The opening riffery of "Iron Eagle", the first song on Jag Panzer's new album The Age of Mastery, gives the listener the idea that this album will be 60 minutes of mindless, breakneck shred.
But nothing could be further from the truth; and once the first verse of "Iron Eagle" are underway, it becomes readily apparent just how much this band has matured since last year's juvenile The Fourth Judgment. Leaving behind many of today's power metal clichés, Jag Panzer opts instead to write refined, steady songs which accumulate impetus through great songwriting, rather than just one galloping triplet after another.
To be sure, there are the occasional concessions to adolescent rage – such as the oh-so-80's "Lustful and Free" and the Judas Priest-ish "Viper". But, although fun, that kind of retro-sound seems out of place next to the rest of the disc, which is crisp and modern; take, for example, a magnificent composition like "Displacement," a wickedly inventive groove which shows just how creative and unpredictable a vocalist Harry Conklin is. And the album's closer, "The Moors," is a smart and well-arranged masterpiece.
It's a fact worth repeating that this band has grown tremendously since their last album. The Fourth Judgment, although filled with cliché, bore some hints of great things to come. With The Age of Mastery, those great things have arrived.