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Panzerchrist, the long running Danish death metal brigade led by Michael Enevoldsen (who was formerly known as Panzergeneral) that was formed in 1993, return to fold with their aptly titled “7th Offensive”: aptly titled because, as you may have surmised, this is Panzerchrist’s seventh full length album in their twenty year history. The band is known for being a revolving door of musicians, and “7th Offensive” is no different, boasting a completely revamped lineup: a new vocalist, Søren Tintin Lønholdt, a new guitarist, Nils Petersen, and a new drummer, Simon Schilling, who all join forces with the formidable Panzergeneral. “7th Offensive” fits nicely along with the rest of Panzerchrist’s discography, but, with the massive lineup overhaul, there are some striking differences.
Panzerchrist has always been a powerhouse death metal act, of the devastating, tank battalion type of course, boasting fast paced double bass runs, chunky, down-tuned guitar riffs and prominently thick bass lines. I’ve always ascribed Panzerchrist to the steamroller slash artillery barrage styled sound of blasting guitars and an unrelenting rhythm section (well a steamroller coupled with artillery shells IS a tank, isn’t it?). The band always managed to keep things from being a constant barrage of blasting noise by occasionally slowing down to a more plodding trot and frequently adding doses of melodic guitar riffs, but the music was always blasting and driving death metal. “7th Offensive” continues this tradition, but some of the outlying elements are definitely much, much more prominent this time around, the most notable being the melodious nature of the guitar lines. The guitar lines are still distorted and there are still disparaging death metal riffs and somewhat blackened circling trem lines, as evidenced on the verses “Mass Attack of the Lychantrope Legion”, but the overall feel of the guitar lines is much more traditional this time around.
The guitar lines are very prominent and very melodic in nature, as instantly shown by the album’s title track and opener, which starts with a lesson in making finger tapping available on a death metal album without breaking into the realms of progressive wankery. The riffs are still down tuned and chunky, but the melodic leads hovering over every track give huge nods to the traditional side of the spectrum. “Kill for Revenge”, which is most a fast paced and crunchy track, descends into the depths of melodic death metal with a strangely phrased, atonal lead that builds into a melodic guitar driven romp. Even while the guitars dive into melodious passages the drums continue their constant barrage of fast paced double bass runs. Actually, parts of this track wouldn’t sound out of place on an Amon Amarth album. The parts don’t have the more melodic riffing patterns are fairly standard death metal affair, with rolling power chords and trem picking, but they’re fast enough to keep a hold of your ears for the entire ride. The songs, as fast and punishing as they are, especially coupled with the lead guitar work, are still fairly interchangeable with one another: there’s not a ton of differentiation and change in tempo. It’s like a constant barrage of solid, thick skinned death metal.
The mid era of Panzerchrist was known for boasting not only the impressive, break neck drumming of Reno Killerich, but also the mighty vocals of Bo Sommer. New vocalist, Søren Tintin Lønholdt, sure has some competently deep death metal growls, but his performance is extremely limited. A few sound samples aside, Lønholdt continuously attacks the microphone with his deep growl which gets stale by the end of the album. Some change up in vocal delivery could work wonders. Any person that plays drums in Panzerchrist will be undoubtedly compared to the legendary Killerich, and Schilling proves a solid replacement. While, he may not be as fast with his feet (is anyone?), he provides precisely timed runs and a fair amount of technical flair. For the most part the drums are pummeling and unrelenting and when combined with the momentously thick bass it becomes devastating enough to help you forgot that you just heard melodic anything.
Those of you who are familiar with Panzerchrist’s earlier albums shouldn’t find too many surprises here. The music is all in a similar vein of the previous work, but like I said, the melodic guitar lines are extremely prominent. The vocals are one dimensional but get the job done. I wouldn’t exactly call “7th Offensive” monotonous, because something this intense can never be boring, but the tempos don’t change very often as the band continues firing artillery shells of death metal throughout the entire run time. “7th Offensive” is continues Panzerchrist’s path of destruction and should be enjoyable to fans of their earlier work. While this doesn’t top the band’s best works, it is still a solid and pummeling slab of tank-like death metal.
Written for The Metal Observer:
If you're familiar with American football, then you'll understand when I say that Panzerchrist have long been among death metal's linebackers: brutal, immovable, competent and dependable, but never counted upon to make the key plays in the genre. Instead, efforts like Outpost - Fort Europa and Soul Collector hovered about the midfield, beating on any takers, without ever breaking for a touchdown. A hard helmet to crack. Two decades of death metal uncompromising. Lots of 'good' albums, but not necessarily any 'great' ones. Well, The 7th Offensive doesn't entirely break out of this position on the field, but to tap further into my absurd analogy, it DOES seem like the band's beloved tank mascot is beginning to finally roll across the yards towards the enemy scoreline, with one of their more memorable records in some time now.
The key here is melody: it's never exactly been absent in their songwriting, but The 7th Offensive is loaded with tapping and other lead techniques that are being used as central atmospheric forces to drive the rhythm guitars, which are just grimy enough to grant them the composition of the blood and mud on some forsaken battlefront. The riffing bedrock isn't exactly complicated, but both the slogging, massive chord structures and the thundering kick-accompanied tremolo picking sequences are incredibly determined, smothered in blunt and hoarse gutturals with the meter of an artillery commander barking out orders to soldiers that he is fully aware are about to die; meat for the grinding machine of strife and violence. The band is a long way out from having Reno Killerich, but the beats here are fuck-solid batteries of mortar fire spewing all over the front lines, while the lung rupturing bass lines cruise along in a distorted paste that sounds like flesh being run through the treads. What The 7th Offensive sounds like to me is at long last, an evolution of the war death metal style pioneered by Bolt Thrower in the late 80s: accelerated in places, threaded with effective clinical melodies (like the bridge of "Foreign Fields") and stylized with gruff vocal effects.
Remarkably, just like Regiment Ragnarok two years ago, this is being performed with an almost entirely new lineup, the one exception being the bassist/morale officer Michael 'Panzergeneral' Enevoldsen, who just sounds fantastic here with both his bass lines and the mild use of synthesizers to flesh out the gruesome and convincing atmosphere of each sortie. This fresh infusion of blood and talent has obviously made a huge difference in the group's sound, without abandoning the core military concepts and brutal bombardment aesthetics that have made Panzerchrist one of the most consistent, long running names in Danish death. The leads here add an unexpected sense of elegance to the crushing momentum of the rhythm section, and thus I felt more of a stark but effective contrast between the beauty and ugliness of the songs than I remember off most of the older discs. There isn't a whole lot of variation between the riffing progressions, with 3-4 motifs (usually mid-paced) dominating the 40 minute experience, but at the same time its incredibly consistent and steady. You do NOT wanna get tackled by this beast, because all that will remain is bone dust and flakes of skin...not enough for identification without a DNA kit. Very good stuff here, which I can easily and heartily recommend to fans of Bolt Thrower, Hail of Bullets, Jungle Rot, Invasion and other noted death metal warmongers.