|Review: Jag Panzer - The Scourge of the Light|
|The Scourge of the Light|
Year released: 2011
Genre: Heavy Metal
Review online: April 19, 2011
Reviewed by: Larry Griffin
for:The Scourge of the Light
Rated 4.4/5 (88%) (30 Votes)
Jag Panzer troops, stand at attention! 7 years in darkness from this venerable American band of soldiers eventually led into the light with the release of The Scourge of the Light. Jag Panzer were one of the great American bands from the 80s with their classic Ample Destruction, still, after all these years, being just about my favorite metal album. And now...they're on the upsurge, again.
This is just a really solid album. Harry Conklin sounds good, singing at a midrange with some serious vitriol pumped into him. Mark Briody and Chris Lasegue on guitars are the real stars here, with their seemingly endless barrage of Maidenesque riffs, winding, multi-faceted solos and blazing leads. The drums from Rikard Stjernquist are militaristic and powerful – just like Jag Panzer's always should be. That was always one of the strongest points of the band; those pumping, marching drum beats that sounded like a thousand soldiers right outside your door. This effect is in full use here.
Jag Panzer in recent years have stuck to a fairly similar formula – mostly traditional rockers mixed with experimental tracks – and this album does not diverge from that formula. It's actually just about the best they've done while adhering to it, with the most interesting tunes and the most confident, ballsy performances. The songwriting here is stripped down just enough to allow for clarity and strength, but still complex enough that the songs reveal more layers with each listen. Excellent progressive metal stompers like the folksy dirge of "The Setting of the Sun" and the eerie stomp of "Bringing the End" are among the strongest the band has done in many years. "Cycles" is a bit uneven with excellent, crackling verses but a bit of a forgettable chorus, but on the other hand, "Burn" is possibly my favorite on the album, at that. With a piano lead-in exploding into a cacophony of melodic riffing and somber vocals, "Burn" shows how far the band has come in terms of complexity. Excellent!
The traditional romps of "Condemned to Fight" and the excellent, headstrong "Call to Arms" are here in full force as well. "Overlord," as well, could be a Maiden song, if not for its hymnal choirs and virtuosic leads. "Let It Out" and "Union" are the most traditional on here, packing safer grooves and more predictable twists, but still being pretty damn good anyway. "The Book of Kells" is a somber, epic closing track that packs some killer hooks and definitely sustains interest all the way through, even if it isn't quite the best on here. It's a good way to close out the album.
The only complaint I really have with this is the same that I've had with every recent Jag Panzer album: the choruses are just not as good as they could be. Some of them are pretty good, like "Call to Arms" or "Bringing the End," but a lot of the time, they just sound so restrained and phoned in. The anthemic, modern power metallish technique Conklin is using just doesn't bring out his full power; that's the best way to say it.
Stand at rest, troops. The mission is finished. It has been a successful one, at that – just don't wait another 7 years before an update, if I might request...
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