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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a violin solo this time) and the band moves on to the scene where Macbeth goes again to consult the three witches that originally made the prophecy about Macbeth in the track 'Three Voices of Fate'.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.