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So the laughable seductress who graces the covers of Jag Panzer's much-beloved classics Tyrants and Ample Destruction would return once more, this time for a collection of re-recordings titled the Decade of the Nail-Spiked Bat. Now, I like nail-spiked bats, they were a weapon of choice in my thrash years as an 80s teen, complete with denim jacket with sawed-off sleeves, bandana, cut-off leather gloves and hi-top sneakers, essentially representing any random thug from a Police Academy film. Such an album title could only bring about baited fondness and nostalgia for the era, until I heard the contents and realized what this was all about.
The original intention of the band was to re-release their earliest material with new packaging and make it readily available to a fan base of younger or newer fans who might not have had exposure to their greatest works. Unfortunately, due to some difference or financial stipulation with former guitarist Joey Tafolla, this could not come to fruition, so the band just decided to re-record it all, tack on a few new other unreleased gems and release it as a two disc fan package. The downside to this is that the band clearly were not in the same head space as they were in 1983-84, and thus the revisions of the material lose a lot of the charm of their initial versions, rendering this almost completely worthless when you can track down the re-issue of the originals directly pressed to CD.
What's worse, is that this is no way some complete recreation of Ample Destruction or Tyrants, because there is material missing, material inserted from the unreleased Chain of Command album, and in general this is just a mess. The modern production feels almost unfinished, as the band have not attempted to morph any of the material into a state flush with their recent albums like Thane to the Throne or Mechanized Warfare. It might have been interesting to hear the material upgraded to such standards, but instead this feels like a watered down and less inspirational alternative. I don't think there are more than 1-2 revisions to the old tracks here among the 20 present that I would prefer to the original, and it's a sad thing to hear a song like "Warfare", "Iron Shadows" or "Licensed to Kill" reduced to such a dull medium, even if the band do not technically make many mistakes. The youth has faded. The life bar drained from these compositions, and the corpse lying festered and exploited, spent condoms thrown haphazardly about the scene.
All of the Tyrants debut is present, including the additional track "Towers of Darkness" that was later added to the EP, but not a single one of the five tracks is given any burst of life, any modern infusion or evolution. They are performed adequately, so its good to know the band could still pull them off live, but Conklin's vocals are simply not up to the task of his storied past, at least not on this recording. What sounded brash and fresh now sounds gimped, and that is certainly not acceptable for the long term fan. Most of Ample Destruction also made it to the track list, with the exception of "Harder Than Steel" or "Cardiac Arrest", and the tracks are all mixed up order, so no, this is not some fan friendly packaging that simply seeks to service the new, negligent fan, but a sordid compilation. The unreleased album Chain of Command is also represented here through "She Waits", and though the original mix of the song is not great, I'm not sure if I find this new take all the more compelling. Regardless, Century Media will be issuing this album in full just a year after Decade of the Nail-Spiked Bat, so what is the point.
Probably the most worthwhile material found in the package would be the re-recordings of the rare demo track "Fallen Angel" from the 1985 demo, or the three Dissident Alliance tracks with Conklin's vocals, which as a given sound immeasurably superior to the Conca-fronted originals. "The Church", "Spirit Suicide" and "Edge of Blindness" are all included, and though the updates do not exactly render them 'good', they are certainly more acceptable, especially the "Edge of Blindness". "Forsaken" is also included from a Metal-Rules.com compilation, but its a pretty dull tune that is not on par with either the band's 80s work or their recent, 21st century spurt. On the other hand, "Black Sunday" is a decent, rare track worth hearing.
Often a band will release one of these re-recorded fan packages of note, like the Iced Earth collection Days of Purgatory, which I surprisingly enjoyed despite never much cared for that band in general. Few can ever really match the energy and intent of the original conceptions, though, and most of Jag Panzer's offering suffers from the 'so what' syndrome. There is no way in a million years I would ever opt to hear this over Ample Destruction or Tyrants, which remain the band's two best recordings to date, and thus Decade of the Nail-Spiked Bat feels like so much needless ballast on the float. It's unfortunate the band could not come to terms with Tafolla, because surely that guy had little on his plate in a time when shredders are about as passe as shoulder pads and Strawberry Shortcake (the cartoon and toy line, not the dessert). Alas, this was the band's means of coping and offering something to their fans regardless, and with the exception of the rare track here or there, it truly comes up short.
As the former review by ElectricEye notes, this album was basically created because for some odd reason Jag Panzer's old record company will not let them re-release "Ample Destruction". Atrocious, huh? So Jag Panzer and co went ahead and remade the majority of their oldest material here and sadly lose most of the magic those classics had in the process. Simply put, Ample Destruction can be found out there. Try theomegaorder.com, Amazon, eBay or something. We all know they're bootlegs, but some of them are pretty damn good. The "No Posers" bootleg also includes the "Tyrants EP" at the end, which is another chunk of old stuff they redid here. These remakes just turned out for the worst though. Its almost like they purposely made these remakes bad.
There is so much wrong with this compilation its downright annoying at times. The biggest issue here has got to be hands down the rotten production. Its utterly claustrophobic, it feels like they're trapped in a garage or something. The drums sound pretty horrible at times, and ruin great numbers like General Hostile or most noticeably Licensed to Kill. Just compare them to the original versions. This also seems to limit Harry Conklin's vocals, on top of the fact that he doesn't seem like he really wants to be here, believe it or not. His vocals seem held back and because of the strict production none of his vocals soar or overpower you like they do on the original albums. Its pretty a well known fact that Conklin is an amazing vocalist, so obviously that alone hurts this release a lot. He's missing that destructive -punch-. The guitars feel very drowned out at times, usually with the riffs. The solo's and harmonies hardly stand out like they did on the originals. The production seriously almost destroys this.
