Friday, August 27, 2010

Jag Panzer - Ample Destruction

A sadly forgotten gem in heavy metal history

I remember first hearing about Jag Panzer after Chris Broderick joined Nevermore for a tour when Steve Smyth was out with liver problems (if I remember correctly). Afterwards, I did a little research on Jag Panzer and realized that they were one of those classic early speed metal bands (my knowledge of metal history isn't perfect, I'll admit), so I figured I'd better hear some of them. I tried out Thane to the Throne because that was the highest rated album with Broderick on guitar and decided it was boring. I then discarded Jag Panzer and an overrated band and never gave them another chance.

Months later, Chris Broderick was recruited to Megadeth. I made a comment on about how I liked to prospect of him joining Nevermore a lot more, and that I wasn't a big fan of Jag Panzer. I was rightfully told that if I didn't like their later material, at least give the debut a chance. I swear, that site has not let me down yet.

As soon as Licensed to Kill starts ripping through your speakers, you realize that you are about to witness an aural assault on par with the likes of classic Priest in terms of historical importance. Why this band was never as big as Priest or Maiden is beyond me, because I prefer this over some of the early Iron Maiden albums when it comes to classic heavy metal from the 80s. This completely obliterates some of the classic albums that came out of of 1984, I mean it. Defenders of the Faith? *Phht* It is right on par with Powerslave, which was also released this year. Anyways, the riffs are fast and powerful, and the chorus is extremely catchy. Harry Conklin is one hell of a vocalist, and he does not hold back for one second here, especially those screeches in the chorus. SCREEAAAM!! Some sweet solos are showcased here as well.

Man, if that opener was any clue as to what I was about to endure, I should've known that the next'un, Warfare, would demolish me as well. It starts with a riff similar to Curse of the Pharaohs or 2 Minutes to Midnight, and while I wouldn't rank it above either of those two classics, it is indeed a thundering classic in it's own right. Symphony of Terror comes up next, and starts off with a strange drum beat and Conklin singing over it. This only lasts about six seconds before an exhilarating wail is let out and the song gallops into full gear. This one is a bit more mid paced that the two opening speed monsters, and it feels like it isn't quite as good as it could be. But there is no denying that the catchiness that exudes from this one is no less than the previous two. If this band can do one thing right, (other than kicking complete ass) it is writing memorable riffs and vocal lines, thusly creating memorable songs. Harder than Steel starts with a very Maiden-esque riff and never slows down, another great tune.

Generally Hostile finally kicks it back into full gear with another speed metal monster. This one is fast as hell, and that's just how we like it. The Watching starts off on a bit of a low note, and is the weakest track on the record in my opinion. It's not bad, but it just doesn't seem up to par with the rest of the songs at all. Kind of hard to explain why, maybe it sounds a bit more restrained, or like they wrote it late in the studio or something, just to add another track. I feel the same is true for the album's "epic" number, The Crucifix. I feel it just kind of plods and doesn't have the same heavy metal fervor or conviction that Licensed to Kill or Generally Hostile had.

The two songs that fall in between The Watching and The Crucifix are also exceptional. Reign of the Tyrants is one of those songs that you can just tell will rule before it even starts. Chock full of awesome riffs and soaring vocals, it's kind of hard to deny this one of it's badassery (for lack of a better term). The same can be said about Cardiac Arrest, except I find it to be even better than the preceding track. The lyrics are really dumb, but it doesn't detract from the music like some other bands manage to do. The screeches in this one just reinforce the downright awesomeness of the record.

Okay, I feel I've done nothing but gush, but this is a record that actually deserves the praise it is given. It is innovative, fun, destructive, and historically relevant, although it seems to have unfortunately be lost due to the amount of heavy metal classics released around the time. The Watching and The Crucifix drag it down a bit, but it is otherwise a classic of heavy metal that was sadly forgotten in the sands of time. Essential listening for all metalheads.

RATING - 90%

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