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Beneath the Waves You'll Sleep - 74%

Jophelerx, November 21st, 2017

I don't consider this a bad album, not at all, nor do I consider any subsequent Blind Guardian albums to be bad - however, 2005's Touched by the Crimson King is the first sign that all is not right in the world with regard to the legendary Hansi Kursch. Of course, part of the problem here is notorious riff recycler Jon Schaffer. This would be unsurprising but for the greatness encapsulated in the self-titled Demons & Wizards album five years prior, with the best Iced Earth album, Horror Show, coming out the following year. With one of my favorite Blind Guardian albums, A Night at the Opera, coming out in 2002, it seemed both musicians were on a roll, and thus expectations (mine, at least) were at an all-time high for each musician, both of whom were producing some of the best material of their respective musical careers. Whether their 2000 musical collaboration was the cause of this or merely the first sign, there was much rejoicing to be had.

Then things began to go downhill. Iced Earth showed it first, with longtime frontman Matt Barlow being replaced by the relatively uninteresting and bland voice of Tim "Ripper" Owens. While I've never found the man a "bad" vocalist, exactly, it is unfortunate that he seems to replace iconic frontmen who outclass him completely. Either way, one of the main things to be enjoyed about Iced Earth was gone, and the 2004 album The Glorious Burden was essentially the nail in the coffin, proving that Barlow's departure wasn't merely a brief hiatus but a permanent shift from the band (though like in the case of Judas Priest, after two albums with Owens the original vocalist did return, but things would never be the same as they were before). Blind Guardian took longer to fall, most likely marked by the band's most extensive touring in their entire career, more or less consistently from 2002-2004, from which came their second live album and their first live DVD, for which a special Blind Guardian festival was created. As late as this festival, Hansi seemed to still be in full gear, his voice as strong as it ever had been, the band mature and experienced but not tired or showing signs of age - not yet. It was the exit of founding band member and percussionist extraordinaire, Thomen Stauch, that suggested the band's summer period might be over - that and, to a lesser extent, this, the second Demons & Wizards album, which is significantly less inspired than the first and featuring a Hansi beginning to show signs of vocal wear and age.

Of course, Hansi isn't bad or even mediocre here, this being a studio album, though the insane shrieks on such tunes as "Heaven Denies," "The Whistler," and "My Last Sunrise" have taken a back seat, usually present only in harmony with a lower melody, suggesting that Hansi may not, in fact, be as confident in his ability as he once was. Of course, 2+ years of near-constant touring will do that to a person, and it's quite understandable, but still somewhat unfortunate. The more obvious and pronounced issue here is that the riffs and melodies themselves just aren't up to par with those of its predecessor, and instead sounds more like what one would expect of a collaboration between Kursch and Schaffer; Iced Earth with better vocals. Many more of Jon Schaffer's usual songwriting problems come in, chief among them being riffs that are quite repetitive, and, unfortunately, largely unmemorable. It's still at least on par with Horror Show, which I consider to be the best Iced Earth album, but the cracks are beginning to show. Things begin to feel a bit forced.

The first and titular track is a clear example of this. While it's fast and aggressive like the opener of their 2000 album, the main riff is much more generic, and Hansi does not provide as savage and mesmerizing a performance as he most often does. Essentially, this is made of the same stuff as the first album was, but while the dial on that album was turned all the way up to 11, here it's turned down to a relatively tepid 6 or 7. The best songs here aren't even in the same ballpark as greatness such as "Heaven Denies," "Fiddler on the Green," or "The Whistler." The album also has more stylistic variety, which isn't bad in and of itself, but in this case is really only indicative of tired musicians slowing things down more often to preserve their remaining strength. "Terror Train" comes closest to their earlier sound, and probably contains the best main riff on the album and Hansi's best vocal performance, even though the wild shrieks are somewhat overshadowed by the more sober, baritone melodies which are tracked on top of them.

Another problem, which I alluded to by mentioning "stylistic variety," is the fact that there are three full ballads in addition to a half-ballad/rocker, even though there are 9 songs instead of 10 (not counting the Led Zeppelin cover, whose counterpart on Demons & Wizards was included only as a bonus track). That leaves us with five remaining tracks, one of which ("Dorian") is overlong and bloated, not to mention plodding and mediocre, rather evocative of many, many Iced Earth songs of the same breed. So really we have four balls-out rippers, one of which is fairly generic (the title track), and another of which is, while still very metallic, rather midpaced. This is quiet often the case, it seems, when metal bands/artists begin to go downhill - more ballads, fewer tracks overall, more use of bland and uninventive riffs. The aforementioned "Terror Train" is really the only great song among the more aggressive tracks, with "Beneath These Waves" not being too far behind, but having the misfortune of being midpaced and somewhat contemplative, rather than ballsy and speedy, in an album whose lack fo balls is already readily apparent.

