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Panzerballett - Starke Stücke CD (album) cover



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Dick Heath
Jazz-Rock Specialist
4 stars A promo of the new Panzerballett album Starke Stücke came through my letterbox this morning and it hasn't been off my CD player since. Along with Paul Hanson's 'Frolic In The Land Of Plenty', Panzerballett's second album are my favourite jazz fusion releases heard so far in 2008.

But then Panzerballett plays music distinctly different from Paul Hanson's fusion. 'Metal fusion' would be a minimum definition, but that term misses so much. PB have moved to one of the big German jazz specialist labels ACT Records, (home of EST for instance) for their second studio album, and been encouraged to include some 'standards' and arrange these in PB's own style, along side their own compositions/arrangement. Album playtime is therefore shared approximately 50:50 originals to standards.

Their particualrly vigorous use of standards is rather inspired, as you have now a clearer view of where they have come from and where perhaps they are taking their form of metal jazz fusion. Two standards that have caught my ear, and so suffered repeat plays, are Henry Mancini's Pink Panther theme and Joe Zawinul's radio friendly Birdland. In a clever piece of thinking they have taken these two tunes, and deconstructed them. Birdland now consists of familiar phrases from the original tune, repeated several times played very heavily and then sometimes with a strong hint of math rock; (although in an odd way I also feel this tune is being played similiar to how Acoustic Ladyland might attack it, if that band cared to played thrash metal!) Btw it works very well asa start before they get round to their own improv. PB's scrubbed down Pink Panther now comes with a severe heavy and sharp edge, it too also works well; indeed you have to think twice that this came from a film score played by a studio orchestra. In addition, you will find other tunes have undergone a Panzerballett revamp, including those from the songbooks of Black Sabbath (Paranoid), Scorpions (Wind Of Change), AC/DC (Thunderstruck) and Deep Purple (Smoke On The Water- in a form that won't have you banned from the local guitar stores, if you could play it). In a delightfully perverse way, a couple of these tunes have been been arranged and played virtually in the absence of heaviness, instead becoming straight ahead electric jazz. One of Panzerballett's own compositions to catch my ears is Friede Freude & Fussball, which kicks off (a deliberate pun) with a simple theme based on the common football fans' chant heard at most stadia through Europe, Saturdays and Sundays, and then it builds!

An excellent album especially for those who like the heavy/metal end of jazz fusion. Further, an album which may provide the gateway for math rock fans who want to sample and then progress into jazz fusion.

4.5 stars - but definitely needs more time before I'm prepared to say this a 5 star essential album - but let me say four tracks are already I-Podded as favourite tunes.

Report this review (#162483)
Posted Saturday, February 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars At first, when I saw certain song names (Smoke, Wind), I though that it's just mundane, cover album. I know 5/10 songs as originals, so I supposed I'll be disappointed. But because you see "but" here, you can probably guess by now that my experience was different. I already knew their first album and was eager to hear more. OK, I would be more interested in their original work, then completely rewriting (in game world, it's called total conversion), but overall is pleasing. Or at least little bit pleasing.

The problem is, that I don't like idea of covers. I grew up listening pop covers of their more successful classical brothers, so I don't like them now. But it's not just my problem, doing your own song, music, or lyrics, it's the best way. And that's the problem, or maybe I can call it advantage. This music is new, they managed to import long solos, slighter and greater differences in these tracks, that only thing which (sometimes) reminds of original is melody. I don't have to say that instruments are different, style also and that this is something between jazz/rock/metal, right ? And the important thing, atmosphere, the feeling you get from these songs is very, very different, because of saxophone, different guitar, many things. But I like it, it's like

4(-), because even I like it, I know that except certain parts of this album, these songs are covers, but then I say to myself that they're completely different. Take it as you wish, it's your decision after all, I've already made mine. I like it.

Report this review (#244912)
Posted Friday, October 16, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Metal up your... jazz! Again!

