Next Friday (21st), Demons & Wizards’ new album III will finally arrive via Century Media (pre-order here). This marks the first record in fifteen years from the longtime collaborative project featuring Iced Earth’s Jon Schaffer and Blind Guardian’s Hansi Kürsch. The LP is the perfect collision for both Blind Guardian and Iced Earth fans as it also includes a variety of experimentations from heavy to progressive and everything in between. We recently caught up with Jon and Hansi to learn more about the album as well as hearing a few updates on both Blind Guardian and Iced Earth.
When was it when you decided to work on a new Demons & Wizards album, III?
Hansi: We started working on the new Demons & Wizards album for the first time in 2010. Then we had been involved in projects from our main bands: Iced Earth and Blind Guardian. We struggled finding the time to get back into the mood and the world of Demons & Wizards. Luckily, we realized somewhere in the end of 2018 there would be such a point. Then we got back into songwriting mode and we announced that to the label. People became aware that Demons & Wizards will be making a new album and then our promoters kept a schedule for us.
How would you compare the recording process between the new album and Touched By the Crimson King?
Jon: It was nearly the same. The biggest difference is we worked in different studios. The first two Demons & Wizards albums, we worked at War Sound. And obviously, the last 15 years since then there’s been a lot of changes in the recording world and technology in general. You can transfer files easily and quickly. We did all of the tracking for the band at my place. Vocals were done at Hansi’s in Germany, mine is in Indiana. Recorded a classical choir in the Netherlands. And mixed and mastered at Warsound in florida. There were a lot more different engineers involved and different studios on this record but everything else was the same.
The record is diverse. It moves in all different directions from heavy to dark and progressive. Can you discuss more about this direction?
Hansi: When we started to discuss the songs. One thing was clear to us, it would be freeform songwriting and in the tradition of the two old Demons & Wizards albums but on the other hand, we of course wanted to show our view on what has changed. At first we have developed a lot in the last fifteen years, obviously, and that is reflected in this album. The ability for us in writing songs is our judgement. When Jon showed me the songs, I liked it already because I liked the diversity in the songs. We love dynamics and that needs to be reflected in the songwriting. The aspect on that and come back to the things and move in more different directions and me adjusting my vocals to Jon’s creations. By then, I think we created a perfect blend to our own metal fans. I think we were able to create a very tasteful mixture of songs. A lot of different regions on the first two Demons & Wizards albums already I think we intensified it on this one. There’s almost everything on this album from neck breaking, manesting evil introductions from like “Diabolic” to the more classical heavy metal songs like “Dark Side of Her Majesty,” which is also sort of an operatic feeling at some points. We have rock with “Midas Disease.” There is somehow a positive vibe in the song “Invincible.” We engaged the fans of both worlds, I would say.
What are some of the themes of the album?
Jon: Well there’s a variety of stuff that is, our own creations. Or things that we were influenced by the songs that I wrote. For example “Wolves in Winter” is sort of an example of embracing the power within us, of all of us. That’s how it goes. It’s somewhat spiritual in the spirit animal of the wolf. It goes a little bit deeper than that. “Dark Side of Her Majesty,” is an idea that I had for quite a while. It’s a big horror story from an original concept of mine. “Timeless Spirit” is certainly a reflective journey of the desert and things that I’ve experienced and felt on that journey. Hansi wrote some original ideas and storylines that he came up with for like “Children of the Cain,” he can get into that and different authors inspired him about different songs.
Hansi: “Children of Cain ” it was a fiction story that I had in mind. It’s about a dystopian society, which is called The Children of Cain. It’s like a parallel universe which witnessed the same events that all of us did but without technology, it’s quite different. The event, the killing of Abel by his brother Cain, the biblical story. So, in this society, the murdering of the brother is the essential tool. And then there is stuff like, “Midas Disease,” for example, which is about people who have the ability to manipulate other people. We like to hear the song by the story of a beautiful creature who gets along with whatever he is saying and people dig it no matter how stupid it is. As mentioned, there are songs designed and inspired by fantasy novels but as archives, which is the topic and “Final Warning.” And then I dedicated three songs to words of that material, and that is a sort of fantasy children’s philosophical approach of growing.