To be totally fair, all of the ballads are good, and "Seize the Day" is nearly great at times, but are simply not presented in an appropriate context, with the other two ballads placed at the very end of the album (they do have "Dorian" in between them, but that song is garbage and I usually skip it, so it amounts to the same thing usually). The aforementioned title track, "The Gunslinger," and "Love's Tragedy Asunder" (the half-ballad rocker) are merely decent, which leaves five tracks I would call "good," and only two or three I'd really be willing to describe as "great." The album is just a mess, with poor pacing (especially the second half), a clear sense of restraint, and a willingness to use cookie cutter riffs and melodies in place of savage and inventive ones. In the context of the entire genre, it still beats out the vast majority of bands, but when looked at compared to the greatness of Hansi Kursch and the one-time non-suckiness of Jon Schaffer, it certainly comes as a disappointment.

It's no surprise there hasn't been another Demons & Wizards album in the 12 years since this one was released; it sounds as if this one were merely an obligation, filled in with discarded ideas for their main bands and performances they scraped together in whatever free time they had available. If the two ever truly feel that they could create something inspired again, that would be fantastic, but short of that I'd rather the moniker rest in peace, as seems most likely to be the case anyway. Iced Earth haven't put out a decent album since Horror Show, and Blind Guardian haven't releeased a great one since A Night at the Opera. These are the table scraps of two men nearing 40 yet still living the lifestyle of a 20-something, and it certainly shows. While not completely discardable, the album is hard to listen to often largely because it reflects the fact that previously (though only occasionally in the case of Schaffer) great musicians have now become a mere shadow of themselves, and if there is a clear turning point for the two of them, it's most certainly here.

It's what you'd expect. - 75%

hells_unicorn, August 22nd, 2011

What is the purpose of releasing more albums if one isn’t breaking brand new territory at every turn? Is that a reasonable question to ask? This is the thought process that often haunts me whenever I try to analyze certain albums, and I venture to guess that this is not something that bothers most people who listen to music. Is the reviewer supposed redefine what an album means to fit his own particular intellectual fancies or to float his own ego? Damn it all, these questions start to get annoying, so I decided that when approaching certain albums that don’t lend themselves to such deep over-analysis not to even bother. “Touched By The Crimson King”, for all the intricacy in its title, is an album that should not be approached this way.

The background of Demons And Wizards is fairly straightforward, two power metal titans joining forces for an occasional venture into how their respective projects sound together in a hybrid form. But what is less apparent to those who don’t follow every single interview that Jon Schaffer has ever done is that this project is built heavily of leftovers from his recent Iced Earth sessions, and this album very much sounds like a dumping ground for a handful of ideas that could have been heard on both “Horror Show” and “The Glorious Burden”. It differs from the earlier incarnation of this side-project in that the production is notably compressed, sounding a little closer to the German style of power metal typical to Hansi’s side of the game, but otherwise it shares the same rigid consistency that subsequent Iced Earth albums have.

Right from the start, déjà vu becomes the course of this album as the structural clichés become blatant. Leading off is a raucous, thrashing gallop fest with heavy backing choirs in “Crimson King”, arguably the best song that this project has ever put forth. The speed and intensity isn’t far removed from the more frenetic elements of “Horror Show”, but with the obligatory extended quiet section that typified the last D&W album. And with this intense fury comes a similar smattering of up tempo chugging in “Terror Train” and “The Gunslinger”, the latter have a somewhat overlong acoustic intro. For the most part, the first half of this album is where the real splendor is, and along with it comes the obligatory and auspicious half-ballad “Seize The Day”, carried along by a passionate vocal performance and a memorable set of simplistic musical themes, probably among the best ballads Jon’s ever penned.

In predictable fashion, any traces of thrash influence drop away at the half-way point of the album, and no closing grandiose epic comes along to reclaim the energy that gradually dissipates along with the tempo. “Dorian” has a few good moments, but largely this thing just starts to plod until hitting the Led Zeppelin cover, which is a little bit more energetic but still fairly lackluster. But for those with extra money to burn on the limited addition release with the 4 bonus songs, “Lunar Lament” and “Spatial Architects” are actually better than the bulk of this album’s 2nd half. Their more heavy metal in character, stuck in mid-tempo and reliant on simple melodic hooks, but the driving theme and atmosphere is much stronger focused.

The best way to look at this is, as many have speculated is its inherent subject matter, is as a mid-grade Steven King book (such as “Graveyard Shift” or “Storm Of The Century”) where the plotline is obnoxiously simple, but the entertainment value is solid. Deep thought and introspection is a different domain, and this one is content to keep the storytelling orthodox. It’s slightly better than its predecessor primarily because of a crisper production and a slightly more active lead guitar offering (particularly on “Seize The Day” where we get reminded of why the blues can still matter in as distant of a genre as power metal), but it’s not something that will get any near defining the genre at large, or even Schaffer’s and Hansi’s respective careers for that matter.

