Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Jag Panzer - The Scourge Of The Light

There will never be another Ample Destruction. If there was any hope for such a return to the classic Jag Panzer style, the output of the band in recent years should have done much to strike down any optimistic dreams of another track sounding like "Harder Than Steel." So with this dream now occupying the same space in my mind as another Crimson Glory album like their debut, or another John Arch fronted Fates Warning album in the vein of Awaken The Guardian, I can approach the band with a new respect. I've relinquished my frustrations and, looking at this years new Jag Panzer release with an open mind, I can honestly say that it's a damn good modern power metal album.

In this sense, "Scourge of the Light," Jag Panzer's 9th album measures up to other modern power metal bands doing a similar style. With Jag Panzer though, you also get their seal of quality. Some things have not changed though. The speed is still there, and is in full force on opening track "Condemned To Fight." The melodies are still strong and up front and the musicianship is excellent as could be expected. John Tetley is still around on bass this time accompanied by Rikard Stjernquist on drums. Together they create the tight rhythmic foundation we've come to love from the band. Mark Briody is accompanied by Christian Lasegue on this record. The pair are obviously a capable duo on the guitar-front. Conklin still has the pipes to overpower God it seems. His performance is what really pulls the record past what would otherwise be considered mediocre by almost any other person's standards. There are some excellent songs on "Scourge Of The Light."

Much like Jag Panzer's last album, Casting The Stones, which I admit, I think is a bit stronger than this newer release, there is a much stronger modern metal element most obvious in the production and tone of the record. I originally though that I liked all the mid-paced tracks more than the faster songs but then I realized that it's a much more simple differentiation than that. The tracks that I like the best on the record are the tracks that aren't trying to be bad-ass. They are the tracks that just are bad-ass. For example, "Let It Out," gives me the feeling of listening to a amped up Soundgarden or Pearl Jam track... somewhat like "Do The Evolution." Also worth knocking is fifth track Cycles which is probably the most uninspired track of Panzer's career. It just reeks laziness. Conklin also sounds a whole crapload like a constipated Chris Cornell on this track.

The good: Opening track "Condemned to Fight" and the intricate "Burn" are both consistently fast, hard hitting and, if not memorable, damned good for the time being. The tracks that stand out the most are the unconventional Jag Panzer tracks such as "Setting of the Sun" which relies on the melodic interweaving of both solemn and hopeful airs, clashing and battling for control of the track's heart. "Bring The End," is a bitter accusation of greed and selfishness, echoed in Conklin's growing vocal intensity. The marching vibe of the chorus sections paired with a blistering solo contrasting a subdued midsection combine for my favorite moments on the album. Both songs utilize atypical melodies here too, like a modern power metal version of Sahg II instead of the same Iron Maiden progression in every song.

"Call To Arms" is a typical metal anthem without the Manowaresque posturing or about being specific about 'metal brotherhood' which I think works in Jag Panzer's favor, because paired with eighth track "Union," it's clear a patriotic theme courses through the Jag Panzer ranks. Considering similar sentiments on the recent Accept album, it's an interesting pattern in older power metal bands.

Overall, the album is a bit inconsistent, I skip past several tracks and listen to others in a row. A strong start and end to the record split in two by three boring tracks offers a bit of awkward pacing. So, to be fair, much like most records this one has some cool tunes, some bad tunes and is about 60% worth replaying and enjoyable. Jag Panzer remain a band to keep an eye on, even if they aren't as Generally Hostile or producing the same Symphony Of Terror that they were in the mid 1980's. Luckily, The Tyrant is still worth investing time in and I'm sure that whatever the band does to follow this will be of similarly strong quality.

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