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Well suited to the epic of backstabbing betrayal - 75%

autothrall, September 7th, 2010

There are a great number of Shakespeare's works which are well suited to adaptation into unexpected mediums, but when one really examines Macbeth, its transition into a heavy metal concept album seems only natural. Death, betrayal, paranoia, and dark magics are all common themes in a myriad of the genre's categories, and who better to tackle this topic head on than a band which by this point had already tucked a few decades beneath their collective belts, and were seeking new ground to cover, as evidenced by the 1998 album The Age of Mastery and its varied leanings. What Jag Panzer only hinted at there, they find themselves diving into here in full creative bloom, transforming the haunted landscape of the tale into a raging and glorious epic of traditional power metal.

That being said, Thane to the Throne is not among my favorite Jag Panzer works. It shows tremendous accountability to its source material, a solid array of songs which suit its genre, and yet it ultimately fails to stand out beyond so many other albums in this field, despite a ribald effort. Part of its consistency is no doubt due to the solidified lineup, the first time in the band's career thus far that they've maintained their roster, unbroken, from one album to the next, and they feel like they've truly gelled and grown together here, the material written with the sure hand of a veteran. I was also impressed that Conklin explores so much of his mid range vocals on this effort. He'll still screech to the rafters when called for, but dabbles primarily in an honest, expressive tone which occasionally reminds me of Blaze's work with Maiden, only manifested with a thousand times more quality! Serving as your first person narrator for the characters' interactions from the play, he is adept at capturing the appropriate levels of desperation and madness implicit in the play.

What could have been an endless sequence of intros and interludes to herald each of the metal tracks is thankfully not the case here: the meat of the record is all metal, almost all the time, and thus much of the 65 minute playtime is spent banging the head to elegant power rooted in the British origins of the form and the spry melodic muted patterns Jag Panzer is so fond of from the last two albums, The Fourth Judgment and The Age of Mastery. There are a few short interludes like the classical guitar of "The Premonitions", the violin, piano and vocals of "Banquo's Final Rest", and the bells, chimes and atmosphere of "Requiem for Lady Macbeth", all of which suit the surrounding material fine, but these are kept brief and the album doesn't suffer from an excess of such pieces, as some might claim of a Nightfall in Middle-Earth.

The album follows the progression of the play, each of the tracks slowly building a sense for faded glory and frustration through the narrative of the guitars and vocals. "Thane of Cawdor" elevates from percussion and Enya-like vocals to strings and ultimately the slow, plodding power metal which is part soaring anthem. "King at a Price" returns to the familiar environs of the previous few albums, and "Bloody Crime" sees Harry in his higher range with a well crafted lead sequence. In fact, the leads here are in general superior to the aimless shredding that dragged down a few of the tracks on The Age of Mastery. Broderick and Briody have very carefully laid out each piece to match the brooding, serious structure of the tracks. Sadly, though all of these songs show moments of grace and promise, one must reach deeper into the content to find something that eclipses mere potent pleasantry and gives us the Jag Panzer we desire.

"Treachery's Strain" is a marked improvement, with some choppy, complex rhythms and arching vocal lines, and "Spectres of the Past" does one better, the first song on the album that I felt lived up to my favorite material of the reunion lineup, all swollen melodies and pumping bass. "Three Voices of Fate" sees Conklin inserting a Dickinson (and Bayley)-like fury to the narrative, and "Hell to Pay" has some appreciative, glinting melodies that roll along like the hills of the Old Country, descending synth-lines falling across the overcast skies of the tale like early snowflakes. Deeper still, we get the creepy, cavorting of "Insanity's Mind", with John Tetley's bass plucking each strand of reason out of the characters' minds, and some superb siren-like vocals. Other gems include the epic chorals of "Face of Fear", the raging mirth of "Fate's Triumph" and the steady bliss which anoints "Fall of Dunsinane", though I felt the finale "Tragedy of MacBeth" a mildly bloated, if suitable conclusion.

