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Panzerballet - X-Mas Death Jazz Award winner

X-Mas Death Jazz
by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 18 November 2017, 8:18 AM

Munich, Germany’s quintet PANZERBALLET is a “Progressive Funky Math Jazz” Metal band, formed in 2004. The have previously release five albums, and “X-Mas Death Jazz” is a seasonal celebration of many of the Christmas tunes most of us are familiar with. I have to admit that I was no prepared for what would follow. When it comes to opening song “White Christmas,” the vocals follow the original song for the most part, but the instruments underneath are an amalgam of various meters and chord progressions that are a highly technical display of Jazzy Metal that are warm and inviting at times, and sterile and dark at others, but purposely disconnected from the vocals. “Kling, Glockchen” means “Ring, Little Bell” in English, and is a German Christmas carol from the 19th century. Saxophone leads the sound for the most part, but sexy lead guitar passages abound as well, showcasing some very talented axe work.

“Little Drummer Boy” is an instrumental that Djents, heavy with accents at times and free flowing legato passages at other times. Again, it’s a very loose and personal interpretation of the original song that definitely strays off the path. Extended instrumental passages are where you can really hear the band members’ synergy with each other. I’m not sure what “Es kommt Bald” means, but it is not a familiar “Christmas carol sound. Some of the vocals are angry; lashing out at you, and then soothing passages of bass and guitar follow. One thing is for sure, the musicianship here is quite impressive. “Last Christmas” is led by pacifying saxophone and clean guitar notes that are playful. Their sense of timing and rhythmic changes are unorthodox, as are the chord progressions. I feel like you need a high musical aptitude to really connect with the music, or at the very least, and open mind.

“Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer (Vocals)” is another provocative take on the original. It’s a much darker sound, exploring perhaps the negative message of the story where Santa admonishes him for his “deformity.” “For Whom the Jingle Bells Toll” has that familiar jovial melody of the song “Jingle Bells,” which has always been a staple for celebration of the season. I lost track of the various meters used in presenting the melody; it’s fun to listen to but I would not advise trying to dissect the rhythms into discernable time passages. In many ways however this instrumental might be my favorite song on the album. “Let it Snow (Vocals)” is similar to the first track in how the vocal melody follows the original fairly well, while the instruments are mixing together in a flurry of skilled elements that are all over the space and time continuum. It is also very evident that these guys have a lot of fun and joy to spread as a band and love doing what they do.

“White Christmas (Instrumental)” is a Progressive mash of technical wizardry combined with extensions of the original melodies that are almost like squared or cubed numbers that replicate faster than you can comprehend. Maybe because they are country-mates, but some of their work here reminds of another very special German band called YSMA. The instrumental version of “Rudolph” is perhaps even more curious and eccentric than the version with vocals. Like the vocal version, it has a darkness and is shrouded in mystery in terms of the twists and turns along the way. The path seems circuitous, but if you keep your musical wits about you, you can follow a linear direction. “Let it Snow (Instrumental)” uses lead guitar and sax on the main melody, while the other instruments dance intertwined in a cacophony that is somehow accessible at the same time. You really need to follow the bass lines of Hieko Jung as well, because they are fascinating.

Without a doubt, this is the most intriguing album I have heard this year. On musicianship and application of music theory alone, it is an undeniable winner. I’m not sure you will ever hear such personal translations of holiday music pulsing with so much of the bands charisma and temperament. The common thread that is woven throughout the album is how well they work as a unit, as well as the fun you can hear that they put into these compositions. Will the eclectic work appeal to a wide audience is really the question here, but it did to me, and if you are looking for something out of the ordinary, here it is.

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 10
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. White Christmas (Vocals)
2. Kling, Glockchen
3. Little Drummer Boy
4. Es kommt Bald (Vocals)
5. Last Christmas
6. Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer (Vocals)
7. For whom the Jingle Bells Toll
8. Let it Snow (Vocals)
9. White Christmas (Instrumental)
10. Rudolph, The Red Nosed Reindeer (Instrumental)
11. Es kommt Bald (Instrumental)
12. Let it Snow (Instrumental)
Jan Zehrfeld - Guitar
Joe Doblhofer - Guitar
Alexander von Hagke - Sax
Heiko Jung - Bass
Sebastian Lanser – Drums
Record Label: Gentle Art of Music


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