REVIEW: PÄNZER – “Fatal Command”
Pänzer, the side-project of German thrash legend Schmier (Destruction), is due to release their heavily anticipated second album, ‘Fatal Command‘ in October. Since the 2014 release of ‘Send Them All To Hell‘, Schmier has had no shortage of interest from fans and press for a follow-up album, and it’s clear from even the most casual listen that ‘Fatal Command‘ more than lives up to expectations.
Returning with a new line-up, ‘Fatal Command‘ feels somewhat refreshing. Though hardly innovative, the record is a definite continuation from ‘Send Them All To Hell‘ – old-school, and nothing that hasn’t been done before, but still exciting and executed near-perfectly. Joining Schmier and drummer Stefan Schwarzmann (Accept, UDO, Running Wild), Hammerfall shredder Pontus Norgren and Poltergeist axeman V.O. Pulver fill the gap left by Accept legend Herman Frank.
Immediately the maturity and musical strength of Pänzer is clear, with the band utilizing their collectively well-honed songwriting talents to create a perfect mix of unforgettable hooks and vicious riffing. Kicking off ‘Fatal Command‘, Pänzer launch into “Satan’s Hollow” – a track we heard a demo of way back in December last year. Straight from the bat the NWOBHM influences on Pänzer’s sound is clear, as the listener is treated to a barrage of guitar work straight from the Iron Maiden playbook and an infectiously catchy chorus. Though Pänzer is a project more for the fun of its members than anything else, one would hope the predictable success of ‘Fatal Command‘ leads to a few more live shows – at all of which, “Satan’s Hollow” in all its monstrous, Maiden-esque glory would be a welcome addition to the set.
The NWOBHM sound is carried forward throughout ‘Fatal Command‘ as a whole. One of the singles to be released before ‘Fatal Command‘ drops, “We Cannot Be Silenced”, may just be one of the best tracks penned under the Pänzer name. The epitome of anthemic, “We Cannot Be Silenced” is absolutely huge, and features some really great vocals from Schmier.”I’ll Bring You The Night” feels resurrected from the ’80s, carrying a sound and structure that could be described in no other way than “classic.” Schmier’s raspy voice creates a perfect juxtaposition, adding a more aggressive, thrashy feel to the slab of pure Judas Priest worship. “Scorn and Hate” is built on leads that could have been written by Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, with very Paul Di’Anno era feel.
Pänzer ease up a little on “Skullbreaker”, offering up crushing heaviness over speed. “Skullbreaker” mixes a ’70s style of riffing in the verses, mixing with a kind of whispered style of vocals from Schmier, while the chorus – staying true to Pänzer’s modus operandi – is absolutely massive. Pänzer strive to ensure ‘Fatal Command‘ ends on a note just as high as it started with “Promised Land.” “Promised Land” is arguably one of the strongest tracks on the record, offering up a perfect mix of all the elements explored through ‘Fatal Command‘ – it is as heavy as they come with plenty of moments to get your head banging, glorious lead breaks, classic German speed and an absolutely huge chorus.
With the backing of label giants Nuclear Blast, Pänzer had the budget to ensure that, like its predecessor, ‘Fatal Command‘ sounded huge. However, while the flawless sound lets the flourishing leads and melodies bathe the listener in warmth, such an “old-school” record would benefit from a bit more grit in the production. That said, however, it’s hard to knock a record for sounding too good.
Like their otherwise excellent debut, ‘Fatal Command‘ breaks little to no ground. There are no ingeniously innovative concepts or stylistic twists here, but anyone looking for them are missing the point of Pänzer completely. This is old-school worship in its purest form. Though rooted in the Teutonic take on the NWOBHM popularized by Accept and Scorpions, the thrashy flourishes Schmier has brought from Destruction more than benefit ‘Fatal Command‘, adding a sense of aggression and a rougher feel than Pänzer’s aforementioned forefathers. All in, anyone who enjoys a throwback to the denim and leather heyday of the early ’80s will find ‘Fatal Command‘ to be a wonderfully fun listen crammed with classic riff upon classic riff.