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Friday, July 29, 2011

REVIEW: Jag Panzer (US) - Ample Destruction (1984)

Jag Panzer are a band formed in US at 1981. They were originally named as Tyrant but legacy issues concerning the name forced them to change into Jag Panzer later same year. Earlier Jag Panzer was mainly US sounding traditional heavy metal. The band released only one full-length album in 80’s called Ample Destruction which got some praise among metalheads so I’d consider the band semi-obscure. Along this they released Tyrants EP earlier at 1983 and Deathrow single same year as well as Demos at 1985, twice 1986 and later on after silence period at 1993 – which led them to reunite and release Dissident Alliance at 1994. Jag Panzer have been quite active after this releasing eight albums ‘till 2011 all together after reuniting at 1993. Their newest being The Scourge of Light The Light released earlier this year.

At earlier times on the 80’s Jag Panzer had bit sharper toned Maiden influenced approach than what they sound today. Singer Harry Conklin has a voice a reminding slightly of Bruce Dickinson with melodic clean mid to high range falsettos that makes this record sound very classy. The music has influences of Maiden sure but is not a copy, sound is melodic, yet melodies used here don’t remind Maiden that much. The sound is more sharper US sound with more aggression. Especially guitars bite with sharp cutting high distortion (thrashy even at times) and melodic guitar passages sound very good. Guitarists Mark Briody and Joey Taffolla do a great job on Ample Destruction. The band reminds maybe a bit more of heavier Fates Warning with melodic traditional heavy metal approach to music.

Ample Destruction is a great example of melodic soaring 80’s heavy metal album with some – but not too much cheesiness – and yet manages to sound sharp and biting same time without losing all the heaviness to the melodic parts. Theres strong usage of power chords creating simple but effective wall of sound, some strong biting palm muted riffing and then melodic lead guitar work & shredding with Conklin’s soaring melodic yet aggressive voice on top of that making this sound very enjoyable indeed. Vocals are quite much dominating the music – in a good way – and backing vocals are used quite well also.

The albums consists of ten songs (one short instrumental) all together clocking over 40 minutes which is about enough. Speedy Licensed To Kill opens up the album with stomping palm muted riffs in your face and Conklin’s powerful wailing falsettos dominate. While not my favorite track here it gives a promise of quality. Other speedier moments include: Generally Hostile with upbeat rhythm section but has a bit generic side riffs - and Reign of The Tyrants with some more forward driving ripping palm muted riffage fest. Reign of The Tyrants has great gloomy yet melodic chorus part where “under the knife - you'd better run for your life - 'cause you're under the knife!” lyrics and lead guitar melody just sticks to your head.

There’s more reasonably fast material than above mentioned. Bombastic drum intro and Conklin’s falsetto scream leads into Symphony Of Terror – which sounds patriotic track with it’s marching rhythm and has nice lead melodies along great usage of falsetto screams. Harder Than Steel is lyrically a bit on cheesy with it’s “Oh, you're harder than steel, yeah, ya feel - All for yourself and no one else”. Yet it’s not musically falling any behind. It’s a mid fast headbanging piece with strong palm muted riffs driving it forward dominating the track other than the chorus where Conklin once again shines. Bassist does very good job here promoting the rhythm section with heavy speedy basslines. Cardiac Arrest presents more lead guitar heavy groovy and rocking sound and melodies here are quite wicked. Conklin’s falsetto shows also slightly more dirtier/grittier side here sounding awesomely strong.

The good thing is not only Jag Panzer sound on a prime here when they speed things up - more laid back marching tempo seems to work great also - there's three songs on the album with laid back speed (not necassarily less heavier though): chugging rhythm guitars of Warfare kick in right from the start and rip you up. One of the heavier tracks in the album with laid back tempo and slower power chorded parts mostly focusing on Conklin’s aggressive and melodic vocals and chugging sharp palm muted main riff take turns leading eventually in a nice guitar solo. Shouted out loud backing vocals in chorus also sound great making one wanting to shout along “Warfare!”. Simple, heavy and effective song – one of my favorites here. The Watching brings up patriotic rhythm sections with riffs and tempos that remind me of army march of some kind – only presented in form of heavy metal. Lead guitar riffs are just insanely catchy here. This mid tempo and strong forward driving battle anthem is also one of my faves on this album. Vocals sound awesome on this song. The album closes with seven and half minutes long epic piece called The Crucifix starting as acoustic track with keyboard interludes - turning into slow and doomy and gloomy marching anthem - eventually speeding up in the end. This being perhaps the only track that has not grown on me that well (maybe because of the slow start), although wicked lead guitar melodies and shredding on the end side of the song are pretty impressive.

Very good album with nice shredding, catchy melodies, sharp and aggressive guitar playing with cheesy falsetto screams from Harry Conklin who despite all the cheese manages to sound great. This is how you should do high pitched vocals with aggression needed to sound effective. Overall very upbeat tempo album with some patriotic influences. Sounds remiscent to Maiden and Fates Warning but is more heavy and biting without sacrificing melody. For all fans of traditional 80’s heavy metal. This is classic in melodic traditional heavy metal field. 91/100 (Awesome!)

(As used CD)

  • Harry "The Tyrant" Conklin - Vocals
  • Mark Briody - Guitars
  • Joey Tafolla - Guitars
  • John Tetley - Bass
  • Rick Hilyard - Drums

  • 1. Licensed to Kill 03:02
  • 2. Warfare 05:11
  • 3. Symphony of Terror 04:24
  • 4. Harder Than Steel 04:54
  • 5. Generally Hostile 03:20
  • 6. The Watching 04:10
  • 7. Reign of the Tyrants 03:33
  • 8. Cardiac Arrest 03:12
  • 9. The Crucifix 07:19
    • Total running time: 39:05

(Jag Panzer - Warfare presents more thrashy and heavy sound on the album)

I found my Ample Destruction LP from a second hand internet store almost ten years ago. The one I own however has not as cool cover as first pressing - this is the second and least valuable official vinyl pressing (Metalcore '90) with different cover.

For Collectors:
(Following prices have raised since ’99 but will give you direction -
my bet is you can double them up)

Used album price @ Martin Popoff’s Heavy Metal Record Price Guide (1999):

There's a four known releases of Ample Destruction LP in 80's and a few bootleg re-releases after that. Official pressing are quite damn valuable so here we go!

Label – AZRA/IW1001 (Indie issue, first cover: horsemen)
Type – LP/US/84
Near Mint – $80
Very Good+ - $50

Label – AZRA/ (Clear vinyl, pressing of 25)
Type – LP/US/84
Near Mint – $160
Very Good+ - $90

Label – AZRA/ (Red vinyl ("Chain of Command" is a boot))
Type – LP/US/84
Near Mint – $125
Very Good+ - $70

Label – Metalcore/ (Only official vinyl re-release at 90')
Type – LP/US/90?
Near Mint – $20
Very Good+ - $12


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