Recently the distinguished German band Panzerballett entered into a contract with the Gentle Art Of Music label of RPWL. Maybe this contract will open the door to a wider audience. For me, being a guitar enthusiast, I like fusion, progressive metal as well as instrumental virtuoso guitar playing, so in that respect Panzerballett is a band not to be missed. They blend virtuoso fusion music, death metal riffs and humour to keep it all together and with every new album Panzerballett score a bull's-eye.
Guitarist Jan Zehrfeld started the band in 2004 and in 2005 they released their eponymous debut, followed by Starke Stücke (2008), Hart Genossen Von Abba Bis Zappa (2009) and recently the fourth album Tank Goodness appeared. The previous three albums contained a combination of self-written songs, covers of established rock songs with a Panzerballett twist and usually one cover that could be labelled as a hilarious pop song. So we could enjoy creative arrangements of songs from Frank Zappa, Deep Purple's Smoke On The Water and a laughable version of Ein Bischen Frieden, originally sung by the German singer Nicole, who won the European Song Contest with it in 1982.
When I listen to an album for the first time I don't read any information from the booklet or the accompanying paperwork. I just let the music flow without any distracting elements. So when I heard the album's opener Some Skunk Funk, I recognized something I already knew, but I just couldn't place it in the right context. However, guest trumpet player Randy Brecker put me on the right track! This cover of a famous Brecker Brothers song is just a jazz-rock classic. The heavy guitars combined with the trumpet and Alexander von Hagke's saxophone do justice to this classic. Mustafari Likes Di Carnaval starts nice and weird with odd rhythms, a saxophone and a heavy guitar, but all together they succeed in giving you the idea of ending up at a carnival in Rio or in a painting of Hieronymus Bosch.
Next is John Coltrane's jazz classic Giant Steps, which also went through a special treatment. The heavy metal guitar and the sax stay close to the original; this combination works well and provides the song with fresh blood. A special mention goes to bassist Heiko Jung, who plays some nice lines in the background of all the power. Well, talking about the bassist; he really shines on Zehrfunk. The first half of the song is a band effort, but when the powerful song turns into a drum and bass competition you can enjoy the skills of drummer Sebastian Lanser and the brilliant playing on the bass by Jung. This is a nice piece to pump up the volume and to enjoy these two talented musicians. The end is fierce again with great guitar play by Jan Zehrfeld and Josef Doblhofer.
Next is the cover (I've Had) The Time Of My Life. I don't like the original by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes. However, the overwhelming guitar play that completely blows you away provides this song with a new dimension. Guest vocalists Conny Kreitmeier and Ron van Lankeren stay close to the original arrangement, but half way you get a heavy riff and a very funky saxophone solo. Once you've heard this version, you'll remember it when you hear the original on a radio station and you'll get a big smile on your face! As far as I'm concerned Vulgar Display Of Sauerkraut, is brilliancy in just five minutes and thirty seconds. I'm very impressed by the guitar sound and the total freedom of playing. A kind of coordinated chaos or free death fusion comes close to what I heard, although the guitar solo sounds structured. The saxophone in this song sometimes reminded me of a previous cover Panzerballett recorded, namely The Simpsons Theme Song.
Then it's time for something completely different: The IKEA Trauma. The Swedish band Freak Kitchen immediately crossed my mind. And I appeared to be right since guest musician on this traumatic song is Mattias'IA' Eklundh, the band leader of Freak Kitchen. He adds his own weird vocal and guitar playing to enhance the listener's pleasure. Take Five, the album's final song is an easy one to recognize; this theme of Dave Brubeck is one of the best-known melodies ever. At first the song goes through a real Panzerballett treatment with ultra-heavy guitars and a screaming saxophone, but when the song moves on it gets jazzier with an impressive fusion guitar solo and a repeating theme on sax.
Something in the music of Panzerballett touches me deeply; it's a brilliant blend of styles I really like that make sure this is one of the few CDs that hardly leave my CD player. Panzerballett produces music from the twenty-first century for advanced listeners.
***** Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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