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Sunday, July 31, 2011

REVIEW: Jag Panzer (US) - Dissident Alliance (1994)

Jag Panzer from US released one highly praised us full-length heavy metal album at 80's, along with some demos and EP, before fading into a silent period. Ten years after the release of Ample Destruction they decided to reform and put out long awaited album - many old fans probably had their expectations high. Afterall, Ample Destruction was quality and pure heavy metal record, with great powerful high pitched vocals of Harry Conklin - melodic great guitar leads and biting rhythm section as well.

I can see how many fans were totally disappointed about the outcome, after ten long years of waiting for a new record. Dissident Alliance sound like completely different band - with mostly all characteristics that made Ample Destruction classic album now gone. The band took turn into heavier, thrashier outfit (but with not high tempo and pace), with some groove-metal like influences as well (were they trying to follow the path Pantera was showing at the time?). Some of the line-up changes may have influenced the change in musical direction as well (although the band commented in an interview (Jag Panzer, Era of Kings And Conflict), that most of the material was written prior to the arrival of the new members, but they put their own touch to the sound for sure).

First of all, Harry Conklin is no more with the band - the singer who's voice dominated Ample Destruction. Instead, we have a new man called Daniel Conca on vocals. Conklin later on rejoined the band and Conca left after this record, and one can definitely see, why. Conca sounds quite lame on Dissident Alliance, and definitely doesn't fit to the style, what were the heavy metal roots of Jag Panzer. He sounds like a sloppy modern thrash singer with modern metalcore edge - his weak unmemorable performance is not helping for average songs at all. I don't know why they hired watered down version of Phil Anselmo (Pantera)? Also, second guitarist Joe Tafolla was then swapped to Chris Kostka, which may also have been the influece towards different style in music.

Riffs have only occasional slightly brighter moments but mostly are very generic and sloppy on Dissident Alliance, rather uninspired. Some of the leads and hooks are cool, but mostly song construction and rhythm sections are just purely poor. Jag Panzer managed to turn from a great heavy metal band into a modernized groove-influenced thrash metal band with garage sound within a decade. Most of the original melody has been sacrificed in the name of heavier thrashy sound of what was commercial in the mid nineties. This does not work, since it's not thrash in a good way but powerless, sloppy and generic instead, with modern edge. The fellas seemed to lack enthusiasm in their playing, with their new shattered identity.

Standout points would be melodic lead riff in speedy GMV 407, which is boiled by otherwise unmemorable riffs and metalcore'ish vocal shouts. Decent and probably the best song on the album is The Church with pretty standard 90's metal sound and some decent lead guitars and melodies - but even it doesn't do much. Gloomy Eve of Penance has some bright moments and is perhaps the second best track. The Clown has some early 90's Antrax'esque riffing which is allright but then again vocals and lyrics are rather awful:

"Little boy, little boy, tell me true
Johnny does the nasty, do you know who?
Little boy, little boy, did you cry?
Momma’s gone away, daddy tell a lie
He was a clown
She was a clown
We was a clown"

I usually don't care about cheesy lyrics if music is good itself, but in this case music is below average and lyrics are so stupid they actually do bother. Besides there's more to it than only lyrical stupidity in Dissident Alliance. Edge of Blindless is listenable groove metal influenced track with nice acoustic parts in the middle that actually works. Last Dying Breath sounds like 90's skater metal and is listenable, but oh so unmemorable. That's about it. Whisper God is average at it's best.

One can tell right from the start that Jag Panzer have hit their own rock bottom this far. Opening track "Jeffrey - Behind The Gates" opens with chugging marching rhythm guitars, which soon turns into groove metal with lousy metalcore-influenced vocals, and you'll lose interest towards the rest of the album immediately, there's no return from the gates of un-enthusiasm. Forsaken Child is weird acoustic/tribal influenced track, almost sounding like alternative rock or something. Oh man. Not really fitting into Jag Panzer album.. Plodding Psycho Next Door's slowdown moments with Conca's weak hardcore growling is total low blow. If you ever made that far.

In 1994, Jag Panzer had turned from a traditional us heavy metal band with great vocals, into lousy band band what one could simply describe with word "metal" - with metalcore/groove/skater metal influences. Enthusiasm and creative moments were far off from this one. Standout riffs are only a few, mostly related to some lead riffs (Briody can still play?) - which are left to minimum, making space for sloppy rhythm guitars. Rhythm section is not tight, it's generic and powerless. Last nail to coffin are the metalcore vocals of the new singer. Is this album as bad as many metal fans state it to be? I was skeptical at first, since I could understand simply a style change to influence such opinion. But, I'm no skeptical anymore, Dissident Alliance is far off impressing even for the style it is.

I would not recommend getting this album unless you are a fan of Jag Panzer and want to collect their all albums, despite the fact that this one's quite poor. "Highlight moments" are average at the best with The Church, Eve of Penance, Edge of Blindness, Last Dying Breath, GMV 407 and Whisper God, whereas the first three mentioned raise perhaps very slightly above average. It just does not cut it, since sound is mostly lousy and generic, over half of material is less than average by far, and the best of the rest is about average at it's best. Without the songs mentioned above this album would deserve "Disaster" rating, but now I'll just just "Very Poor". Even Conklin's vocals could not have saved this album. It's something of a crossing between mid nineties Pantera's groove and second tier US band Meliah Rage's (pretty solid band, most of the time) trashy version, with laid back tempo. Fans of the latter mentioned will surely run back to Meliah Rage records any day, far away from Dissident Alliance. Luckily this phase did not last long, until Harry Conklin rejoined for the album The Fourth Judgement (1997) and style changed back to better. It's great that Jag Panzer didn't end career with a flop such as Dissident Alliance. That would had made me quite sad.
44/100 (Very Poor)

  • Daniel Conca (R.I.P. 2004) - Vocals
  • Mark Briody - Guitars
  • Chris Kostka - Guitars
  • John Tetley - Bass
  • Rikard Stjernquist - Drums

  • 1. Jeffrey - Behind the Gate 07:20
  • 2. The Clown 03:11
  • 3. Forsaken Child 05:29
  • 4. Edge of Blindness 03:59
  • 5. Eve of Penance 07:14
  • 6. Last Dying Breath 05:12
  • 7. Psycho Next Door 04:04
  • 8. Spirit Suicide 05:44
  • 9. GMV 407 04:32
  • 10. The Church 05:01
  • 11. Whisper God 04:18
    • Total running time 56:04

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