Thane to the Throne is likely the most difficult material Jag Panzer has ever had to concoct, and the band deserves some credit for such a full-bodied, flesh out adaptation to the material. The quality is consistent, the breadth of instrumentation commendable, but outside of the whole, very few of the tracks stand out as superb or inspirational. None of the compositions will have you clutching your knees in awkward despair. In fact, the material ranges from inoffensive to good, to occasionally something more, but I have always found it bizarre that this most ambitious effort, despite its high level of professionalism and effort, can at its best only wallow in the tall shadow of the legendary Ample Destruction. However, I must point out that this is truly the de facto interpretation of the Macbeth material, perhaps all of Shakespeare, into metal music, vastly outclassing other lame attempts like the flimsy Italian Gothic metal band Macbeth. It's a solid album that I will occasionally spin in culmination when revisiting the band's catalog, but there are few individual tracks that I count among the band's best.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

I Am Mighty, Death Follows in My Way! - 90%

rathofgod, July 13th, 2008

When I first ordered this CD, I felt like I was kind of taking a chance. On the one hand, I had encountered metalheads that sung it's praise, marking it as one of the (if not the) finest album Jag Panzer has ever released. On the other hand, there were those who had told me I was just wasting my money and would eventually regret purchasing this album. But, I figured that Jag Panzer+Shakespeare=epic win.

I wasn't really sure what to expect, then, when I received Thane to the Throne in the mail and popped into the CD player (or, rather computer) for the first time.

Upon hearing the first track, I was hooked and the naysayers were proven wrong. Thane of Cawdor, the opening track, opens things off nicely with a little hummed vocal intro backed up by a marching beat on the snare which progresses into little violin ditty before kicking things into high gear with an epic drum entrance and Chris Broderick's instantly recognizable crunchy guitar tone. For those familiar with the plot of Macbeth, this song tells of the Weird sister's prophecy and Macbeth's plotting to murder king Duncan.

Track two, King at a Price, keeps the energy going nicely with an opening guitar exchange that is a textbook example of how to correctly use a simple single-note riff superimposed over a power chord progression. A short verse that shows a call-response format between the vocals and guitar later and the song charges headlong into the galloping chorus, which could have come straight out of any long-lost Iron Maiden track. After another verse and chorus, Chris Broderick wastes no time in showcasing his guitar skills with some face-melting (but not uncalled-for) shredding. The song shows Macbeth's obsession with the idea of becoming king, and his willingness to murder Duncan to fulfill that goal. Bloody Crime starts up with another Maiden-esque riff and tells the story of Macbeth's murder of Duncan, while he's being goaded into it by Lady Macbeth.

After a well-done and thought-out but short instrumental classical guitar solo(the Premonition), the story picks up again with the songs 'Treachery's Stain' and 'Specters of the Past' telling of Macbeth's murder of Banquo and the torment that he feels because of it. Another instrumental (Banquo's Final Rest, a violin solo this time) and the band moves on to the scene where Macbeth goes again to consult the three witches that originally made the prophecy about Macbeth in the track 'Three Voices of Fate'. A very interesting (and unusual) technique that Jag Panzer uses in this song to make the changing perspectives between Macbeth and the witches apparent is that they have a choir serve as the voice for the witches while Harry Conklin sings Macbeth's part. Macbeth actually carries out the murder of Macduff's family in the next song, 'Hell to Pay'. This track also features an awesome opening riff very similar to the beginning of 'Take to the Skies' off of Mechanized warfare. Chris Broderick also makes this song stand out an extended solo that is probably my favorite on the album.

Another violin instrumental (the prophecies) follows that song and it meshes nicely with 'Insanity's Mind', which tells of Lady Macbeth's sorrow and horror at what she and her husband have done to gain the throne, going so far as to quote the actual Shakespeare play in order to make it more authentic. This song is followed by 'Requiem for Lady Macbeth', another short instrumental that features a tolling bell.

