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.