Panzerballett – Starke Stucke

Panzerballett – Starke Stucke – 5/5

Where better start a foray into the world of jazz than with a band that perhaps can be best described as the result of a group of jazz musicians playing metal. Neither feeling entirely fitting in either genre, they split this album into roughly two parts, half filled with covers (and I use the term loosely) of classic rock/metal songs by the likes of Sabbath, AC/DC, Deep Purple and the Scorpions, as well as providing their own compositions. This group of Germans have succeeded in producing something truly unique, clearly taking inspiration from both genres and delivering an excellent listen for fans of both.

Every musician has his place, a two pronged attack evenly distributed between the saxophone and guitars. Despite this, in true jazz style, no instrument feels redundant. The drums constantly present a variety of styles, from the more aggressive tones working with the occasional guttural vocals, to the softer passages where he blends perfectly in the background. Working with the often phenomenal bass work, he is capable of performing as an equal to the lead guitar, in order to supply the core rhythm of the track (e.g. Dreamology). Never made to simply follow another instrument, he helps creates a multi-layered harmony that survives repeated listens.

Despite this, more often than not the saxophone or guitars often take the lead, alternating between each other, and contributing to the rhythm when not the focus, both succeed in lending a unique touch to the proceedings. The saxophone is capable of serenading you in a slow and emotional journey (e.g. Winds of Change) or creating a chaos in an instant (e.g. Birdland), and whilst the guitars provide a similar effect, they achieve this through different means. By being relatively clean and using volume and speed they provide everything from doom-like tones, upbeat and sprucy riffs and aggressive attacks. Varying frequently enough to lend a unique characteristic to each track, they will keep you on your toes between each rapid transition.

With plenty of variation between each track, even if there beneath the layers may have been a classic rock track, rarely does it simply feel like a cover. It has become a completely different entity by the time this artist has finished with it, and the results are phenomenal. More than doing justice to the original, their ability to create around another piece is only beaten by their own compositional skills. Feeling fluid as it seamlessly morphs into the next passage, this is as free-form as the greatest of prog rock album, and more than deserving of your time.

Highlights: “Smoke on the Water,” “Friede, Freude, Fußball,” “Dreamology.”