How was the experience creating the music video for, “Diabolic?”
It was killer. Hansi’s worked with those guys at iCode in Belgrade, Serbia, and so have I with Iced Earth. We did the “Black Flag” video there in ’16 or ’17, I can’t remember what year it was. They’re really really great at doing theatrical type of stuff, for something in a metaphorical way. You get a very good quality for the expense. But doing, “Diabolic” was awesome. They say you have to, definitely in that kind of video, you have to have the ability to imagine what it’s going to be because you’re acting, you’re working on a green screen situation. But we have a pretty good idea of where we wanted the video to go based on the lyrics and the story behind the song, and then Ivan [Čolić], the director, came up with a lot of great ideas as well and he was certainly the one that made it all come to life with the CGI work and everything. We were excited about that one, and we knew it was going to be really cool. I think it’s sort of a challenge to come up with something that can impress people in this day and age, because there’s so many things that where humanity is bombarded by cool shit everywhere. So, we get desensitized in a lot of ways but I still think, somehow, this thing came off as somehow impressive for people, and maybe even a little shocking that Hansi and I would do something like this, and did it. That was part of our evil little plan. It was to make sure that after 15 years of no music from Demons & Wizards that the first impact was going to be very strong. Musically and visually are big kicks in the balls and I think we achieved that.
“Diabolic” was a very powerful video and you both looked crazy, in a good way.
Hansi: Yeah, I thought I looked hideous.
I was wondering, do you have any touring plans? I know you had your first US tour in the summer/fall. Is there anything else coming up with the new album?
Hansi: Possibly. We have no touring plans for Demons & Wizards so far. Once you release an album it would be great to be on the road again, but since most of the year 2019 has been dedicated to Demons & Wizards, it is now time for us to go back to the work on Iced Earth and Blind Guardian, which will keep us busy for more than the next two years. This time it might be very difficult for us to play any shows for Demons & Wizards. It’s not completely off the table, but for what we can see in 2020 there’s no chance for us to play anywhere. I mean, it doesn’t matter here or South America or North America, we really have to keep our focus on producing albums for Iced Earth and Blind Guardian. Then we will see if there is a chance for us to get back on stage, then I’m sure we’ll do so. If we’re doing so, we will not forget about our American fans, people who came to see us last year on tour.
Speaking of Blind Guardian and Iced Earth, are there any updates that both of you can provide?
Jon: Iced Earth, we have our 30th anniversary of our first album coming this year, so there will be some kind of an anniversary celebration of that milestone record. We’re working through the details on how that’s actually going to look. But, I’m committed, I’m producing an event called Winterfall in late March, it will be about a 6-week production, then I’m going to basically go somewhere into summer for Iced Earth. I expect that for the summer, early summer until the end of the year to be writing and production and I think we’ll probably have a release in spring of 2021. Maybe a little bit later, but I doubt it because once I get over certain stuff it happens pretty quickly. We’ll have to see but that’s our big take off, that’s my plan for the year.
Hansi: With regards to Blind Guardian, we are quite similar. We are about to produce the next regular heavy metal album for Blind Guardian from April in 2020 on. Our goal is to finish the album by Christmas in 2020, to have a release of that album in the first half of 2021 and then we will be on the road from fall 2021 on. Obviously it’s going to be a big tour, which will keep us busy then until summer 2022.
Is there anything else that you guys both want to say or add to your fans?
Hansi: Well, they certainly should check out Demons & Wizards, III. It’s a very rich album, which will attract a lot of people. Not only the Demons & Wizards fans, but also everyone who is into heavy metal music will most probably get a crush on this album, because there’s so much to discover. It’s one of those albums you really always want to write, with each and every album you’re doing, but you just eventually get the chance to come up with such an album. It will leave an impact, I’m pretty sure
Jon: Yeah, I agree with all of that, and buy the record, buy our merchandise. Because we need to eat and feed our kids, so thank you!