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America has certainly had its fair share of first-rate power metal acts, but few of them, however, have been qualified enough to hold a torch to the overlords of the scene like Kamelot, Steel Prophet, and, of course, Jag Panzer. Colorado's homestead heros have taken the unsuspecting metal world by storm time and time again, with consecutive releases that have set the standard for power metal predomination; all of which would land high marks on a top 100 of the genre. The Fourth Judgment saw the return of vocalist Harry 'The Tyrant' Conklin to the band, validating beyond the shadow of doubt that he belonged at the front lines of the Panzer divisions. William Shakespeare's Macbeth set the theme for what became one of my most revered concept albums, Thane To The Throne, while Mechanized Warfare invaded without warning and eventually emerged as the runner up to Nevermore's Dead Heart, In A Dead World on my own 2000 Top Ten list.
With Steel Prophet's latest album Beware turning out to be somewhat of a disappointment for me, I was relieved to discover that Jag Panzer more or less continued along, in tight orientation with their previous works without incident. Though I favor the last few records a bit more, Casting The Stones comes immensely close to equaling the intensity that embodied each of those releases. Not unlike their back catalog, when you toss this new disc into a stereo and press play, you can instantly identify the key trademark elements that have made the band so enduring and enjoyable over the years.
Abound with the expected flashy riffing, blazing leads, thunderous drumming, and soaring multi-octave vocals, Casting The Stones serves up eleven memorable anthems to pump your fist to; each on par with just about any other classic Jag Panzer tune. Personal highlights are "The Mission (1941)", which is without question, the standout track on the album. "Battered And Bruised" and "Tempest" could easily conceal themselves as Marching Out era Yngwie Malmsteen, while "Precipice" begins, and carries on much of the way through, in relation to Dio's widely known Last In Line and, his final Black Sabbath appearance, Dehumanizer albums.
Jag Panzer remain a relevant power metal band that is not only pioneering in their own right, but also not apprehensive about letting their roots be seen and known. Not much, if anything, has changed in the traditional formula exhibited over the last two decades. This is still the Jag Panzer we all know and love!