Review: Jag PanzerThe Hallowed

Jag Panzer - The Hallowed album

Hallowed be thy Jag.

(This review was written by Jake)

The unlikely setting of Colorado Springs, Colorado is home to one of the most important bands among the original wave of American heavy metal. After the likes of Dio, Iron Maiden, and Accept laid the foundations, bands like Savatage, Riot, Cirith Ungol, and none other than Jag Panzer would be credited as early innovators in the high octane and over-the-top cousin of heavy metal, “power metal”. Power metal is a legacy genre itself, going through many different phases, waves, changes and movements.

Throughout the years bands like Helloween, Queensryche, Running Wild, Kamelot, Dragonforce, Unleash the Archers, Sabaton, Bloodbound and countless others have carried the torch, but Jag Panzer has been there in one way or another. Going dormant every few years, Jag would rise from the ashes and release 10 studio albums between 1984 and 2017 with their 11th being The Hallowed.

Following the storyline of the band’s comic of the same name, The Hallowed is as immersive, atmospheric and chilling as it is action-packed and pulse-pounding. Progressive metal concept records are nothing new at this point and some could see this as Jag Panzer hopping on the bandwagon of groups like Sabaton and riding it all the way to the bank, but don’t forget how long Jag has been around for and just how many tricks they have up their sleeves.

The group put so much effort into the performances and presentation of the grandiose material that it’s so easy to be sucked into the world they project. Lyrically it does sometimes sound a little trope-ridden, but that’s basically to be expected with power metal. It’s the way the lyrics are given life by vocalist Harry Conklin that really makes it all work, and by the end of the third track you can really see why he’s nicknamed “The Tyrant”.

The other classic members, bassist John Tetley and rhythm guitarist Mark Briody, both give energetic and vibrant performances as well. Their long-tenured second drummer, Rikard Stjernquist, is like an expert general with the drums serving as his battlefield. The low end of this record sounds especially impressive with the bass and drums being engineered by all time great metal drummer Ken Mary (Flotsam & Jetsam, Alice Cooper, Impellitteri, Fifth Angel).

Possibly the standout of the record is relative newcomer to the group, lead guitarist Ken Rodarte. Rodarte initially joined Panzer as a touring member in 2018 and stuck around until being made an official member in 2022. His commanding presence and dynamic playing elevate the band and material overall. He does the legacy of Jag Panzer guitarists that have come before his time justice and stands out as a bright spot amongst some other excellent playing.

The band puts their best foot forward with three of the strongest tracks starting the record off. There is a bit of a lull in the middle and some of the interlude bits run slightly long but they at least help with the immersion. The album feels like it has three acts more or less.

The first three cuts serve as the exciting beginning with each successive entry “Bound As One”, “Prey”, and “Ties That Bind” all being equally gripping and invigorating bangers. The middle portion, tracks 4 through 7 take their time and build a bit. “Stronger Than You Know” and “Edge of the Knife”, admittedly are two of the weaker cuts but “Onward We Toil” and especially “Dark Descent” serve as two of the best cuts on the whole album. The last three tracks start with another slight misstep in “Weather the Storm” but then give back to back triumphs with “Renewed Flame” and the conclusion which is really an entire odyssey in its own right, “Last Rites”.

The Hallowed might have its overcrowded and bloated moments but even those few lesser cuts are still really solid in their own right. Jag Panzer are clearly on their A game here and hopefully we hear more from them soon. For fans of classic metal, power metal and gripping stories, this is a must listen.

Top Tracks: “Dark Descent”, “Renewed Flame”, and “Last Rites”

4/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

The Hallowed by Jag Panzer is out now via Atomic Fire Records.

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