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What a confused album. Jag Panzer are Heavy Metal veterans from way back when, and this was their fourth album. They had just survived a long run of lineup changes and wallowing in the underground, so it was a relief to see them back on their feet, but does that make this album any good? Not really. See, the problem with this is that it really isn't an album at all. Instead, we have a cluttered, disorganized mishmash of new, progressive songs, some re-recordings, and a cover of Jack Starr's "False Messiah," all released under the name The Age of Mastery. A less apt title could not have been chosen, as this is in no way a mastery of any sort of music.
I mean, on one hand, you have the thunderous, pounding "Iron Eagle," which is a great song, and proof that newer Jag Panzer doesn't have to suck, and "Lustful and Free" is good, too, but then the album just loses the plot. The re-recordings are for the most part dragging and insipid, played in a very flat and uninspired manner, with that goddamned flat paper guitar tone the band seems to love so much. They don't really do much except plod along, and Conklin's dry, strained pseudo-wailing just harms them further - especially the terrible "Take This Pain Away," ugh. The Jack Starr cover sucks too. Why can't this band light up the old flame and start kicking ass again? There's no anger to this. The riffs are jumpy and catchy, but they also lack any form of aggression, and who wants to listen to metal without that? They sound too restrained, too limp, too weak, and shame on you if you don't demand more from your music than this. Holy shit.
The new songs just don't fit at all. "Twilight Years," for instance, has a very 90s sounding groove riff done up with a bit of a Prog styling, and then you get the huge, anthemic chorus. It's an interesting song, just unfitting of this album. The title track is pretty good, with a nice violin backing the chorus, and Conklin actually sounds good here. And then "The Moors" comes on, and it's a bizarre Symphonic Metal anthem that will make you check to make sure you're still listening to the same band. It isn't really that great, although the violin is nice, but this is a fucking Metal album, and if I wanted to hear a violin, I wouldn't be listening to Jag Panzer, that's for sure. That about sums up The Age of Mastery.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com