I wonder where you are right now... - 90%

Twisted_Psychology, June 11th, 2009

A power metal side project helmed by Iced Earth guitarist Jon Schaffer and Blind Guardian vocalist Hansi Kursch, Demons and Wizards released their debut in 2000 to great acclaim in the metal community. They finally found some time to release this album as a follow-up in 2005 with even greater success.

Unsurprisingly, the band sounds a lot like a cross between each member’s respective bands. The guitar and bass riffs utilize the strong crunch made famous by IE, the vocals are packed with the Queenesque layering and melodic croons of BG, and the drumming emphasizes the double bass of both bands. Of course, Schaffer’s guitar tone is lighter and the vocals that aren’t quite as bombarding as they are normally. I suppose you could describe the sound as being what IE would sound like if they ever got Kursch to sing for them.

The songs themselves consist of heavy uplifting numbers ("Crimson King," "Dorian"), borderline thrashers ("Terror Train," "The Gunslinger"), somber plodding tracks ("Beneath these Waves"), acoustic tracks ("Seize the Day," "Wicked Witch"), and all out power metal ballads ("Love’s Tragedy Asunder," "Down Where I Am"). Interestingly enough, the ballads may be the best songs on the album with their emotional vocals and powerful tempo changes.

The album is also made interesting by means of its lyrics, which predominately consist of the literature themes that Kursch obsesses over in his main band. It seems to focus the most on the "Dark Tower" series by Steven King, but also makes allusions to such works as "Moby Dick," "Lord of the Rings," "The Wizard of Oz," and "The Picture of Dorian Gray." There are also a few more personal songs; "Down Where I Am" stands out in particular thanks to its melancholic theme of a birth gone wrong...

All in all, this album has very few flaws. Aside from each member’s style being a matter of acquired taste, the only flaw I can find is that the second half doesn’t shine quite as brightly as the first. It’s a powerful album that manages to stand up to what Schaffer and Kursch have done with their respective groups.

1) Uplifting guitar riffs, excellently bombarding vocal layering, and strong drum backing
2) Diverse songwriting
3) Intriguing and occasionally emotional lyrics

1) A lesser second half

My Current Favorites:
"Crimson King," "Beneath these Waves," "The Gunslinger," "Love’s Tragedy Asunder," and "Down Where I Am"

About as Generic as It Gets - 19%

DawnoftheShred, March 18th, 2009

Funny anecdote: I had listened through this album twice and written a full review repeatedly lambasting this band as a shameless Iced Earth ripoff before I went to post it, only to find that Jon Schaffer was one of the primary songwriters for this group. Hilarious right? Wrong, I’ve curtailed the review and docked several points to show my anger and disappointment. Demons & Wizards is definitely not one of the frontrunners in the modern power metal movement and both primary members should just go back to concentrating on making their main projects better, something Jonny boy doesn't seem very willing to do given Iced Earth's output of late.

Mechanically, there are no problems with the album. Touched by the Crimson King is decently produced; there are no flaws in performance or execution. But I’ll be damned if this isn’t the most shamelessly unoriginal album I’ve ever heard. From the singer’s mannerisms to the bland gallop riffs to the frequent balladic interludes to the overall one-dimensionality, this screams Barlow-era Iced Earth. Peculiarities include the over-processed drums and the annoying interpretation of Symphony X style operatic vocal harmonies. Every time you hear a clean riff, you’ll swear you heard it first on Burnt Offerings or Something Wicked This Way Comes. Every time you hear the singer’s passionless delivery or one of the guitarist’s uninspired leads you’ll wish it was Schaffer’s other band performing the material instead of these dolts. And when you hear the band’s stagnant rendition of Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” you’ll want to return the CD to wherever it came from.

Even this band’s name pisses me off. Demons & Wizards is one of the dorkiest monikers in the entire power metal scene (a genre that often relies on cheesiness to reel in fans). Is it even a Uriah Heep reference? Or just a passing D&D homage? Whichever it is, it’s dumb and it set up a bias against them that was only reinforced by the shallow material present on their album. Speaking of the album, it’s also a perfectly good waste of Bobby Jarzombek and a reference to the Crimson King.

To sum it up: it’s not one of the newer power metal albums you should waste your time on. Check out anything from Armory to Savage Circus for a better listening experience. As for this crap, file it next to Pyramaze in your refuse bin and forget about it.

