I don’t think anyone was too surprised by what they heard on Pänzer’s debut, Send Them All to Hell. With a line up comprised of Destruction leader Marcel ‘Schmier’ Schirmer and Accept alumni Herman Frank and Stefan Schwarzmann, the 2014 debut duly delivered hard hitting heavy metal with a handsome helping of thrash. Originality was at a premium, but the solid song writing and musicianship made it a worthy listen. With Frank now replaced by the team of Pontus Norgren (Hammerfall) and V.O. Pulver (Poltergeist, Gurd), Pänzer are set to flatten the masses once again with Fatal Command.
The album pretty much picks up where its predecessor left off, with the lead in riff of “Satan’s Hollow” immediately invoking that old school metal feel with a thunderous, mid tempo anthem. Disciples of Destruction’s devastating thrash attack may be surprised at the amount of melodicism on display, particularly in Schmier’s vocal lines. His distinctive shriek certainly lacks the venom that is imbued upon his main band, but it’s in keeping with the more accessible style of Pänzer and works very well. His voice may not be for everyone, and is probably the only potential stumbling block that might lessen the group’s appeal to the casual metal fan, such is the generally palatable nature of the instrumental work on display. Riffs are mainly quite simple, song structures rudimentary, melodies abundant; the latter seemingly taking a page out of the modern Kreator handbook with guitar licks in endless supply, particularly in the chorus sections. Herman Frank would be a loss to any heavy metal line up, but the duo of Norgen and Pulver are more than up to scratch.
Thrash aficionados hoping to see some of the genre’s vicious riffing trickle on Fatal Command will be found wanting, as this is a largely heavy metal affair once again. There are a handful of more up tempo numbers, but much like Schmier’s vocals, there seems to be a certain degree of restraint employed, with the thrashier material still veering closer to heavy metal than the frontman’s parent genre. “Bleeding Allies” and “Promised Land” are two of the thrashiest numbers, almost by virtue of relying less on melody, but they do move with the sort of swiftness and guile you’d expect from Schmier penned music. “We Can Not Be Silenced” is also brisk in nature, but Schmier’s cadence in combination with the guitar textures in the chorus again see it fall into heavy territory, whilst “Afflicted”’s riffing structure owes more to Hammerfall than teutonic metal (the Norgren factor likely rearing its head).
The bulk of the remainder of Fatal Command is made up of solid, deliberately paced heavy metal. “Scorn and Hate” is the pick of the bunch, with some wonderful dual harmonies and lead work littered throughout the track, as well as a nod to Judas Priest classic “Breaking the Law” in the interlude. “The Decline” carries itself differently with Schwarzmann’s shuffling beat leading the line, the only time the percussive element of the band has any dominance, whilst the mildly forgettable “Skullbreaker”’s unsettling aura makes up for its plodding pace.
Much like Send Them All to Hell before it, Fatal Command will strike a chord with fans of straight up heavy metal, as well as those who like their metal lined with plenty of melodic flourishes. There’s little that you won’t find elsewhere, but it’s an enjoyable 53 minute ride that’s well worth a few spins.
Highlights: “Satan’s Hollow”, “We Can Not Be Silenced”, “Scorn and Hate”
Pänzer can be found online here: