Staging a New Sound
CoC chats with Mark Briordy of Jag Panzer
by: Adrian Bromley
To many, the world is a place where creativity and ideas clash to spark off new routes of inspiration and emotion. Music is much the same, a spectrum of ideas that propel themselves into the uncertain direction that individuals make them go to. Trying to find new routes and new ideas is nothing new, as countless bands throughout the last few decades have struggled to find the perfect concept to push forth their ideas and keep us interested.

Colorado heavy metal act Jag Panzer have done just that with their new disc, titled _Thane to the Throne_ [reviewed in this issue], a multi-dimensional concept record based on Shakespeare's classic play Macbeth. Not only does the music within _TttT_ bask in the realm of Shakespeare's world, but the music and vocals, even the lyrics, run deep with references to the classic tale. Listen to the detailed work on such numbers as "Blood Crime", "Treachery's Stain" or "Face of Fear" -- they reek of classic subject matter.

It seems as though this idea would be something very hard to achieve and almost impossible to carry out. Guitarist Mark Briordy agrees, but notes that the challenge was worth it. "I was a little apprehensive about doing this record this way and we weren't sure how much harder it was going to be. It was a lot harder", he says, "but it wasn't unmanageable by any means. It was a great accomplishment to get this recorded and done."

He adds: "We have always tried to do something a little bit different, not too different where everything is way out in left field, but to stand out a bit. So Harry [Conklin, singer] came up with the original idea to tell it like a storyteller. It was like the times before radio and TV where someone would just tell stories and people listened. He wanted to tell a classic story and we picked something that would be able to give us enough room musically to work with, and we went from there."

Another bizarre notion is the fact that an American-based band opted to do this, not some European band that most definitely was more exposed to the content of Shakespeare's work. Was it a hard task to take upon themselves? "It was very difficult for us to bring the older element of the story into a modern story", says Briordy. "It was a lot of fun, though. In the past, Chris [Broderick, guitarist] or I would write a riff and it would become a part of a song. Then Harry would write the lyrics and the song would be done. This time we had to really pay attention to what was going on. There was a lot more to think about with this record. We had to figure out how we would go from one song to another without losing a step."

Concept records are rarely done, but with the right work and ethics compiled to make things bond, they can be very rewarding. How does Briordy think fans of Jag Panzer (or fans in general) will react to _TttT_? "I think people will like what we have done here", states Briordy. "I think we got a really strong performance out of Harry and the production is just really great. I hope people will like it." He laughs.

"This time, especially for the subject matter of the record, Harry worked really hard on the pronunciation factor and phrasing and breathing techniques. As guitar players, we worked on different ways to play the music, rehearsing numerous times to see how we would pick at certain guitar stylings. We worked on refining all of the parts, which is something we really never do. For past work, I'd write a song, learn how to play it and record that song and it would be over. With the new album, by doing all of this rehearsing and learning the songs, I was able to know just how each song was made up from and what was the best way to work the song and get the most from it."

Over the past few years, Jag Panzer have propelled themselves into the spotlight once again with two solid records: 1997's _The Fourth Judgement_ and _The Age of Mastery_ in 1998. The time was right for them, the music was right. Are things starting to work in their favor once again? "Yeah, we can see it all happening again", says Briordy, whose band went away after a promising start in the late '80s and a much-respected release titled _Ample Destruction_. "It is a slow climb, but with each album we [the band is rounded out by drummer Rikard Stjernquist and bassist John Tetley] see more people at the shows, see more press, more sales, and it just seems like everything is on the rise again for the band and that is a nice feeling."

"We really work hard to give each member as much artistic freedom as they want to have, as long as it can work within the confines of how we do things. That adds a bit more freshness to what we do, 'cause we always try to make each recording experience different, whether it be a new studio where we do the record or a different way of assembling songs."

Seeing that Briordy's band was at one time marked for death, no doubt a factor of the changing music scene and what have you, I ask him to comment on today's music scene. His answer: "I think there is a lot of good stuff out there. There are so many sub-genres out there that it is really hard to pick who is really good and who is bad. I mean, out of all the sub-genres, I'd say there are two or three really good bands that are making an important impact for the metal music scene. I like bands like Nightwish. I like Devil Doll, though they are pretty obscure. I like Blind Guardian and Iced Earth too."

Mentioning the latter two bands, I ask Briordy if he likes the tag "progressive metal band" stuck onto Jag Panzer's work. "I'd prefer not to have it at all", admits Briordy, "but the way things work in the press you pretty much have to, so we don't really fight it." He concludes: "There are a lot bigger bands within this genre and it doesn't hurt us to be lumped in with them, so we aren't complaining."

(article submitted 12/8/2000)

10/19/2001 A Bromley Jag Panzer: Unstoppable Progressive Metal Machine
11/19/1998 A Bromley Jag Panzer: Mastering Their Metal
8/12/2000 A Bromley 8 Jag Panzer - Thane to the Throne
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