Classic American power metallers Jag Panzer return after six years with a new offering, ‘The Deviant Chord’. Having established themselves back in the 80s, Jag Panzer still wear the influence of Iron Maiden firmly on their sleeve, particularly in the vocal performance of Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin, whose style is highly reminiscent of Blaze Bayley. This is evident right from the get-go, as the album opens with the rousing ‘Born of the Flame,’ which is evocative of travelling across a fantastic landscape and includes some lovely vocal harmonies. The track also includes the first of many stand-out extended guitar solos, courtesy of Joey Tafolla.
‘Far Beyond All Fear’ is a heavier track with some chunky bass, continuing the Iron Maiden influence as John Tetley here seems to be nodding to Steve Harris. Again, vocal harmonies and Rikard Stjernquist’s fast-paced drums are used to great effect, along with some more powerful work from Tafolla.
‘The Deviant Chord’ comes in with quite a creepy intro that sounds almost like children’s music, followed by acoustic guitar and soft keys. The lament of the vocals carries extra clarity here, making the listener think more of Queensryche’s Geoff Tate than Blaze Bayley. When the heaviness returns to this track, it’s more dramatic and urgent than in previous tracks, before becoming grinding and heavy. With its stronger sense of narrative, this is one of the best tracks on the album, and the drums and guitar keep up the intensity nicely.
‘Blacklist’ is effectively torture porn in musical form, which is fine as far as it goes, though unfortunately some of the lyrics are rather awkward, such as, “Resistance will only bring torment, a terror you cannot resist.” Lyrics aside, the vocals on this track are very strong. This contrasts strongly with ‘Foggy Dew,’ which couldn’t be more different. At first, Conklin’s vocals are beautiful and almost hymnal over quiet instrumentation. As the martial beat comes in, however, Conklin goes for some questionable high notes. Overall the track isn’t too bad though, leading into some nice, traditional Power Metal.
The pace kicks back in with the powerful intro to ‘Divine Intervention’, a track that seems made for live performance and audience participation with its chorus of voices. This track brings back the powerful focus on solos are a bit of a hiatus on ‘Foggy Dew.’
Perhaps the weakest track on the album, ‘Long-Awaited Kiss’ is dramatic and epic in its way, leading on from a slow intro. Unfortunately, it tends to err towards the clichéd rather than becoming truly stirring. Again by contrast, ‘Salacious Behaviour’ is a pumping track of pure, classic, highly enjoyable Power Metal, and lights up with some truly great solos.
The strongest track on the album, however, is ‘Fire of our Spirit,’ which has some truly excellent guitar licks and a breakneck pace. The energy is brilliant, and the whole band come together superbly to create a track that’s just right, with choral backing rounding out the epic vibe. ‘Fire of our Spirit’ should really have been the closing track of the album, as ‘Dare’ just doesn’t have the same power. The intro is rousing and martial but comes down into a track that just isn’t as dramatic as a listener might expect. It does break out into a rather cool instrumental section, and this switches pace nicely between quite aggressive and more expansive, and finally climactic.
Overall, The Deviant Chord is a solid offering but is unlikely to capture imaginations long-term. Nevertheless, it’s good to have a release from a band with a tendency to go dormant, and hopefully, it’ll be less than six years before the next one.
GET YOUR HANDS ON JAG PANZER’S THE DEVIANT NAPALM RECORDS HERE!