STARKE STUCKE is the second album from the German jazz/fusion-metallers. Contrary to their debut which consisted only of their own compositions, this time they have included 6 'covers' of classic tunes; and I put the word in apostrophes because most of those covers have very little to do with the originals. The main theme of each original track is apparent but, in general, PANZERBALLETT pick the tunes up and transform them into metal jazz themes of their own...

The album contains 4 completely new compositions (all done by mastermind Jan Zehrfeld like before) which resemble to the band's debut work; jazz/fusion saxophone tunes co-exist with heavy-thrash guitars to create an attractive musical outcome. This time, the tracks are relatively shorter, more concise which subsequently makes this album more 'listenable' than the debut. My favourite of their own compositions is M.w.M.i.O.f.R, consisting of crazy, speedy fusion rhythms and heavy slow guitar riffs in the vein of Machine Head, Mastodon etc while the ending reminds the best Meshuggah moments. The only vocal-based track is Zickenterror; a berserk song with abrupt breaks and vocals (male and female) sung in the most bizarre fashion - I believe this could have been a Fantomas song or something similar.

Another small deviation from the debut is that the ratio of metal:jazz here is much higher. More and more metal-influenced guitar riffs have taken over and I don't blame Dick Heath for singling out Friede, Freude, Fußball - probably the 'jazziest' track. From the cover songs the band has selected I am not familiar with Birdland but I can guess it is well transformed from its original version along with the others.

With the exception of the Scorpions and Sabbath tunes, all the other covers are performed in the most lively and energetic way that uplifts the tracks in a different dimension. The former are executed in a more 'lounge-jazz' style with no snappy intervals and major surprises but with excellent melodies. Pink Panther and Thunderstruck are in my opinion the most successful 'transformations' from the prototypes, embodying various heavy guitar riffs.

You have probably understood by now that this has been a (more than just) satisfying and enjoyable experience to me. Overall, STARKE STUCKE sounds more mature, concise and FUN (!) than the band's debut and I would not hesitate to recommend it to tech/prog metal fans and jazz lovers. The PANZERS are back with a shout!

Report this review (#246119)
Posted Saturday, October 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
Andy Webb
Retired Admin
5 stars I am a minor jazz fan; my dad was the one who really initiated any spark within me, with his collection of over 200 jazz albums (not including his over 200 vinyl records). A friend of mine showed me the song Zickenterror, and I was determined to search them out . I got my hands on STARKE STÜCKE, perhaps one of the greatest fusion albums I have ever heard. Blasting off with Pink Panther , the band shows their great skill with saxophone and guitar mix. M.W.M.I.O.F.R. (don't ask me what that stands for) is great, with heavy guitar, raging saxophone, and in the end a great er- "vocal" part that accentuates the heaviness of the album. The band then does a great take on Smoke on the Water . Then Friede, Freude, Fußball (Peace, joy, football [soccer]) comes in with great melodies and funky elements. Wind of Change offers a soft jazz breather. My favorite track on the album is their take on the classic Birdland . A great more mainstream (ish) track is Dreamology with great fusion elements. A great take on AC/DC's Thunderstruck comes in with the telltale hammer-on/pull-off piece then with heavy guitar/sax duology. A funnier song with its ridiculous vocals is Zickenterror with an awesome funk part near the end. Paranoid ends the album on a softer note.

My favorite tracks Are:

- Pink Panther

- Friede, Freude, Fußball

- Birdland

- Dreamology

- Thunderstruck

- Zickenterror

Report this review (#285146)
Posted Saturday, June 5, 2010 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars Deconstructionist re-evolved Jazzmetal classic-rock/jazz covers

Sub-genre:Jazz/Rock Fusion (Definite fit, but the metal guitars are aggressive enough to live in Tech/Extreme)
For Fans of: Mr. Bungle, Frank Zappa
Vocal Style: Varying male & female on only a few songs (German)
Guitar Style: Huge range of styles electric and acoustic.
Keyboard Style: one synth solo
Percussion Style: Heavy butt kickin' metal right down to tasty jazz & funk
Bass Style: Picked electric with huge style range
Other Instruments: Alto & Bari Saxophone
You are not likely to enjoy this album if: you don't like cover tunes, particularly if you want your cover tunes to be arranged exactly like the originals... particularly if you want to recognize them at all.

