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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.