I'm actually a fan of their old "Tyrants EP". As odd as it was, it was very enjoyable. Interestingly enough I thought those remakes here were some of the better and enjoyable tracks on this. In the end though I'd still never prefer those remakes here over the originals, and I can say that for every single track here. "Dissident Alliance" is their only album I still haven't heard yet, possibly because of the extremely low reviews given here at the archives. But really, those songs here aren't too bad, so at times I do feel a little inclined to check out the real album to see what its all about myself. But again, there isn't a single track here I prefer over an original.
In final, as much as I loved "Ample Destruction" (could very well be my favorite album of all time), their EP, and whatnot, this compilation just falls flat on its face. The idea behind this just seemed too nice for its own good. I can't really give this a recommendation of any kind, but for those who think they just simply have to own everything Jag Panzer's ever released, go for it. 'Not being able to hear their old material' is hardly an excuse though, because as I mentioned earlier, "Ample Destruction" and their other stuff can be found when you search hard enough.
This is a compilation album that was conceived, as I've gathered it, partly because Jag Panzer's old record company refuses to re-release "Ample destruction". Of course, the band is fully aware of the massive (and well-deserved) underground popularity of that album. So, everything here is re-recorded by Jag Panzer anno 2003. In other words, with 20 years of baggage, for better and worse.
Apart from the lion's share of AD, and all of the "Tyrants" EP, this album also takes the opportunity to gobble up a bunch of in-between stuff - a few songs from "Dissident alliance", various non-album tracks, bonus tracks, and the likes, some of which are more useless than others. If you already have "Ample destruction" and "Tyrants", I must say that the need for this compilation evaporates quickly, unless, of course, you are a completist like me.
The problems with this release (or should I say, the reasons why this isn't a 100% album), as I see them, are three-fold:
1) Song choice! Naturally, the "Ample destruction" cuts are the main pull here, and 7 out of 9 tracks were re-recorded for this album. They skipped "Cardiac arrest", which I guess is alright. It's a fine piece, but sort of drowned by the other monsters on AD. However - HARDER THAN STEEL missing!?!?!? Possibly the greatest Jag Panzer song ever, and they FUCKED IT OFF??? Apparently, this is one of Mark Briody's least favourite Panzer songs. What can I say, the man is either crazy, old, or crazy and old! That's 10 points off right there!
To be honest, I never thought much of the "Tyrants" EP, although I know I should, as the band was every bit as restless and wild as on "Ample destruction". But I dunno, the material just seemed second-rate compared to the majesty that is AD, and these versions are no expections. Still nice if you haven't got the originals though, as all five tracks are included.
As for everything else, well, I think the non-album tracks were left off the albums for a reason. However, they also omitted the best of the AD-era bonus tracks, "Lying deceiver", which edges out the other three non-album tracks from the same days, "Black Sunday", "Fallen angel" and "Eyes of the night" - all included here.
2) Performance. To me, the AD remakes just don't have that total lack of restraint of the originals. Especially Conklin seems to be less than into it. There is not one recording here that I prefer to the original. The closest is, oddly, "The crucifix", but that's just my personal preference. They're still great songs, for sure, just not "omfgbestalbumeverithinkijustgotrapedbyalessergalaxycluster" great songs.
Then there's the "Spirit suicide" fiasco. In my opinion, a FANTASTIC song from the underrated "Dissident alliance", which they managed to turn into a total clown piece in this guise. It's really defiled beyond comprehension - guitar themes are out of key, the heavy middle section sounds like something from a Voivod album (which is doubly outrageous, as the song is about Indians!), and Conklin is too much of a drama queen to do the wicked atmosphere in the original version even remote justice. It's a joke. Really, this remake sucks so badly, it wouldn't even make a Dwell Records tribute album to Jag Panzer!
Otherwise, they chose some complete oddball songs from "Dissident alliance", and each one of these forgeries stinks more than the one before it - they are such nasty cases of history revisionism, they make "Symphony of enchanted lands" look like Copernicus. The band shouldn't have bothered with these tracks at all ("Dissident alliance" is to my knowledge not out of print, at least I had no problems obtaining a copy), and just re-recorded EVERYTHING from the old days instead.
3) Production. The album does not seem overly concerned with, uh, treble, so the sound comes out as very muffled in places. Or maybe it's a lack of instrumental definition? I'm not entirely sure, but it sounds really weird and cramped in some songs. Not enough to turn me off the album or anything, but it becomes especially noticeable when you play these songs next to the originals. Compare this to the razor-sharp crunch on "Ample destruction", with guitars that'll stalk you like chainsaws on parole, and split your fuckin' head open if you stop running! For me, it's a no-contest.
I'll sum it up thusly: Mostly great songs. Highly recommended, unless you already have "Ample destruction", in which case this becomes marginally more than a collector's item. There is no substitute for AD, but a CD-reissue of said skullcrusher, yeah.
One can dream.
Finally Jag Panzer released their older works. Ample Dstruction has to be the hardest album to find, I have looked everywhere for it, even online, no where to be found. I was albe to download it though. So it was good news when Panzer released this double cd set with all their older songs, demos, and goodies.
Musically these recordings are superior to the first, in terms of sound quality. But the origonal feel of the songs was lost, but a new feel was gained. Its hard to say which is better. The origonal recordings had an undeground 80's heavy metal feel to them. The new ones have a well produced shine to them, making the musical notes more attractive. When Conklin screams you hear it better and louder, as goes with the the solo's, drums, and basslines. So it seems what is gained outweights what was lost. The songs themselves are all great, better than Jag Panzers 90's albums, a different sound from their new stuff though. If you can't find their origonal work for sale or download, get this album, its a nice substitute. One of the better compilations I have seen from bands. The only thing that bothers me is that the band should have put the tracks in the order they appeared on the origonal albums...this comp jumps around a bit.