“The Fourth Judgement is the third studio album released (fourth recorded) by American power metal band Jag Panzer, released in 1997. It features the return of the band’s original vocalist, Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin, and the replacement of Chris Kostka on lead guitar by Joey Tafolla. The band returns to a more epic power metal feel on this album, as opposed to the thrash influence on Dissident Alliance.” (Source: Wikipedia)
Released on Century Media, 1997. Recorded at Morrisound Studios, Tampa, Florida. Producer: Jim Morris.
This is the original 1997 release that I have to review, not the 2007 re-release which included three bonus songs from the band’s 1996 demo sessions—the demo that got the band signed to Century Media.
I’ve already listened through this album three times, each time evaluating its strengths and weaknesses. So, you could say then that this is… wait for it… the fourth judgement. I tell you, it takes years of listening to metal and honing ones writing skills to make killer puns like that.
I really wanted to like this album, but just as you should never judge a book by its cover, you also shouldn’t judge an album by the name of the band. Jag Panzer‘s name is an Anglicisation of the WWII German tank the Jagdpanzer and it sounds cool. I wish I could say the same for the music.
While the guitar tone (which sounds like classic Metal Church or Armored Saint) and general production of the album really can’t be faulted—Jim Morris has done a sterling job—the songs, on the other hand, on the whole just don’t move me. This album didn’t set me on fire, I’m sorry to say.
The album opens with a quasi-classical passage, à la Apocalyptica, solo vocals and a track that sounds like a bonus track from Blaze Bayley-era Maiden. (Hmm…)
After a couple of listens the album begins to feel like a pastiche of Judas Priest meets Iron Maiden meets Candlemas meets Helloween: a sort of operatic metal-by-numbers.
There are a few moments that I quite enjoyed. Track 3 ‘Despair’ has a Helloween-meets-Cabaret feel, which really shouldn’t work but I rather enjoyed it. Track 4 ‘Future shock’ is a straight-out rocking metal track. It’s not ground-breaking but it’s a solid track. Track 5 ‘Recompense’ opens with a riff that’s straight out of Maiden’s Somewhere in Time (1986) but as soon as the lyrics open I quickly lose interest.
Generally speaking the first half of the album is better than the second, in my opinion. ‘Ready to strike’ and ‘Tyranny’ sound like they are trying too hard; ‘Shadow thief’ makes me cringe; and ‘Sonet of sorrow’ is just terrible. Now bear in mind that I sang with the National Youth Choir for nine years, but the vocals are awful. There’s no diaphramatic control. The whole thing sounds like they sang it through a Leslie speaker. It sounds like they are going for a pseudo-minstrel feel.
Even before I reached the final track ‘Judgement day’ I had made my judgement on the first listen. Some albums are growers: you listened to them once and think: awful, but the more you listen the more you begin to appreciate the subtleties and nuances of the album.
I wanted to like this one. There are a few moments but on the whole this is a metal-by-numbers album for me: could do better.
Review score: 45%