Reviewed: April 2021
Released: 2021 Mighty Music, SPV, Believe
Reviewer: Shäman Cröwe
The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) has left its mark on the face of metal in such an indelible way that it is impossible to ignore. Of the many bands that were associated with the musical movement out of Britain, few remain. Those that do were such a quintessential part of it all that their names, and music, live on in infamy. Although groups like Iron Maiden and Def Leppard are the more noticeable ones that may come to mind, Tygers Of Pan Tang were a major contributing force to the sound and attitude of the wave that cannot be overlooked.
Tygers Of Pan Tang were originally formed in Whitley Bay, England in 1978 and were active until 1987 when they were seen to disband. In 1999, after original vocalist Jess Cox performed a few Tygers Of Pan Tang classics with fellow NWOBHM era metallers Blitzkrieg at Wacken Open Air, the band were seen to regroup. By 2000, guitarist Robb Weir would be the only remaining original member.
The current version of Tygers Of Pan Tang is likely the longest running incarnation of the group and as such, Majors & Minors compiles some of the band’s favourite songs from the four releases that feature Jacopo “Jack” Meille on vocal duties. You won’t find hits like their seminal version of “Love Potion No. 9” but you will find tracks like “Only The Brave” and “White Lines”.
Tygers Of Pan Tang have evolved from the raw unbridled energy of the past into a stainless-steel contemporary powerhouse. Blending great riffs with catchy vocal harmonies and melody lines, there is plenty to enjoy for fans of hard rock and classic heavy metal in abundance, captured together in this compilation for the first time.
Let’s drop the needle and crank it up, shall we? For this review, we’re going to approach this as though it’s a stand-alone album rather than dissect why each track may have been chosen, or it’s individual merit as a “hit”; major or minor.
First up is “Only The Brave” from the band’s 2016 self-titled release. After the roughly thirty second intro, Tygers Of Pan Tang start it off with a quick-wristed riff that moves the song along at a pace. Lyrically this song is about perseverance. “There’s the weak, then there’s the strong, gotta find out just where you belong… only the brave survive.” Plenty of good guitar work here and an overall positive message. An easily remembered chorus lends itself to accompaniment and will no doubt have would be karaoke stars singing along in no time. It’s a good song to lead with, it was a pretty big hit for this incarnation of the band and easy to see why it gets the driver’s seat.
The second track is “Destiny” and although it’s a good song, the beginning seems to jump out of nowhere making it a rather jarring transition from the song preceding it. Which is a shame really. It really could have done with a better position in the track listing. This is a mid-tempo rocker seemingly about the subject found in the title. It seems to be written from the point of view of one who is destined to gun someone down in revenge rather than unwavering fate. It’s overall easy on the ears however and beyond the strange transition (which may have been considerably different on 2019’s Ritual) it’s a decent song.
Up next is a track from 2012’s Ambush album called “She”. Weaving a tale as old as time; a man and a woman in love, until they aren’t, and “she is with another…” The song chugs along overall and has a great breakdown during the solo section where the band busts out the castanets and Spanish guitar. Featuring what seems to be a hallmark stamp of harmonies and backing vocals complimenting the main melody line. It’s a far cry from the simplistically raw enthusiasm of the band’s early releases, but it seems as though a natural progression without sounding unnecessarily dated.
Another selection from their self-titled offering, the band cranks up the tempo with “Never Give In”. A song that is more reminiscent of Tygers Of Pan Tang’s early years. Although undeniably more polished, the bombastic nature of the song offers a glimpse of the band at their NWOBHM onset. Certainly, with this release, Tygers Of Pan Tang are hoping to distance themselves from their first releases but it’s near impossible to avoid the comparisons. You can’t easily omit your past, especially when you were such a large part of the history of the genre. Which is why it’s nice to hear a song like “Never Give In” be included here. It’s a great nod to the beginnings of the band.
“Worlds Apart” jumps in straight away and serves a near seamless transition from the proceeding song. A grandiose and punctuated introduction gives way to a straight ahead, fast tempo verse section. This is broken up by a harmony driven chorus that seems to act in juxtaposition to the overall pace of the song, creating an interesting dynamic. This seems to be the general formula for this era of Tygers Of Pan Tang and it isn’t meant negatively. Their current style is still reasonably reminiscent of the past and isn’t likely to chase off early fans of the band, while offering a decent AOR sound that will appeal to new listeners. This song from Ritual is an excellent example of such.