Insane but not yet crazy! - 98%

The_Boss, October 4th, 2007

With the follow up to the self-titled debut, Demons & Wizards has released an album that has demolished, destroyed, and decimated the first one. Yes, the s/t was an almost perfect album, but look here, Jon and Hansi have managed to up the ante and create an even better album. Touched By The Crimson King is a power/thrash album in the same vein as the mother bands Iced Earth and Blind Guardian. I see it necessary to understand that the story behind this album is just as important, following along a baseline of Stephen King’s novel series The Dark Tower which the lyrics are taken about and create a marvelous winding story that is displayed almost perfectly in each song.

The songs themselves are highly memorable and with the exception of one song are almost crafted with such power and passion that makes the atmosphere of the album a menacing yet depressed combination. I have had this album since it was released and after countless listens I can play it from start to finish and I know each song like the back of my hand, each lyric almost 100% and each note very accurately. The impact the songs have are so outstanding that they can be that catchy memorable is simply astonishing all these years. I have never been bored whilst listening to the album.

Touched By The Crimson King can be split up into two pieces, the fast power/thrash songs reminiscent of Iced Earth’s work and the more mid tempo, almost ballad songs. To break down the album piece by piece would be pointless despite each song being absolutely awesome in it’s own right, the album is best when listened to all the way through. From the opening epic Crimson King, the album begins its journey with a bang, grabbing the listener’s ears forcing you to headbang and listen with the strength similar to that of a high school cheerleader on a nerdy virgin eager to get laid. The album continues varying from each song fast and heavy to slower and melodic. That’s not to say the fast thrashers aren’t melodic, because if there’s one thing Jon Schaffer can do well is play the rhythm guitar perfectly intertwining beautiful melody and ferocious riffage that drops my jaw with every listen. The most memorable of the slower songs; Beneath These Waves, Seize The Day, and Love’s Tragedy Asunder display this the best when compared to behemoth that is Terror Train, possibly the most fun song on the album to headbang to and with some of the funniest lyrics as well, “I’m insane but not yet crazy!” is a phrase I quite frequently enjoy saying. The only slight downer is the song Wicked Witch which I often skip over, it tends to be a snoozefest ballad that has little instruments and mainly Hansi singing, but I can see how it leads to the mournful mood of the album. Not to be forgotten is the cover of one of Led Zeppelin’s best songs, “Immigrant Song” and Demons & Wizards does not fail. Perfect in almost every way Hansi commands the song that would make Robert Plant very proud. It’s always nice to see metal bands giving back and covering songs by the legends.

The musicianship on this album is also top-notch with Jon covering all guitar duties minus solos done by the almighty Jim Morris who produces the album as well as working with Jon in Iced Earth. The rhythm guitar as done by Jon is done with absolute perfection; he was on top of his game and could not have done any better. Listen to The Gunslinger or Dorian and tell me wrong. I also find myself appreciating Bobby Jarzombek even more with every listen because since he played in Iced Earth previously I always found him underrated when compared to the likes of other greats, Richard Christy and Mark Prator. But Jarzombek does a fine job that displays his ability to adapt to any variety of song and command the songs very well. And last but not least is the mighty Hansi Kursch handling the vocals and well, I shouldn't have to comment on how amazing he is.

So with Touched By The Crimson King, Demons & Wizards solidify a status that when you take two amazing such as Iced Earth and Blind Guardian and combine their sounds to create an absolute mastery of metal music. Fans of the two said bands and any fan of related bands of the power/thrash ilk will certainly enjoy this album and anyone open for powerful music that has been crafted with the elegance and beauty that only Jon Schaffer and Hansi Kursch can conjure. Excellent album that should be in the collections of metal fans all around, well done fellows!

A Masterpiece in Power Metal - 90%

Wishmistress, July 15th, 2007

Five years after the release of their masterful debut, power metal duo Demons & Wizards have united again for their second effort, Touched By the Crimson King. Fans should not be disappointed, as this album follows up with even more power and beauty, and showcases the wide vocal powress of Hansi Kursch, and the many talents of Jon Schaffer on guitar. One could even go so far as to say that this team works better together than they do with their own highly-famed bands. Many guests appear on this album, including a pianist, cellist, and 3-part vocal chorus, adding an important element that even Hansi and Jon could not provide on their own. Taking into consideration the flawless production and spectacular cover artwork, we have an album that is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Touched By the Crimson King, is, as the title suggests, based largely on Stephen King's best-selling book series, The Dark Tower. This theme works perfectly to create an atmosphere of mixed evil, sadness, and bombast. Each song holds a specific tone that never fails to affect the listener, and is especially pleasant for fans of The Dark Tower, who can relate to some of the lyrics. This is particularly apparent in the opening track, "Crimson King", which demands attention from the first notes of the chorus. A strong, powerful song which is possibly the best on the album, it feels almost as if Walter O'Dim himself is singing the verses to you. Similarly, the lyrics to "Terror Train", come directly from King's world and are conveyed in a minacing, convincing manner by Kursch. Also notable are the soothing, emotional vocals found on "Wicked Witch", and the thought-provoking lyrics of a bonus-track, "Spatial Architects". Meanwhile, the chorus to "Love's Tragedy Asunder" cannot fail to remain in your head for hours after hearing it.

