Just like the previous album; Tank Goodness (2012, see review) Panzerballett's latest album Breaking Brain is released on the Gentle Art Of Music label and just like all their previous albums I realize this German band does not create music for the masses and might give the traditional progressive rock fan a hard time. For fusion aficionados who also like the brilliant weirdness of Frank Zappa and can appreciate the ultimate high level of making music, Breaking Brain will totally be something to their liking.
This 2015 release sees the same line-up as Tank Goodness, with mastermind and guitarist Jan Zehrfeld on the helm, guitarist Josef Doblhofer as his fusion minded companion, heavy jazz sax player Alexander Von Hagke and the more than reliable rhythm section of bass player Heiko Jung and drummer Sebastian Lanser.
To be honest, it took several listens before coming to a final conclusion, when I listened to the album. My first impression of Euroblast was like it sounded pretty familiar in my ears; would the band start to repeat itself? Euroblast is a jazz rock theme with adventurous sax playing, overpowered with deep dark djenty guitar outbursts, something that became one of the band's trademarks. A second and third run of Euroblast made me realize the beauty of the fusion minded music; absolutely fantastic guitar parts take me back to the days I only listened to instrumental fusion and weird guitar music. A second typical Panzerballett trademark are mostly unusual covers that are totally bent and this way could enter the perimeter of Panzerballett's music. One of those is the song Typerwriter II, where a steady staccato guitar sound takes over from the original typewriter sound in the original version, I guess I have never heard such a dark and powerful version of this song. The midsection turns to heavy fusion again with soloing from sax as well as the guitar, towards the end the song almost gets brutal. A song that emphasises the smoother side of Panzerballett's music is the sax orientated song Der Saxdiktator, even though this is still a quite powerful composition. The Muppetshow is something everybody knows, regardless your age. One of the songs made famous by those stuffed puppets is Mahna Mahna, on Breaking Brain we are treated by this exceptional version, including Metallica references. One of the highlights on the album is Smoochy Borg Funk; after the djenty staccato opening the jazz/fusion part is just amazing and a must for all the guitar fusion aficionados. Parts like these make me wonder how a true fusion album by this band would sound like. My second highlight is the progressive fusion composition FrantiK Nervesaw Massacre, written by former guitar player Martin Mayrhofer. This song is both extremely progressive as beautiful fusion minded, both worlds collide during this happening. The Intro for Shunyai is a signature Trilok Gurtu composition, where the Indian master of percussion combines the use of percussion and transcendence vocals. The intro is followed by Panzerballett's own interpretation of this classic, featuring the master on percussion, highlighting again the fusion part of the music. The final composition Pink Panther is something special; being used before on the Starcke Stücke album, you can hear how a song evolves over the years. The 2015 version has more jazz, more power, basically is more extreme. A nice gesture, that is used before on Tank Goodness to show how a song changes over the years, due to many live performances and personal tastes of the musicians.
Where I was afraid Panzerballett would start to repeat itself, it shows Breaking Brain, takes a slight turn towards the more fusion side of their music. Still the staccato djent stuff forms the base of several compositions, but the solo parts dig in deep into fusion, something I really appreciate. The result is another fantastic album, for progressive fusionatists.
***** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Astrid de Ronde)
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