|Classic Review: Jag Panzer - Ample Destruction|
Label: Iron Works
Year released: 1984
Genre: Heavy Metal
Review online: November 3, 2007
Reviewed by: Larry Griffin
Rated 4.5/5 (90%) (36 Votes)
In most fans of traditional 80s heavy metal, or power metal, or thrash metal, there exists some sort of primal instinct to love something that just flat out mauls your ass with simplistic yet catchy guitar work, drum beats, and powerful vocal lines. While not all of these bands are the most technically proficient, and while they may not play a very flashy style of metal, there's just a certain spark about these stripped down 80s bands that has a special place in our hearts. Maybe it's the unbridled, raw energy in these bands; that energy that modern bands have a harder time of capturing. It's a youthful rebellious streak in these bands that is long gone in most modern bands due to the glossed up production, the downtuned guitars, or the overuse of keyboards, and generally the loss of the huge amounts of attitude contained in the bands that founded the heavy metal genre. No, no modern metal can ever compare to stuff like Jag Panzer's debut, no matter how good it is. This is a treat.
Get ready to be assaulted by about ten thousand volts of raw fucking power after putting this one on. Jag Panzer's debut is widely acknowledged as a metal classic, and rightfully so! I have to say I agree with every inch of the praise given to this one. While 100% may be a hard score to give something, and originally I was going to give this album a few points lower, but it does deserve this perfect score. It just has that extra spark that makes Few albums are as energetic, powerful, and just completely fucking METAL the way this one is. For the uninitiated, Jag Panzer play old school US heavy metal with catchy, jumpy riffs, solos that soar to the clouds, courtesy of guitar virtuoso Mark Briody, and the powerful, ready vocals of Harry 'The Tyrant' Conklin, and it's a combination that works so damn well that you can't help but keep pressing the repeat button on this one. I've been listening to it for 5 months, and it just gets better every time!
There's something about this album that makes it unique, even though the style of music being played isn't abnormal or anything. On their 'Tyrants' EP, they played a very NWOBHM-slanted style of heavy metal, but here things have changed a bit. The music here is much more polished than on the debut, with cleaner solos and much better vocal work from the Tyrant. I guess the best way to describe this is an 'American' sound. It's polished and not stylistically different from the classic British heavy metal bands, yet the attitude is a lot more in your face and muscular, not as party metal oriented or laid back as some of the NWOBHM movement was. Jag Panzer go for the throat here, and they'll tear your tender skin to shreds without so much as a second thought. There are no songs glorifying sex, beer, or the night life on this album; just ass-kicking, straightforward heavy metal of the highest caliber. These lyrics rule, no stagnant or tepid love ballads to be found at all. Harry Conklin's voice is what seals the deal for this whole 'American' sound, I'd say. He has this deep, charismatic bellow that ensures he's not called a clone of anyone out there, and it gives Jag Panzer an unmistakable attitude and energy that few other bands could manage.
This is some damn catchy stuff. This isn't really metal that grows on you; this stuff is good from the start. The catchiness really does give it a boost---"Licensed to Kill", with its speed-metal trappings and killer chorus ("SCREEEAAAM!"), "Warfare", being the Judas Priest influenced rocker that it is, with that awesome chorus and midpaced stomping riffs, "Symphony of Terror" utilizing the old galloping Maiden riff that's so damn popular...aw, fuck, every song here rules. "Harder Than Steel" is a driving, pounding heavy metal anthem that just might be the best song here, and "Generally Hostile" is a speedy, attitude-filled rocker with enough energy to power a small city for a few weeks. "The Watching" is a semi ballad with a searing, emotional guitar solo that sends chills up my spine even now, and "Reign of the Tyrants" and "Cardiac Arrest" make for quite the duo of classic, jumpy '80s heavy metal ("I'll use my metal powers, to give you a heart attaaaaaaaaack!"). It all leads up to the epic super-ballad "The Crucifix" with awesome lyrics and what just may be Harry Conklin's best performance to date. Maybe. Even the bonus tracks on some of the bootlegs are good - "Eyes of the Night" in particular standing out as a triumphant slab of epic heavy metal glory that would fit just fine on the main album. There isn't really an explanation for how Jag Panzer managed to rule so much here. The band just had some sort of driving force in 1984 that got them to create this, one of the most consistent, catchy, and powerful metal albums I've ever heard.
Production? It may not be the clearest or the most polished, but this is pretty fucking good for 1984. The guitar tone is galloping and muscular (although it could certainly be heavier... that's just a minor quip, though), the drums pound down hard enough to crack some heads, and the bass clicks and whiddles away, all while Harry Conklin's magnificent midrange belts out the lyrics. Nothing is really put in the forefront over the rest, and nothing is really neglected. Musicianship? All the instruments here are extremely well handled, not sloppy or uninteresting in the least. Mark Briody's guitar wizardry is evident in pretty much every track, especially the closer "The Crucifix" with its acoustic passages that just randomly explode into a headbanging metallic fury, much like Iron Maiden's "Hallowed Be Thy Name" or Judas Priest's "Beyond the Realms of Death." The drumming is excellent as well, with some very nifty galloping drum intros on songs like "The Watching" and "Licensed to Kill." Musically, Jag Panzer are quite an interesting amalgamation of early Iron Maiden and Judas Priest with the more Americanized heavy metal stylings of Riot and Savatage, and they have their own sound here - not sounding like a ripoff of any band in particular, just playing old school heavy metal the way it was meant to be played.
To sum things up, Jag Panzer rules, and this album is absolutely essential for fans of this genre. I can't think of a better way to be introduced to a band than an album like this, so if you haven't heard it, then find it at any cost possible. One gripe is how this album has been out of print for eons, and the only way to get it is through bootlegs or downloading. Which is sad, because this album deserves recognition as a classic. It doesn't look like we'll be getting a reprint of this any time soon, so find this if you can, and enjoy it. This is one lost treasure that's sure to rock your world on ten different levels if you actually manage to track it down. My highest recommendation.
Originally written for Encyclopedia Metallum.
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