonus track but one of the best IMO.
Overall this album exeeded my expectations. Not sure if was because of the previous reviews I read or the fact that I didn’t care for the last Iced Earth album TGB. Irregardless I see no reason why anyone who liked the first one won’t dig CK just as much. Who knows you may even like it better.
My rating for CK is 9/10 while I’d give the first album 8.5/10
Who would you say are the male vocalists with the most distinctive voices you can think of? I’ve been thinking about that and I’ve come up with three vocalists who not only are easily recognizable but also add so much to their music, you just know it would even be close to the same with somebody else.
First there is Type O Negative’s, Peter Steel. Then we have the Scorpion’s fabulous lead singer, Klaus Meine. Last but not least, and you may not have heard of him, is Hansi Kursch of the German symphonic power metal band Blind Guardian and Hansi can belt out those amazing vocals with the best of them. Hansi is a singer, that to the unsuspecting ear may mistake him for that other great unmistakable vocalist, the late Freddie Mercury.
Demons and Wizards is a collaboration between two superlative heavy metal band’s leaders, Blind Guardian and Iced Earth and this album, Touched by the Crimson King, is the second album born of this prolific union. Each band can and does stand strongly on it’s own but as a unit there strengths seem to be magnified and as I started to say Blind Guardian’s main strength is their incomparable singer Kursch. The singing of Kursch just lights up the music like a billboard. Even Steel and Meine cannot, in my opinion, do what Hansi does.
Touched by the Crimson King
The brand new Demons and Wizards album picks up where the self titled debut album left off. Touched by the Crimson King is sixty-six minutes of musical variety ranging from slow melodic ballads to super hard driving blockbusters. Borrowing from Jon Schaffer’s Iced Earth style, we have speedy heavy percussion and guitar riffs galore, merging with the strengths of Blind Guardian, symphonic style, melodious backing vocals, lush layering of music so deep you can get lost in it, topped off by the indescribable vocals of Hansi Kursch, like a cherry on a hot fudge sundae.
Demons and Wizards is:
Hansi Kürsch – Vocals
Jon Schaffer – Rhythm, Bass, Lead and Acoustic Guitars
Jim Morris – Guitar Solos and Backing Vocals
Bobby Jarzombek – Drums
Rubin Drake – Bass & Fretless Bass Guitar
Howard Helm – Piano and Backing Vocals
Kathy Helm – Backing Vocals
Tori Fuson – Backing Vocals
Jesse Morris – Backing Vocals
Krystyna Kolaczynski – Cello
For those who haven’t picked up on it, this is a concept album, based upon the famous (or infamous, depending of your point of view) Gunslinger series of Stephen King.
I have read where at least one reviewer said he didn’t like this as well as the original D&W release because it wasn’t as homogenous as the first one. This is precisely why I like this one. I love the variety and the strong melodies that permeate this wonderful recording.
Just like a Blind Guardian album, there is too much too absorb here in one setting, This album gets better and better the more you hear it. I was going to give it a high three stars or a low four stars at first, forgetting my own admonitions from reviews past but no this is a great, great album. High five stars. If you like Iced Earth or Blind Guardian, don’t ask questions, just buy it. If you like Heavy or Symphonic Metal, listen to samples if you must, then buy it and if you don’t like it at first, give it at least four or five spins. If you still don’t like it, you don’t really like Heavy Metal.
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.
I came to this album with a completely blank slate, never having heard Blind Guardian, Iced Earth nor the first release by Demons & Wizards, spurred on only by an interesting blurb in Metal Hammer and the hope for anything hearkening back to classic metal. With no preconceived expectations, I was extremely pleased with this release and would describe it to the uninitiated (as myself) as ‘Queen II’ meets Manowar meets Iron Maiden – majestic (but not overblown), melodic, and technically brilliant work.
That said, I felt that the only ingredient missing was the low end of the mix. The drums are fast and furious but don’t come across with any “oomph.” Same goes for the bass. This album is all about vocals and guitar, both of which are absolutely magnificent, but it doesn’t carry that dark, demonic tinge – it’s metal, just not as heavy. Dare I say prog-metal?
On the flipside, though, this “lighter” slab of metal surprised me with one thing: an acoustic ballad I didn’t skip. One I actually enjoyed. And played again. “Wicked Witch” is an incredibly beautiful, well-written, compelling song. And, to be fair, many numbers pack plenty of speed and power – “Dorian” and “Terror Train” are sickeningly good tracks – just a little more low end on the mixing board and this would be a solid, five-star classic. If there’s a low point, it has to the cover of “Immigrant Song.” Sure, it’s well done, but there’s no need to ever cover Zeppelin – especially when they already brought a wealth of excellent new material to the table.
All in all, a safe buy and a guaranteed repeat player. This new fan will not only go out and grab the first album but will also soon check out the works of Blind Guardian and Iced Earth. This is an excellent addition to your metal library.