'The Face of Fear', 'The Fall of Dunsinane' and 'Fate's Triumph' tell of the fulfillment of the Witches prophecy about Macbeth's end (that the woods would get up and move to meet Dunsinane, and that he would not be killed by someone born of a woman) and of Macbeth's death at the hands of Macduff. The downward fall is another short, classical guitar-centered instrumental and 'The Tradgedy of Macbeth' is basically a re-cap, kind of skimming through the whole story again.

This album's catchy choruses, excellent instrumental work and general feeling of having been well-planned and thought out prior to its execution will earn it a place forever in my list of favorite albums. This is not an album loosely based on a 'concept'. This is an album that actually tells a story, and tells it quite well. Even the 'filler' tracks don't really seem like fillers, as they mesh and add to the album rather than detract from it and make it more difficult to listen to like some other bands *cough*IcedEarthFramingArmegeddon*cough*. In addition, Harry Conklin showcases some of his best vocal work ever, in my opinion, setting his voice to match the mood of the song very well. All in all, this is an excellent album. A mush-have for any fan of power metal.

Shakespeare is pleased... - 97%

Mithr4ndir, July 12th, 2008

And so am I.

This is one of the best power metal album I have heard in quite a while, and makes me sorry that I have avoided Jag Panzer this long. This album has everything that I love in power metal, ballsy vocals, lyrics that aren't absolutely abysmal, and crunchy guitars.

The concept struck close to home as well, with Macbeth being the only Shakespeare play that I liked, and they portray it spectacularly, even going so far as to take lines from the play which is a nice touch.

The guitar-work in this album is top-notch, and surpasses your typical weak guitar sound that you get in a lot of power metal albums. It is quite technical a lot of the time, and the solos are spectacular. Harry Conklin's vocals are stunningly powerful throughout this release, and he proves this right off the bat, and he provides some choruses that are epic and powerful. He is also able to represent many different characters with his voice, whether it is Macbeth, Banquo, MacDuff, or any other character.

The thing that impressed me the most in this album is the fact that it is a concept album that isn't filled to the brim with fillers. Every song on this album is a powerful representation of Shakespeare's world through the eyes of the band. Even the shorter songs are well made, and not just thrown in there to seem sophisticated.

High Points:

Thane of Cawdor - Catchier-than-AIDS chorus, and solo
Bloody Crime - Amazing musical interpretation of Macbeth's 'Bloody Dagger' soliloquy.
Tragedy of Macbeth - Telling the entire story in one song. A well done wrap-up
Three Voices of Fate - For providing the most epic lyric/line in this album. "Live on MacDuff, why should I fear. You too must die, My guilt to clear"

Low Points:

I can't find any.

By the pricking of my thumbs… - 89%

Wra1th1s, June 3rd, 2008

Something AWESOME this way comes!

No really, this is about as awesome as Ample Destruction (moreso at times, did I commit another blasphemy?).

Everyone and their mom know about Jag Panzer, especially their much lauded debut. But they rarely talk about their later works which, if we forget that Dissident Alliance exists, contains some really great US power metal! Right off the bat you know that this will be awesome because:

1) It’s Jag Panzer
2) It’s Jag Fucking Panzer
3) It’s Harry Conklin
And 4) It’s Macbeth...made metal

Yeah, that last bit would drive some of you off but trust me, this is one concept album that does not bore people to tears. How would I know, well I'm a person aren't I?

Anyways, this album has what 99% of concept albums lack and that is kick-ass songs. Concept albums are always filler-laden, ballad happy and have those damned interludes. This album is pretty much US power metal through and through. Right, there are a few interludes but they are forgiven because they are always between kick-ass songs and there is only one ballad and it's the last song at that. Clearly, Jag Panzer want to actually make heavy metal music rather than write half-assed material that go under stories that: makes absolutely no sense; are nothing special; are unbelievably boring.