The mix of heavy songs and ballads convey a great amount of feeling, which shows through strongly in the gorgeous, often-present use of acoustic guitar. Schaffer is not to be underestimated, for every riff and solo is carried out flawlessly. Though the song structure is usually not extremely complicated, it is, nevertheless, very entertaining and well carried-out. The percussion is preformed by a guest, but still manages to be up to par with the rest of the instrumentation, and works with the rhythm guitar very nicely throughout. The bass is not particularly spectacular, either, but does it's job efficiently.

"The Gunslinger" is a particularly interesting album highlight. It starts off calmly yet beautifully, and then breaks into a loud, fierce verse. This contrast lasts through most of the song, and can be heard on other parts of the album as well, adding interest. In contrast, songs like "Beneath These Waves", and "Seize the Day" slightly bring down my opinion of the album as a whole, with annoying choruses and boring guitar work. The longest song on the album, "Dorian" is also the least captivating, and tends to lose my attention after a few minutes. The beautiful ballad "Down Where I Belong", however, greatly makes up for what was lost. The final track on the album is a well-executed cover of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song", which, though not spectacular by any means, does justice to the original.

Despite occasional flaws, Touched By the Crimson King remains an essential part of any power metal collection, as well as a welcome addition even for those who are unfamiliar with metal. If you have an opporitunity, do not pass up the purchase of this fine 2005 release from the artists called Demons & Wizards.

A great power metal album! - 80%

HexDemon666, February 18th, 2007

This was the first Demons and Wizards album I ever bought, and actually the first power metal album I ever got, save for an Iron Maiden album (if you consider that "power metal"). I saw the cover and instantly thought "Wow" (that is, the Digipak slipcase cover). I eagerly threw down the money and popped in the album straight away. Right from the get go, this album grabs you by the balls with "Touched by the Crimson King". It's fast, heavy, epic, has amazing vocals, great riffage, and is everything a power metal song should be.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the rest of the album. Does that mean it's bad? Certainly not. It's just a bit dissappointing to know that the best part of the album is contained in the first six minutes. After the amazing first song, you get Beneath These Waves. It's a great song, but it seems...mellower (I have no idea if that's an actual word). It contains the great guitars, vocals, and grand feeling of the first song, but the speed and heaviness isn't as present. This is basically what 1/4 of the album is. Half of the album is power ballads and the other 1/4 are good, heavy songs. Yeah, the power ballads are great; very emotional and catchy lyrics, but they're not what I want when I buy a power metal album. Songs like "Terror Train" and "Touched by the Crimson King" are few on this album, but there are some and they rock.

I realize that the title of this review doesn't exactly match the review itself. Overall, I found this to be an excellent power metal album (and band, for that matter) and it really got me into the whole genre. But that doesn't mean it isn't different from most power metal. If you're a fan of power metal like I am, you'll certainly enjoy this album. The really powerful songs are excellent, the slower songs still retain the power metal feel, and the ballads display excellent musicianship (even if they aren't so power metal-ish).

If you're just in that power metal phase, don't bother with this album. You won't find a whole lot of what you're looking for. On the other hand, if you are an avid fan of power metal, Iced Earth/John Shaffer (like I am), or Bling Guardian/Hansi Kursh, I definitely reccomend this album. It may be different, but it's still GOOD. I just wouldn't condone spending anything over $15 for this if you can help it.

Half Perfect - 80%

NecroWraith, February 11th, 2007

I was really eager to listen to this album. ‘Touched By The Crimson King’ was my first Demons & Wizards album, and I got it before I did their earlier release, ‘Demons & Wizards.’ I wasn’t sure quite what to expect, but I knew it had to be something great. I mean, c’mon. This is basically a fusion of Blind Guardian and Iced Earth. Eagerly, I popped the CD into my stereo…

Instantly, ‘Crimson King’ started to play, and I was speechless. This was absolutely amazing. Instant euphoria within the first two seconds. I knew this album was gonna be good… but I never expected it to be this good. The rest of the album can’t possibly be as good as this first song, can it? Unfortunately… no.

Don’t get me wrong, however. The rest is also great, just not AS great. ‘Terror Train,’ ‘Beneath These Waves’ and ‘Dorian’ are solid power/speed metal works. But unfortunately, that’s about it. The whole rest of the tracks are either average/mediocre, or slightly above average.

‘Crimson King’ and ‘Terror Train,’ in my opinion, and ‘Dorian,’ ‘Beneath These Waves,’ and ‘Seize The Day’ are some of the best power metal songs written and essential for any power metal enthusiast. But they’re few compared to the rest of the not-so-great songs. First, let me focus on the good part of the album.

