“The Scourge of the Light”
By Ray Hogan
Jag Panzer was at the vanguard of heavy metal when it released the classic “Ample Destruction” in 1984. Totally in sync with what was happening elsewhere, Jag Panzer was an American band that took NWOBHM influences and ran with them, namely by speeding things up and making the music even more savage. It was an equation that worked for quite a few bands of that era. Look no further than the Big Four shows to realize that some of the pioneering American metal bands are still hugely popular. Jag Panzer never saw the success of Slayer or Anthrax, or even Death Angel. That the band is still together with three principle players (singer Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin, guitarist Mark Briody and bassist John Tetley) despite never having the opportunity to take the victory lap is heartening and inspiring.
“The Scourge of the Light” is more technical than the early stuff but not that much less potent. It’s the band’s first disc in nearly seven years. Conklin still has a powerhouse of a voice and Briody and Christian Lasegue (who hasn’t recorded with band since the mid-1980s and replaces current Megadeth axman Chris Broderick) make a strong guitar team, technically impressive without being overly indulgent. The precision and thrash momentum of the opening “Condemned to Fight” makes a strong statement. The band finds a comfort zone in mid-tempo chugging throughout the disc’s 10 cuts. Maybe some of the songs won’t be contenders for a “Best of” disc but there isn’t one that doesn’t sound worthy of being on the disc, either. “Overlord” is a mid-disc standout with lots of start-stop crunch and nice lyrical imagery. Intentionally or not, “Bringing on the End” serves as a tribute to Ronnie James Dio-era Sabbath, which is meant as nothing less than a high compliment to “The Tyrant.” Like the late metal god Dio (and Bruce Dickinson and Rob Halford for that matter), Conklin has kept his voice in remarkable shape.
It’s always tempting to use the word “surprised” in a review like this one, a veteran band doing what it has always done. That word doesn’t work. True metalheads (fans and musicians) are the truest of believers and we’ve come to learn that the level of quality among our veteran heavy metal bands remains consistently high.