Jag Panzer has been an American metal institution since the early 80’s and they’ve always been a band that you could rely on to clobber you with enormous, powerful, top-notch heavy metal of the traditional school. They’re also the original American power metal act. Their take on power metal being far different than the textbook European approach, Jag Panzer were always much heavier, tougher and had more balls than the Helloweens, Gamma Rays and such of the Euro-school. Built around the mammoth, masculine and powerhouse vocals of Harry “the Tyrant” Conklin, the Panzer sound was always hard-edged, large and much closer to the NWOBHM style of Iron Maiden or Judas Priest. After a wait of nearly seven years since 2004’s Casting the Stones, The Panzer finally rolls again and we get album eight (nine if you count the long shelved Chain of Command opus), The Scourge of the Light. Was it worth the long wait? Does Moonsorrow piss in the snow? [Was the Pope a Nazi? – AMG] Of course it was worth it! Scourge is a welcome and mighty return to the metal throne by Jag Panzer and they brings us ten new slices of old school metal glory.
Firstly, let me allay any worries that Jag Panzer would be a lesser entity due to guitar monster Chris Broderick’s departure to join Megadeth. In to replace him is former Panzer shredder Christian Lesague (84-88) and he fills Broderick’s shoes much more than capably and between he and founding member Mark Briody, they make sure Scourge is a guitar geek’s wet dream of wild, fluid solos, techy brilliance and wretched fret excess. Nextly, allow me to give my humble opinion regarding the vocal prowess of Mr. H. Tyrant. The man is the living embodiment of the term “vocal god.” Since the beginning, his massive pipes have placed him right at the top of the metal vocalist food chain and over time he’s only gotten better and more versatile. His performance here is nothing short of a jaw dropping spectacle of leather lunged, metallic perfection. Enough of the gushing, on with the analysis (did I mention this guy can really sing?).
First up is “Condemned to Fight” and it’s an instant classic. Aggressive, heavy riffing, tasteful wankery and the majestic, commanding voice of Tyrant powering things along. It has a huge sweeping chorus, fantastic soloing and sounds almost too good to be true. Epic and classy all the way. I had to hit replay several times as soon as it ended it’s so damn good. After that they dial back to slower, moodier paces for “Setting of the Sun” (another instant classic in the Panzer catalogue) and “Bringing on the End” (old school riff heavy plodder interlaced with face tearing fretwork) before moving into anthemic Manowar territory with “Call to Arms” and “Union”, both of which are quite simply, metal as fuck. Elsewhere they go back to their Ample Destruction roots for the straight-up ragers “Cycles” and “Let it Out” and also dabble in the gleefully over dramatic with “Overlord” (featuring the Captain Jack Sparrow approved line “scourge of the seven seas, salty of disposition”). Things wind down with another two gems. “Burn” features some of the most aggressive riffing, leads and vocals on Scourge and is a real scorcher, with Tyrant nearing rarefied Halford territory with his screams and shrieks. The closer is the eight minute plus epic “The Book of Kells” which pulls all the stops out for a grandiose and brooding, slow paced metal monster featuring choral sections, layered harmonies, towering vocals by Tyrant and ridiculously intricate fretwork and solos. Everything about this song sounds HUGE and classy. It’s pure gold.
The production was handled by famed producer Jim Morris at Morrisound studios and he did one helluva job. The sound is very big, perfectly suited for the larger-than-life, over-the-top style of Jag Panzer. The guitars sound powerful and forceful and they’re put out in front along with the Tyrant but the excellent drumming of Rikard Stjernquist is also present and clear. When the solos and shredding occur, they have that perfect balance in the mix and you can focus on them and listen in awe. It all works.
I’m happy to report that these guys have done it yet again. This is another Panzer piece of epic American metal, steeped in class then coated in shining chrome. Any fan of traditional metal should get this and all their back catalog as well (except Dissident Alliance of course). These guys are the shit and contain more steel than the Terminator. Hail the Panzer.