Right off the bat they show you whose boss. Harry Conklin's "I AM MIGHTEEE!" in "Thane of Cawdor" is damn near priceless. The instrumentation that goes along with it also owns your souls. Sure, it's mid-paced and lacks a few outright riffage here and there but I'll be damned if I didn't headbang to that song. The chorus in that song is damn catchy too, with the band (well some sort of chorus) singing in harmony. *sniffles* Oh look at that, I get all misty eyed just recalling how damnably epic it is.

That description is apt for most of the songs, that's not to say they all sound the same. They do, however, follow the same general structure. Invariably the songs will always contain a chorus that is catchier than ebola. The tempo generally stays mid-paced but in songs like "King at a Price" and "Treachery's Stain," things get a little faster and thrashier. Between sets of songs there are little acoustic interludes that usually come at darker points of the story (murder, death, etc.) Jag Panzer manage to make interludes that actually add to the overall feel rather than having them to fill the CD/vinyl/cassette. The last song, "Tragedy of Macbeth," is the only ballad here and it fuckin' works because: It's at the end; It's not as sappy as those 80s 'power' ballads; and it ends the album very nicely.

One aspect that I've yet to mention is the solo. If Broderick plays like this on the next Megadeth album then things are definitely looking up for Mustaine and pals. Seriously Broderick is that good. Granted he's not Batio good (who is?) but his playing is damn technical and...*gasp* he plays with FEELING! He shreds when the song calls for it and backs off when it's appropriate. Thank you Chris! For making this a concept album that freakin' ROCKS!

Since most of you had some English Lit. course at some point in your life, I'm not gonna bother talking about the 'concept' part of this concept album. If you hadn't, well then, thank your educational system for doing a bang-up job.

Get it? Absolutely! This is some solid US power metal and it's definitely a concept album that's worth your time, even if the concept is unoriginal. Better than Operation: Mindcrime for sure!

Macbeth thane of cawdor!!! - 93%

PowerMetalGuardian, February 7th, 2003

Wow, I acutally didn't think this album was going to be good, but I was surprised. First off let me talk about the music. Very good riffs, vocals, even the bass and drumming should be highly noted. From the opening of the Thane of Cawdor to the end of the Tragedy of Macbeth, you are forged with the best musician ship skills. The mix of all the instruments is beautiful and even the violins at some time. Most concept album that I have heard are shitty becasue they concentrate to much on the story and not much on the music. This is not one of those times. Both the music and the story are great. The album is about the Scottish lord, and Shakespeare play, Macbeth. I have to give an A for Jag Panzer for accuracy. The lyrics follow nicely with the patern of the story, and if you've ever read Macbeth then you can follow it along and know what the fuck there singing about. There are a bunch of fucking good songs on this album, but the Tragedy of Macbeth is the epiteth of why this album kick ass. It starts off soft then grows in heavy riffs and to the death of Macbeth. Wonderful portrayal of Mabeth and overall great metal album!!!

Shakespeare was a Metal Head - 92%

Symphony_Of_Terror, January 19th, 2003

Who says Shakspeare can't kick ass? This Jag Panzer's finest work. Harry Conklin delivers high pitched screams to low growls. When Harry Conklin sings he becomes Banquo, Macbeth, Malcolm, and Macduff. Something very hard to do, make the listener believe he is the character he is singing for. When he Conklin proclaims he shall slay Banquo it sends chills down my spine because there is so much power in his voice. In certain songs when Conklin must sing as two different characters it seems as if two different singers are singing. Its almost like intense dialogue at some points.
The guitars on this album are amazing as well. There isn't one track where you can't bang your head to. From fast, to melodic acousti guitars, this album has it all. The only downfall is the track tends to weaken around track 9, and it goes from great songs, to okay songs. Except for the last trak, Requiem of Macbeth, this is a great ballad full of emotion. This album is Panzer's best album, I recomend it to all heavy metal fans or shakespeare fans, BUY IT!!!