Track six is a straight-ahead hard rock song that sounds like a party directly out of the 80s. “Glad Rags” is an upbeat number with a sing-a-long chorus, complete with hand claps, that was also found on the band’s self-titled album. This would have been a huge hit in another time, specifically a time epitomized by big hair, loud guitars and fast cars. It’s a much simpler, hook dependent song, than we have seen up to this point on the compilation. It fits nicely but it is an example of how necessary it is to be in the right place at the right time. If this had been released in that aforementioned time it is highly likely that Tygers Of Pan Tang would have seen a large resurgence in popularity earlier.
“Let It Burn” ignites immediately from the onset. A smoldering and snare smashing song that crashes along like a longshoreman on short leave. Selected from Tygers Of Pan Tang’s 2008 release, Animal Instinct, it’s a great song about feeding the fire within. “Stand and look the Devil in the eye. Call out, call out… let him know you’ll never, never die.” Never give up, “if it roars, let it roar!” Plenty of guitar work but with less emphasis on harmonies and more gang backing vocals rounding out the proceedings.
Long stretches of highway and traveling great distances are definitely things a band that has been active for as long as Tygers Of Pan Tang have been would be more than familiar with. From the rather Iron Maiden-esque introductory riff, to the purveying rapid fire rhythm line, it’s easy to imagine a speed driven trip, aboard a highway, under a sun filled sky as “White Lines” enters the fray. This song checks a lot of the boxes in regards to well-rounded songwriting and props should go out to Craig Ellis for this excellent addition to this compilation, and indeed on Ritual, the original release on which it appeared.
“The Devil You Know” is next on deck. As this song begins it seems reminiscent of The Cult. It’s tough to say why, maybe it’s the solid rock beat and bass line as the lone guitar plays on top. Perhaps it’s the fact that Meille seems to channel his inner Ian Astbury during the verses. Either way, it would not have sounded out of place on Ceremony. As it is the song was originally found on Tygers Of Pan Tang’s self-titled album and once you get past the verses, Meille is back to his usual self. Likely the shortest song on the compilation, “The Devil You Know” is about how a temptress with an “angelic look can fool you.” It’s a good song all around. Short and sweet… or at least as she would appear.
“Keeping Me Alive” starts out like it wants to be an acoustic song, but it isn’t, yet it’s not the slow big chord anthem it then turns into neither. Just past the thirty second mark one discerns that this was the introduction for what will settle into an average paced Tygers Of Pan Tang song. Not unlike “Don’t Stop By”, an earlier classic. Back to the Ambush album again for this one. During the verses in this song, it is easy to see the original Tygers Of Pan Tang surface again, which goes to prove that the current lineup of the group should not have any trouble interpreting the band’s older catalog alongside these new favourites. Even the main riff in the song brings to mind the type of guitar work that can be found on hits like “Euthanasia”. The choruses are more polished, even refined, but the songwriting style is not dissimilar.
Keeping the tradition alive, the band launches into “Hot Blooded” from the Animal Instinct album. This song sees the return of the big party 80s vibe. The chorus is a simple sing-a-long that even the guitar can’t help but get involved in as Tygers Of Pan Tang weave a tale about relationships that are only good for being bad. “What’s it all worth?” Lots to like here all around, catchy rock and roll tune.
Another selection from the Ritual album, “Damn You!” blasts back into a more rumbling and heavier vein. A classic middle finger song that is deliciously pointed. This is another example of Tygers Of Pan Tang’s ability to write memorable and catchy melody lines. Especially interesting is the lyric where Meille sings “damn everything and everyone everywhere”. It has a great upward crescendo that punctuates the chorus making it both easily singable but likewise memorable. The band has a way of making even the angriest songs seem polished and refined as though delivering a backhanded compliment.