Schaffer’s guitar-playing, like in all Iced Earth releases, creates the perfect dark atmosphere. But the problem with Iced Earth for me was always the vocals. Barlow was alright, but Tim Owens did a terrible job… Hansi, on the other hand, the incredible vocalist from Blind Guardian, was always my favorite singer. (Tied with Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden, of course.) Demons & Wizards is basically Iced Earth with Hansi as the singer. The combination is perfect; Hansi’s voice and Schaffer’s guitar-playing work amazingly well together, better than one might first imagine.

Of course the production here is good as well. Nothing amazing and worth raving on about, but it IS good. The emphasis on vocals is really great, and combined with the drumming it adds a great deal of power to Hansi’s voice.

So now we get to the bad part of the CD… Fillers. And a hell of a lot of them. Around half the album, actually. ‘The Gunslinger?’ ‘Love’s Tragedy Asunder?’ ‘Wicked Witch?’ ‘Down Where I Am?’ All those are pointless songs that so nothing for me. The North American version of this album has a few bonus tracks as well, which also are pretty much pointless to me.

Bonus tracks aside, the album finishes off with ‘Immigrant Song.’ (Yes, the cover of the famous Led Zeppelin tune.) It is an okay closing of the album, but I definitely like Zeppelin’s version of this better. Hansi’s got an amazing voice, and I already said he is my favorite vocalist, but he just doesn’t fit here. Sorry Hansi.

Overall, I’d say this album is okay. If the whole album was filled with tunes like ‘Crimson King’ and ‘Terror Train,’ it’d probably deserve a perfect 100. But yes, the number of fillers on here is amazingly high, and enough to bring down the rating to an 80. (Still not a bad rating… but could obviously be better.) If you can find it cheap, ($12 and under), I’d recommend getting it for just the first 4 songs alone. If not, save your money for something better.

-Marcin C.

Under-rated Gem - 87%

bluedrgn456, October 30th, 2006

I was a bit hesitant to pick up Demons and Wizards' 'Touched by the Crimson King', due to some less than stellar reviews on this site. I decided to just go ahead and pick it up, since I loved the self-titled debut. I was very pleasantly surprised, even on the first listen, and it just gets better every time.

One could suppose the reason this album is less accepted is because of a more 'personal' approach, with less songs about mythology, and more about personal experiences and feelings. On the contrary, I feel this enhances the album and makes it more tangable to the average listener, which isn't 'selling out', but simply creating good music.

Things start off with a bang with 'Crimson King', the title track. This track is truly intense, showing you don't need screaming or diminished chords to be 'heavy'. It's an adrenaline rush on every listen, which is an amazing accomplishment. The following tracks, Underneath the Waves, and Terror Train, stay within the metal realm, but don't try to copy the title track's energy.

Perhaps the weirdest thing about this album is that the ballads seem to be the 'heaviest' songs. Tracks like 'Love's Tragedy Asunder' and 'Seize the Day' are more metal than ballad, but have a sensitive approach that work for them. The two traditional ballads, 'Wicked Witch' and 'Down Where I am' are truly amazing, and are done with passion and conviction, something we dont see too often these days. It is a very emotional experience to listen to them if you have an open mind.

A track worth noting is 'Gunslinger'. This one starts out kind of strange with clean guitars, and some very insteresting chord changes, then out of nowhere, blasts into one of the most intese tracks of the album. A strange way to end the album is with a cover of Led Zeppelin's 'Immigrant Song'. They don't go over the top and add things for no reason, but it is modernized and heavier. Basically, it didn't screw with a successful song.

I highly encourage everyone to pick up this album. Whether you like Iced Earth, Blind Gaurdian, or neither, it is a worthwhile purchase.

A few killer, a lot of filler - 60%

invaded, June 14th, 2006

Touched by the Crimson King, Jon Schaeffer and Hansi Kursch's second love child is far uglier than the first. The tone is great and the production is crystal clean, but it simply gets a little boring.

The Schaeffer tone is there and this album kicks off with its best song in "Crimson King", the follow up isn't bad either, but the opener is defintely the highlight of the record. It's fast and furious and Hansi delivers an awesome performance in this song. The one thing I love about this record is how tight the drums and rythm guitars are. This gives me great hope for the next Iced Earth record, but it didn't fit this sound as well.

I don't know if Jon uses his throwaway IE riffs but some of these song strctures simply lack creativity. Seize the Day is rather dull. Dorian gets off to a good start but is simply too long and is a track off which they didn't trim the fat. Love's Tragedy Asunder is good, with a strong sing along chorus.

Where the first Demons and Wizards record was such a perfect blend of the two main men's band's sounds, this one just clashes at times. Some of these riffs just weren't meant to have operatic ultra layered vocals to them. I am a fan of Iced Earth and a fan of Blind Guardian, but on this album the chemistry was simply lacking.

