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Panzerballett - Planet Z CD (album) cover

PLANET Z

Panzerballett

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

4.29 | 28 ratings

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mental_hygiene
4 stars Planet Z is the new album by the German "jazz metal" "quintet" Panzerballett. I say "quintet" because a key part of this album's sound is the sheer amount and diversity of guest drummers. If you're in any way familiar with prog drummers, all of them are big names. I was certainly excited to hear Marco Minneman and Virgil Donati's contributions. Jazz metal, in all its relative obscurity, is a genre with a lot of big names and thusly high stakes. Where this album holds strong is in its intense arrangements. One of my struggles with jazz metal is the prevalence of aimless shredding, and I think the emphasis on arrangement over chops is very clear on this album. It borders avant-prog at some points due to the intensity and fragmented nature of the guitars.

Prime Time starts this album out with a nice chunk of chaos. This is, of course, the track with Donati joining in on drums. I find this track to be really scatterbrained and math-y, and it's a pro and a con. If you're in the mood for rhythmic intensity, this album and especially this song hits the spot. Who the Jack is Migger is one of my favorite cuts from this. At its most intense, it quite reminds me of some of the jazzier tech-death out there (such as Cynic). I love the way the arrangements allow for smooth excursions into funk, and even a Rolling Stones quote in the guitar solo. There's a lot of clear chemistry within the band, and a much clearer "form" that they're working from. Following this is Mind Your Head, one of the djentier tracks, and a short burst of intensity.

My other standout track is No One is Flying the Plane. Quite a funny title, and the humor works alongside the playfulness of the music. The horn arrangements on this track are quite nice as well, creating a lot of dissonances that I think work well in a jazz-metal context aside from the standard "atonal breakdown guitar". Someone (?) joins in on piano and spices it up before the song implodes into swing jazz. The saxophone, drums, and bass are soloed out for a while before the guitars return and bring in a lot of tension. Walkürenritt is a jazz metal Wagner quote, more evidence of the band's humor (and supposed live reputation, but I'll have to check that out later).

Urchin Vs. Octopus is another really sick track, and has one of my favorite guitar solos on this album. I think this song also speaks to the arranging skill, that the elements of the music are allowed to slow down and speed up against each other. The crossrhythms on this album are particularly apparent on this track, where two clean guitars arpeggiate slowly to harmonize a fast-paced riff. Alle Meine Ändchen incorporates more keys and synthesizer in the sound, including some mellotron-esque strings. It also, like the first track, also borders on avant-prog at times. The synth solo on this track is also pretty awesome.

By the end of the album, they throw in some more interesting tonality in the song Coconut which I feel helps with the flow. It's easy to make jazz metal a gimmic, and Panzerballett being veterans of the genre, they know how to sequence songs that are clearly distinct and enjoyable where it matters. The harmony is a lot stronger on this song, and to me it pushes this album up. SOS concludes Planet Z by quoting, in spectacular fashion, a morse code rhythmic pattern. I doubt that Panzerballett is the first to pull this off. They don't let it rule the song, but incorporate it by sprinkling it within their tight and fast-flowing arrangement plan.

In a genre full of gimmicks and big names, Planet Z stands strong with its offerings. It's diverse enough to be an interesting listen the whole way through, but also not too scatterbrained that it's hard to follow. While this is certainly a lot heavier than, for example, Thank You Scientist or the Aristocrats, I think Panzerballett is fairly accessible. Out of all the new albums on the 2020 Progarchives chart, this is one of the few that actually has a decent amount of listens already on spotify. Taking all this into account, I would consider this album 4 stars. It's thoroughly enjoyable and I would recommend it to any fans of jazzier prog metal, djent, fusion, and possibly even to anyone who's interested in modern progressive music.

mental_hygiene | 4/5 |

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