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Panzerballett - Planet Z CD (album) cover



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Honorary Collaborator
5 stars German artist PANZERBALLETT has been an ongoing venture since 2004, with founding member Jan Zehrfeld as the key figure and just about the sole consistent part of the band over the years. New Panzerballett albums have appeared at regular intervals, and their seventh album "Planet Z" was released by German label Gentle Art of Music in the summer of 2020.

Panzerballett will probably be more of a niche band, due to the highly challenging nature of the music they create. But for those who are equally fond of jazz and metal, and who tend to adore music described as challenging and avant garde in nature and spirit, for those I feel rather safe in stating that Panzerballett's latest album is a production that the greater majority will enjoy. The album also strikes me as a good introduction to this type of music for those who find such a description intriguing.

Report this review (#2452248)
Posted Monday, September 28, 2020 | Review Permalink
4 stars Not for the mild manner prog fan - this is unique, intense, busy, jazz-metal. Seven of the nine songs on "Planet Z" are cover tunes, but you may never know what song it is because of the amazing and zany arrangements. I didn't even bother to find out who the original composer is. Seems that would take away the fun of just listening and enjoying the jams. On this release, Jan Zehrfeld plays all guitars (less one solo) and bass (except two songs). There are six drummers holding the grooves together, and not only do they excel on the song they play but the listening experience is jaw dropping. That is, if you enjoy primo drumming. Add saxophone, and that elevates Panzerballett to another level. A sonic explosion of music and talent you have to hear to believe. There are moments where the music breathes, but for the most part it chugs along. At the moment "Prime Time", "Who the Jack Is Migger", "Urchin vs. Octopus" and "Coconut" stand out, but in reality, there is not one bad song. So, for the musically adventurous, this is a must listen.
Report this review (#2479315)
Posted Monday, November 23, 2020 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#2493743)
Posted Thursday, January 14, 2021 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars Guitarist/bassist Jan Zehrfeld is back with the latest release under the Panzrballett name, and yet again he is taking the band in a different direction. Drummer Sebastian Lanser had a major impact on the last album, 2017's 'X-mas Death Jazz', but this time around he hasn't used Sabastian at all, but instead has brought in a whole host of drummers to work on different tracks so we get the likes of Virgil Donati and Marco Minnemann casting their spells alongside another 4 drummers. We also have five different saxophone players, and a few other musicians but there is never any doubt that this is built primarily around the guitar.

In some ways this is a shredder's paradise, but the way he links in with the core saxophone sound moves this far more into jazz territory, combing to create something which is fusion in some ways, but not how it would normally be considered but instead something which is far more metallic and in your face. The music often switches between metal and free form jazz, as well as combining together to create something that is weird, esoteric, and absolutely enthralling. In many ways this is not an easy album to listen to, as it is definitely challenging, yet the right listener will also find this incredibly compelling. Given the amount of different musicians playing on this all credit must go to Zehrfeld for creating something that definitely sounds like a band. The standout for me is "No One Is Flying The Plane" by composer Jeff Novotny, which has an additional horn section and comes across as big band jazz combining with metal, with some gorgeous piano breaks and incredible bass and drums. It should never exist, but definitely make musical sense. For those who want their music to be out there, right out there.

Report this review (#2541328)
Posted Friday, May 7, 2021 | Review Permalink

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