Thursday, October 23, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Demons and Wizards, by Uriah Heep

To this day hard rock band Uriah Heep is known to many as one of the "Big Four of Hard Rock" along with other 1970's hard rock/heavy metal pioneers Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath. Unlike their peers however, much more emphasis was put on the Hammond organ/keyboard rather than guitar; even more so than Deep Purple. This of course can be attributed to the fact that the primary song writer for Uriah Heep was their keyboard player Ken Hensley.

By 1972 Uriah Heep had already made three albums but still had yet to gain any real commercial success as a group. However, this changed when bassist Gary Thain joined to complete what would be considered their classic line-up of him on bass, Hensley on keys, David Byron on lead vocals, Mick Box on guitar, and Lee Kerslake on drums. Together the band recorded the Demons and Wizards album; which contains one of their most well known and still played hits Easy Livin'. Once this album was released, Uriah Heep finally began getting some real positive reviews and became more renown.

Easy Livin' was the main single for Demons and Wizards and for good reason. It is a straight up rocker that is simple and easy to follow along with. It takes the idea of a simple three chord song and makes it loud, heavy, and in your face. The musical fireworks are kept to a minimum on this track (no keyboard or guitar solos! D:), but it works to its advantage. It's a more uptempo swing rhythm with crunchy guitar chords and organ playing that accents it perfectly. Byron shines through in his own way showing just how high he could get his falsettos. It's kind of ridiculous, but I don't knock it because it takes some serious talent to do that kind of thing consistently well.

There are many songs on the album that are real gems, but Paradise/The Spell is the one that really puts the cherry on the sundae in terms of epicness as far as I'm concerned. Technically these are two songs, but they bleed into one another on the album so I count them as one. Paradise is a mostly acoustic ballad, but there are some electric guitar and Hammond organ parts as well. It's quite a relaxing song, even if the subject matter is about heartbreak.

The Spell however is where things get absolutely AMAZING. It starts off with an upbeat almost 50's style boogie but with more elements of heavy organ. Byron and Hensley both trade off lead vocals in this song because they are both playing characters locked in an epic battle for the fate of the world. Things slow down in the middle of the song, but that's when Mick Box busts out this amazing melodic slide guitar solo that is backed by what sounds like a choir doing 'ahhs' (though it's probably just Byron multi-tracking). It will send chills down your spine and make the hairs on your arms and neck stand up like no other. When the solo ends it goes right back into the boogie and the battle finishes and ends the album in the most astounding way.

Demons and Wizards is what got me into Uriah Heep in the first place. They are more of an obscure band these days unfortunately, but if you do yourself the favor of tracking down this album I assure you that you are in for one hell of a musical treat. It stands up with even the more well known classic hard rock and heavy metal that gets more public mentioning these days. There isn't a single bad track on there. Those of you who listen to lots of melodic heavy metal could learn a thing or two by putting this into your player.

Demons and Wizards, by Uriah Heep receives 5 out of 5 stars.

Track List:

1. The Wizard
2. Traveler in Time
3. Easy Livin'
4. Poet's Justice
5. Circle of Hands
6. Rainbow Demon
7. All My Life
8. Paradise
9. The Spell

Buy the album on Amazon:

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