Released: 2011, SPV
This band is really tenacious. Jag Panzer was one of the very early American ‘true’ Metal bands. They had a very well received debut album. For whatever reason, label troubles or line-up issues, the band was never able to capitalize on the early success of a band like Vicious Rumors or Riot, for example, who both got singed to a major label. Ten years pass and Jag Panzer gets back in the saddle and the sophomore album comes out, an ill-advised flirtation with a so-called modern sound. It really wasn’t a bad record actually but it wasn’t that well received. Then things stagnate again, another extended delay between albums, label changes, line-up changes but the band won’t die. The band comes roaring back with four crushingly epic (or was that epic-ly crushing?) albums in five years in a period of unparalleled creativity and productivity for the band. Jag Panzer ruled the end of the decade. Then the wheels come off the wagon again, more delays, reissues, compilation albums, label hassles and an album that was under the radar. CASTING THE STONES was well received by the faithful but I think the bands lifespan at Century Media had run it course and there wasn’t much push or promotion. Then for what seems like the fourth time the band hits the skids, again member changes, label changes and so forth and Jag Panzer drops off the map for over half a decade.
Here we are in January 2011 and the band that would not (and will not) die, have returned from the wilderness. They are back with a vengeance! A new decade, (their 4th!) a new label, a new guitarist, and a stunning new album, SCOURGE OF THE LIGHT, Jag Panzer is back! The band is back with album # 9 and it just kills. Ten tracks, 49 minutes of pure Metal.
The quintet, with new guitarist Christian Lasegue, deliver a combat ready Metal album. The new guy has big shoes to fill, following not only Tafolla but Broderick as well, but he certainly does the trick. The opener track sets the tone with a classic speedy balls-to-the wall head-crusher called ‘Condemned To Fight’. SCOURGE OF THE LIGHT goes from high to high demonstrating the consistency and class they had across the back half of their career.
SCOURGE OF THE LIGHT is classic Metal through and through. It never gets too frantic and speedy like some of the European bands, it’s heavy and fits in the metal, head-banging groove very nicely. There is speed when it is called for but it’s not always double-kick all the way through. Conklin sounds great, his voice is not showing his age at all. His reputation is well deserved. Good riffs, good arrangements are the keys to these songs. They aren’t really any modern tricks, samples, sound-effects, industrial flavours, soprano female vocals, epic orchestration, just straight-ahead Metal. There is one exception, the last track ‘The Book of Kells’ the band does stretch their wings just a little bit over the 8 minute long song and it is a nice touch having a bit of violin, just a hint for the melancholy introduction and at the 5 minute mark. They also employ a more orchestral backing vocal section, which sounds great. I would not complain if they employed these sounds in other songs.
This album will stand next to any album that the band has done. I know it is a bit of an overused literary device but I’m going suggest right here, right now in early January, that SCOURGE OF THE LIGHT will make many people’s Year-end lists. A very, very welcome return.