A new orchestral version of “Spoils Of War” follows, also from 2019’s Ritual. Previously unreleased in this version, the song is given an interesting flare with the addition of the orchestra. The trudging song of battle almost seems a bit more authentic than its predecessor, from a Hollywood perspective at least. After all, most epic battle scenes have been accompanied by orchestrated music and this seems to be no exception. It’s a sweeping piece that tells a tale of warlords and gathering hoards, and their coveted prize. By adding the orchestra, it almost seems as though the drummer’s cymbals become swords.
The second to last song is “What You Say” (not to be confused with the band’s previous song titled “What You Sayin’” from The Cage), “never released in an album format before”, that finds itself at home with the other songs on this compilation. Many people wrote off the current lineup when they first appeared after the renewed interest in Tygers Of Pan Tang upon Jess Cox’s performance with Blitzkrieg so many years previous. Almost seventeen years later, most naysayers have already been well discounted. “What You Say” almost seems like the band’s way of sticking it to those critics of time since passed. “New dawn painted black; a newborn child free at last…”
The final song is “Plug Me In” which has never been released on CD previous to this compilation. This is another short and to the point rock and roll song, which brings it all together quite tidy like. From the guitar hook to the pounding backbeat, this song literally rocks the house! “Plug me in, we’re ready to go! Plug me in, let’s rock and roll!” In this capacity it serves more as an encore. It’s one of those songs that you could see as an opening number otherwise. Regardless, it’s a good fit once again. The fading guitar bringing the whole affair to a close.
All in all, Majors & Minors is a good collection. It offers an opportunity for Tygers Of Pan Tang to “chapterize” this particular epoch of the band. An era, it should again be mentioned, that actually has had more “stability” than the original lineup, which was in itself incredibly short-lived. For thirteen years the lineup has been relatively the same, with Robb Weir the only remaining original member. Given this, the band has managed to remain Tygers Of Pan Tang without too much deviation. There’s growth, surely, but what band doesn’t grow, indeed with the members also evolving or even changing as time goes by? The name Tygers Of Pan Tang could easily have been hijacked for something that left little semblance of its former self. Fortunately, that isn’t the case here. The songs contained herein are easily imagined beside the more stalwart classic songs that the band are heralded for prior. It would be great to hear a live album comprised of both these songs but songs like the previously mentioned “Euthanasia” and “Don’t Stop By”, as well as “Paris By Air”, “Do It Good” or “Never Satisfied”.
That’s really what seems to be the take away from this compilation. Tygers Of Pan Tang have so many great songs that it would take an entire article just to go through them with any justice at all. The band was such a contributing force to the overall NWOBHM movement that it has a legacy worth preservation. This compilation allows fans both new and old to hear the band’s evolution from then to now, in realization that they are still capable of writing and producing music after all this time, that stands shoulder to shoulder with their back catalog. That in itself is a massive accomplishment and worthy of note.
Truthfully, Tygers Of Pan Tang were always a group that seemed to be dogged by lineup changes from the beginning, having once been home to many notable players including John Sykes. In fact, the first two albums have two different singers when Jess Cox was seen to quit after the release of Wild Cat in 1980, replaced by Jon Deverill of Persian Risk fame. The current lineup has literally been the most stable of any of the incarnations of the band throughout their history, but even in that there have been lineup changes throughout the period this compilation represents as well. Which is why this collection serves to represent only a chapter in the very storied book that is Tygers Of Pan Tang.
For fans of NWOBHM bands like Saxon, Diamond Head, Iron Maiden and more, Majors & Minors is a good compilation for old school fans looking to see what Tygers Of Pan Tang have been up to as of late. As well as new fans seeking to learn more about the ongoing story involving this integral group in heavy metal history, or current followers who just want to hear all the bands current favourites in one place. It marks a relatively important footnote in Tygers Of Pan Tang’s ongoing and ever evolving history…
Crack it open and crank it up!
Jacopo (Jack) Meille – Vocals
Robb Weir – Guitars
Gav Gray – Bass
Craig Ellis – Drums
Francesco Marras – Guitars
1. Only The Brave
4. Never Give In
5. Worlds Apart
6. Glad Rags
7. Let It Burn
8. White Lines
9. The Devil You Know
10. Keeping Me Alive
11. Hot Blooded
12. Damn You!
13. Spoils Of War (Orchestral Mix)
14. What You Say
15. Plug Me In