There are some good moments, but all in all this album is a huge letdown considering the amazing quality of the first.

Much warmer... - 92%

TheStormIRide, January 26th, 2006

Upon first listen of this album, I thought perhaps the production was poor. With more listens I realized that the production is just right. The vocals were what was confusing me. With Hansi's excellence on the Blind Guardian albums and the previous Demons and Wizards album, this just sounded different. I realized that there are less overdubs. This results in a much warmer, realistic vocal performance.
Jon Schaffer contiunes to impress with his excellent riffing and unhuman timing patterns. The drummer fills in very nicely, adding a very nice rhythm to the music. Those who haven't heard the previous Iced Earth albums or the previous Demons and Wizards album may be suprised by the way the rhythm guitar is truly a rhythm instrument. The result of all these combined is an excellent power metal / traditional metal album.
By making Hansi's vocals warmer, it makes the music seem more personal. The songs are all good, none of the songs are just filler. The lyrics are excellent, with some fantasy based themes thrown in (Moby Dick, Stephen King's Dark Tower) as well as an old horror story (Dorian Gray). I didn't think it would be possible to top Demons and Wizards's last album, but I think they have pulled it off. Nothing seems out of place, none of the riffs are overplayed, the drums fit perfectly, and those vocals...they are the highlight.
This album is recommended to all metal fans, but especially to those looking for a heavier crunch to their power metal. Iced Earth and Blind Guardian fans, if you haven't heard this album yet... shame on you!

Solid, not stupifying - 70%

ThySentinel, September 10th, 2005

BEST SONGS: “Seize The Day,” “Love’s Tragedy Asunder,” “Lunar Lament”

Finally, five years after the debut, Kirsch and Schaffer treat us with the follow-up. Unfortunately, the result is underwhelming. D&W eponymous debut, while slightly uneven, was a landmark release and a major head-turning event, proving that an all-star collaboration can be more than just a sum of its parts, yielding such classics as “Poor Man’s Crusade,” “Blood On My Hands,” “The Last Sunrise,” and, above and beyond all, “Fiddler On The Green.” Clearly, the expectations for the sophomore album were enormously high, and when the duo simply delivered an album full of solid music, it just did not quench the thirst for another set of masterpieces. Now it is merely eleven good tracks (plus an OK cover of “Immigrant Song” and two alternate versions of “Beneath These Waves” and “Wicked Witch,” neither of which are all that different from the originals), none of which are bad or even boring, but, by the same token, none stand out. Everything about this album is moderate: moderate energy, moderately catchy choruses, moderate riffing, moderate hooks. “Terror Train,” which had the potential to be another “Violate,” sounds like it has been intentionally dulled down. “Moby Dick”-inspired “Beneath These Waves” and “Seize The Day” are both good but not great. One song that kind of sticks out, like an incompletely hammered nail, is “Love’s Tragedy Asunder,” mostly due to its passionate pre-chorus/chorus, evoking better moments from the debut, as well as Iced Earth's last three Barlow albums. The debut, at its more aggressive moments, made me want to climb the castle wall, and at its most melancholic – crouch in the corner and contemplate the world’s demise. By comparison, this is, well, insipid. The wall-climbing moments are gone almost completely, and the crouching/contemplating moments are not passionate enough, mostly because the lyrics do not connect to me the way they did in the debut. I cannot relate to the emotions that Hansi attempts to convey in his usually emotional voice. So there goes the contemplation. But where I can relate, I enjoy the songs much more: on “Love’s Tragedy Asunder,” “Dorian,” and “Down Where I Am.”

Now, for the good points. It is refreshing to hear Hansi sound fine. When he sounds fine, he is one of the world’s best, and he sounds fine here. Bobby Jarzombek is an obvious upgrade from Mike Prator (if only they got a shredder on lead guitar, the all star lineup would be complete). “Crimson King” has a nice bridge, with Hansi’s trademark harmonies. The acoustic strumming of “Seize The Day” clearly reminds of “Consequences” off “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” which is funny considering that “Consequences” were originally written for D&W, not Iced Earth. I guess Jon just liked that melody too much. Then again, I love it too. Now – get this! – two of album’s best songs are bonus tracks! Both “Lunar Lament” and “Spatial Architect” are good songs with an adequate drive. The artwork is provided by Leo Hao (Aria, Nocturnal Rites). But, unfortunately, the songwriting is just not as good as on the debut, consequently losing this release in the sea of this year’s releases.

Rehashed, Reduced, Recycled - 40%

Disciple_Of_Metal, September 9th, 2005

Demons & Wizards return again with another release and after much excitement and anticipation leading up to its release it’s clear for everyone to see that there was no blood, sweat and tears put into this album. It’s almost as if the two decided over the phone that one had some riffs and the other had some lyrics, and then they put them onto an assembly line for the studio to touch up, without actually sitting down and trying to write something worthwhile.

