01. Rites of Passage
02. Heaven Denies
03. Poor Man's Crusade
04. Fiddler on the Green
05. Blood On My Hands
06. Path of Glory
07. Winter of Souls
08. The Whistler
09. Tear Down the Wall
10. Gallows Pole
11. My Last Sunrise
12. Chant

RATING: 9/10

When ICED EARTH mainman Jon Schaffer and BLIND GUARDIAN vocalist Hansi Kursch joined forces to make this album, speculation was strong that the resultant album would end up sounding like a perfect blend of the two bands—a prediction that could not possibly have been more on the mark. Having never been a huge fan of ICED EARTH's dated, old school thrash-style approach (the group's last album, Something Wicked This Way Comes, was the first one that I could listen to repeatedly), I was pleasantly surprised to hear how much of a difference Kursch's contributions have made in terms of adding depth to Schaffer's otherwise rigid-sounding songwriting style. Whereas ICED EARTH frontman Matt Barlow has always struggled to make Schaffer's tunes come to life (a consequence of Barlow's limited abilities as a vocalist, more than anything else), Hansi's excellent QUEEN-like harmonies and unique delivery have truly given a whole new dimension to the material, which alternates between the up-tempo, melodic thrashers such as "Heaven Denies" and "Poor Man's Crusade" to the more mellow, restrained moments like "Fiddler on the Green" and "Path of Glory".


Although DEMONS & WIZARDS was always meant to be nothing more than a side project, the overwhelmingly positive reaction to this top-quality release has cleared the way for the band to proceed concurrently with ICED EARTH and BLIND GUARDIAN. On the basis of this album, at least, it shouldn't be long before it outsells both of them.


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