Summary: The outstanding Jazz/Metal Fusion band Panzerballett presents a very skilled and humorous classic rock and jazz cover tunes from the 70's interspersed with a handful of originals to break things up. The covers are rearranged as heavy jazz tunes with profoundly interesting results. Certainly more than a few purists would scream bloody murder at the result of the key change laden version of Smoke on the Water. The song is at least recognizable, unlike their version of AC/DC's Thunderstruck, which if you don't hear the first 5 seconds would sound like an original. Birdland is presented with verve and energy true to the original, with strong modern twist. The clean electric guitar solo version of Paranoid is another filled with key changes not heard in the original. This version is very, very mellow.

The originals on the album are expectantly eclectic and tongue and cheek. Zickenterror, which is a re-arrangement from the debut album stands out as a quirky, punky, funky manic joyride. Overall the album has a very strong metal element, though not as heavy as the subsequent Hart Genossen

Final Score: Easy 5 stars. I am a sucker for skill, innovation and humor, all of which are contained here.

Report this review (#300823)
Posted Tuesday, September 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
Prog Folk
3 stars My buddy Martin (Alucard) had warned me of this band a while go, but I must say that I didn't have a chance to investigate PB before, and early this year, I held off until this month of September, because I knew I would see them on the 4th RIO festival in Carmaux. Having seen the concert, I bought their second album immediately after the show. This strange mixture of jazz and metal music is the brainchild of guitarist Jan Zehrfeld, and the results are surprising enough, even though in concert, it came as completely similar to what I expected, although I had never heard a note (at least knowingly) from the band. The two guitar and sax attack is rather predictable once you've actually understood where the band is heading into, especially when the bass gets funky ala Living Colours.

This first album is definitely a first attempt, and is made almost entirely of covers adapted to the then-tentative sound of PB, if you'll except two or three tracks. Among the covers are such diverse songs, as far apart as possible, ranging from the Pink Panther theme and Birdland (the WR hit track) all the way to Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Purple and Scorpions hits. You'll have a hard time recognizing the Pink Panther theme from the original, and indeed sometimes you'll get a piece of the theme to link the Zappa-meets metal lunacy of the adaptation. While the covers are relatively unrecognizable outside the main themes, it still is rather interesting to hear their musical lunacy. They tend to soften (read jazzify) the metal tracks like Winds Of Change, and harden (read metalize) the jazz tracks such as Birdland.

As for the original compositions, they rank from RIO/Avant realm (somewhere between Zappa, 90's Crimson and some 00's Californian prog/Cuneiform groups) to more metallic moments ala Sepultura, RATM and RCHP with some light cookie-monster barfs here and there. Generally it simply sounds way too complex, as if they chose to complicate things for the sake of being difficult to permeate. At times, the music can be fun, but, ultimately, the sheer repetitions of ultra-complex movements are saturating even the experienced ears. Overall, I tend to prefer the group's original composition to the treatment of the covers they chose to metamorphose. Maybe PB's merits lies in the fact that they could lead quite a few metalheads into getting acquainted with jazz idiosyncrasies (but most likely it will be a one- way street), and that attempt alone is very laudable, despite being a tad too obvious for my liking.

While PB's music is certainly one of kind and doesn't really resemble anything you've heard elsewhere, I can't say that I'm overwhelmed by the "formula", because that's pretty well what it sounds like? A chemical formula of a recipe, one that isn't immediately digestible by this aural stomach of mine, one that seems created from apparently un- mixable ingredients, and these don't actually mesh or melt into each other very well, if at all. In concert (at least the one I saw), the group constantly changes from the metal realm to the jazz idiom, but fairly rare are the actual harmonically successful meetings between the two opposite ends of their musical spectrum. And this first attempt does only confirm what I saw in concert. While musically impressive and definitely worth the investigation, I remain unconvinced and, to be honest, a bit under-whelmed.

Report this review (#536876)
Posted Thursday, September 29, 2011 | Review Permalink

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