The songs featured on this album are so blisteringly expressionless; they hide the fact that there is no emotion or value under a shroud of polished production, layered vocals and harmonies. Every song on here is derived from Jon Schaffer’s formula, so it’s like getting the latest Iced Earth offering but with a different vocalist from another famous band, when everyone knows the greatest Iced Earth material is far in the past, on their first three releases. Even the Led Zeppelin cover has nothing to offer that the original did not, apart from a polished electric guitar sound.

But I’m not saying Hansi is not at fault here either. Clearly he ignored the lessons from other famous vocal/lyricists like Bruce Dickinson, whose solo records are written around his voice and his lyrics. This, on the other hand, is like taking the awesome voice and forcing it over the same guitar riff. Though this is not exactly a Hansi Kursch “solo” album, it’s the closest thing we have to it, and honestly both of them should be trying harder anyways.

The first Demons & Wizards album was a fine release because it was the first of it’s kind, relying on the gimmick of having your two favorite superstars (JS and HK) in the same band while offering nothing spectacular other than a few catchy tunes. It’s clear that with this release the gimmick has run dry and the music is nothing other than “more of the same,” which defeats the purpose of combining the two musicians in the first place, since everyone knows they are both capable of so much more.

At best this album will produce some moderate sales, hopefully allowing a brief tour and a chance to see the two on stage together again (though this will really be the first proper tour, as the other one was way too short), yet that is what everyone in the right mind calls a “cash grab,” and both of them should know better.

A fine followup - 75%

Ayeka, July 10th, 2005

After five years we finally have a follow-up to the seemingly fantastical Jon Schaffer/Hansi Kürsch side project Demons & Wizards. Given how a lot of releases these days seem to be met with a clucking of tongues and "oh dear they haven't progressed much since their last album!" (or is that just me?), one might expect a dramatic development of sound after a five year gap.

The first Demons & Wizards album was less of an Iced-Earth-meets-Blind-Guardian venture, more of an Uli-sings-along-to-Jon affair. Touched By The Crimson King continues with this approach, refining it as it goes along. Dramatic developments can go hang, if we can trust a band to put out a good solid release after x years then it is equally welcome.

To a Blind Guardian fan such as myself, it is still a bit disorientating to hear Hansi singing against such stripped-back music. There is nearly no overproduced indlugence here at all, just a simple guitar/bass/drums setup. Hansi rarely uses more than a backing vocal or two to accentuate his voice, with a few exceptions like Crimson King (which he turns into an excellent dramatic opener along with some rapid-fire riffing) and Seize The Day. By operating on their own steam the band are able to emphasise the strength of the songwriting. There is the full range of fast/slow, heavy/tranquil, with a dash of the aforementioned Blind Guardian excesses (but I emphasise again, only a dash!). Acoustic passages are worked in a lot more naturally this time, compared to how they sometimes felt forced and contrived on the previous album (see Heaven Denies). If anything on this album would've felt unnatural, one would expect it to be the cover of Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song tacked on at the end. But no, even that fits in with the feel of the album! Wow!

This album also allowed me to go back to the debut album and see it in a more favourable light. It'll be interesting to see how many more albums Jon and Hansi can continue this formula on for, it certainly seems to work.

- Originally written for Metal Monk webzine

Not so much greatness, but still good - 83%

Wirecutter, June 23rd, 2005

I'm going to start by saying that if you were expecting Demons & Wizards to one-up their first album with this, you're going to be disappointed. With that out of the way... this is a damn good album.

This is a Power Metal album more or less in the vein of the previous one, and what it lacks in originality, it makes up for in sheer ass-kickingness. It is generally not as heavy, featuring much more acoustic guitar, but the softness is used to great effect, and the heavy songs seem even heavier by contrast. There is a noticeable lean toward older Blind Guardian and Iced Earth in the musical style.

Lyrically, the first album just blows this out of the water. There's no "Gallows Pole" here, there are really no lyrically outstanding songs at all. This is pretty much on par with most Power Metal. The vocals are the same as they were on the first release, which is definitely not a bad thing.

Standout tracks include Beneath These Waves, a reasonably heavy and mid-to-slow -paced song that brings to mind Blind Guardian's early releases; Wicked Witch, a ballad that actually knows when to end, as well as having good music, lyrics, and vocals throughout; and Dorian, which is relatively fast-paced and quite heavy, sounding like a cross between early Iced Earth and early Blind Guardian. The cover of the Immigrant Song does the original song justice, if it is not slightly better.

I would recommend this album to anyone who liked the first album, as well as anyone else who likes any non-Italian/Finnish Power Metal at all.