Metal for the big boys 

There is a passage on the blurb that the wonderful people in the Nuclear Blast press office wrote about the second PÄNZER album that will – if you are a man of lets say a certain age -make you want to get your horns up and polish the studs on your belt until they sparkle.

Here’s what it says: “Contemporary heavy metal sounds like kindergarten,” he gruffly complains. “Just look at the bands getting really big right now: Pop melodies and nonsense.”

“He” is right too. MV has often, in our own curmudgeonly way, got upset about kids in skinny jeans and baseball caps looking like they’ve just got out of River Island’s window shouting at you and calling it music, it’s just when this “he” says it, people give a shit.

Because PÄNZER is the vehicle that Schmier uses to play metal and given that he’s also been the frontman in German thrash metal royalty Destruction since 1982, that makes the four piece a pretty serious deal.

Much has changed since the debut record. Not least Herman Frank has done one and they’ve added the amulet to their name. Replacing Frank on guitar here is Hammerfall’s Pontus Norgren to provide razor sharp solo’s, and they’ve added a second guitarist too, in the shape of V.O. Pulver who produced their debut.

Consequently, what is on offer here is Incredibly menacing and is served up with a massive hint of violence. For example, there is a song here called “Skullbreaker” which is delivered with such intent it almost does seem as if they are going to reach through the speakers to smash your face in.

For all that, though, “…. Command” is a mighty – and mightily enjoyable opus, one which was clearly a labour of love for the quartet. There is no suggestion here that this is anything other than gifted metal musicians doing what they were born to do.

That much is immediately clear from the off. The vicious “Satan’s Hollow” offers the thought “don’t shit where you eat, even animals have that pride, and the rest of it is similarly ready to set the world to rights over a beatdown.

The title track is a good old-fashioned gallop like on the first three Maiden records, “We Can’t Be Silenced” amounts to their state of the union address as the engine room of bass and drums positively pummels, while “I’ll Bring You The Night” has a real “Countdown To Extinction” era Megadeth vibe about it.

Writing music like this is almost second nature to them. “Scorn And Hate” operates in more power metal circles, but it is no less fun as Norgren really lets himself go, and “Afflicted” seethes with a mixture of anger and potty mouthed glee.

Only working at two speeds – fast and faster – the 11 songs here are a thrilling ride. “Bleeding Allies” is fist pumping fury, “The Decline And Downfall” offers something a little more deliberate, but the way Schmier part snarls, part sneers his vocals means that wherever it goes, the record is only interested in havoc.

There are no let ups. The machine gun riffery of and the tank like opening to “Mistaken” would elsewhere be up front rather than in the deep cuts like here, and the drums are crashed on the concluding – and somewhat eerie – “Promised Land” as if lives depend on it.

“The Final Command” is ferociously heavy, crushing and it is right up for a scrap, but it is metal in its purest form. Put it this way, there is no hint of anything to do with the suffix of “Core” here. The songs here amount to an order from PÄNZER that you must obey. Do not, whatever you do, disappoint them.

Rating 8/10


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