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Jag Panzer, America's best kept Heavy Metal secret simply due to their superlative debut album, have drawn quite a lot of attention since then simply due to the fact that no other band has the balls to sing about Shakespeare in such a thorough and heartfelt manner. Well apparently, after the release of their first really awesome album in ages in Casting the Stones, they decided it would be a good idea to cover a Gordon Lightfoot song called "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," and I wouldn't be here right now unless I had something to say about it, so let's just dive right in.
Let's just compare the two songs at hand here. One of them, the original, is a laid back American folk narrative with a rather subdued sort of epic feel to it, more of a "roaming" feel than a real smashing, triumphant one. It is the sort of song one would associate with long drives along the countryside, or along a beachside road of some kind. It is not really something that would appeal to the average Heavy Metal fan, but it's definitely a good song. It definitely has its own merits in the rather mellow and laid-back delivery. The other is a majestic, soaring Heavy Metal epic with a more triumphant - and yet doubly tragic and morose - feel to it, and folks, let me tell you, this is how you do a cover. Man, just listen to the way the subtle folk melody of Lightfoot's translates into Jag Panzer's huge, grandiose one. Listen to the way Conklin's vocal lines soar above the music in the same way that Lightfoot's sort of glide beside it - different executions, but the same goal is reached.
The other song here is "The Mission (1943)" off of Casting the Stones. It was one of the more catchy and accessible songs on that album, and it is the most catchy and accessible track on this single, with its galloping riffs and a soaring, sing-along chorus as good as anything this genre ever put out. The hooks are light and fluffy, but the song itself is big and booming and confident, so it doesn't matter that much. Jag Panzer might have taken their time to mature into quality songwriters after their shift of styles in the 90s, but they did, and man is it ever glorious. If you want a soundtrack to your next war plane expedition through the snowy alps, you know where to turn to.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com