Jag Panzer fans have had it pretty good lately. Hot on the heels of the long awaited official release of their Chain Of Command album comes this, their latest aural offering. And for those who head-banged happily to the band’s last few releases, Casting The Stones will not disappoint.
Like the band’s namesake, Jag Panzer’s latest is dark, heavy and imposing. The production rumbles proudly with hi-fidelity power, and the band’s performance is as passionate and intense as ever, if a bit over the top. Opening cut “Feast or Famine” sets the stage for this diverse, but traditional metal record, and things get better with “The Mission (1941),” an engaging World War II story in heavy metal form. (Note: To learn more about the song’s subject matter, check out the 1961 film “The Guns Of Navarone,” based on an Alistair MacLean novel). From there on, things really take off, and this time out, the band actually manages to modernize their sound somewhat (mainly through state-of-the-art production and judicious use of detuned guitars), without ever bringing the word “sellout” to mind. And as guitarist/composer Mark Briody stated online not long ago, Casting The Stones has more than its share of harmonized guitar parts, something always welcomed with open arms by a Thin Lizzy nut like me.
Admittedly, however, I wasn’t immediately taken with Casting The Stones, and to a certain degree, I still find the band’s use of chugging staccato riffs and vocal melodrama a bit excessive. And as talented as he is, lead guitarist Chris Broderick really overdoes it with the flashy, sweep-picked solos in some places, although when he is on, he nonetheless makes a brilliant contribution to the songs. On the upside, this is one of those albums that get better with repeated listens. The rich production is loaded with subtle surprises (keyboards, acoustic guitar, strings, etc) that listeners might miss at first, bombarded as they are with thunderous riffs. And there is no shortage of standout tracks. “Achilles” is a memorable metal anthem launched by soaring harmony guitars. “Precipice” is an epic tour de force that manages to incorporate sitar, acoustic guitar, and a gong; and how can you go wrong with a combination like that?! And I dare say, “Cold” would be a sure-fire radio hit if only it had Ozzy Osbourne’s hype-garnering name to it. (Fancy a duet, anyone?)
Casting The Stones may not be the album to make Jag Panzer America’s latest media darlings (unless, perhaps, they score the Ozzy vocal duet I alluded to), but it will go a long way towards earning the band increased respect among hard music fans, which I suspect is more along the lines of what the band wants anyway.
Useful factual note: “The Mission (1941)” and “Starlight’s Fury” feature backing vocals by Chain Of Command-era vocalist Bob Parduba.
Mostly useless personal note: The intro to “Feast or Famine” sounds uncannily similar to a song from one of my favorite metal records of all time, Hazzard’s self-titled debut from 1984, and specifically the song “Killer.” What the hell’s that supposed to mean?!? Heck, even I can’t say for sure.
About this Writer: Vinaya Saksena // Vinaya is either a writer who dabbles in guitar playing, or a guitar player who dabbles in writing. A Maximum Metal staffer since 2004, he has also served as a reporter for several newspapers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Although his obsession with music is such that it does not allow time for much else by way of hobbies, he also enjoys traveling, trivia, photography, British comedy and the occasional A-Team re-run.
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