Schoolmates Harry Conklin, John Tetley, Mark Briody and Rick Hilyard under the tyrant monicker formed Jag Panzer in 1981 in Colorado Springs. At first playing covers the band soon recorded its first demo, Tower Of Darkness. This session would be followed by another in a better studio where the band recorded the songs Battle Zones and The Crucifix. The band played many local shows and soon obtained interest from both Azra and Metal Blade Records. Simultaneously, the band had to change names in order to avoid confusion with the other tyrants seeking to dominate the metal scene. Having chosen a new name inspired by a tank the band duly signed with Azra Records of California. The band entered Startsong Studio in order to record a debut EP. Following the recording the band relocated to Los Angeles to be nearer to the metal scene. It was here that the band auditioned and recruited future guitar phenomenon, Joey Taffola. The Tyrants EP was released in 1983, but the band moved back to Colorado a refugee from poverty and the glam scene. The band soon recorded Ample Destruction at Startsong Studio. Canada’s Banzai Records issued this album with a new cover. Azra also issued a limited run of the album with the License To Kill title. Denver drummer Reynold Carlson soon replaced drummer Rick Hilyard. The new line-up began the process of demoing new material in search of a new deal. With the search not going well Conklin would soon join Riot. Next to depart were Carlson and Tafolla who would work on the guitarist’s solo outing. A guitarist called Christian Lesegue and a drummer called Rikard Stjernquist were soon drafted. For a while, a Bob Parduba fronted the band. With no contract in the offing the new singer and guitarist soon left. The band had recorded an album called Chain Of Command that did not have a home. The band would go on hiatus at this point. It was not until the ‘90s that the band resurfaced and signed to the German label/store Rising Sun. The band’s new sound was thrashier and influenced by new singer Daniel Conca and the metal bands of the day. A single called Jeffrey preceded the CD which itself was adorned with a red case. Reviews were generally poor, but America’s Pavement Music would license the product nonetheless. Conca would be let go and would go on to work for Pit Magazine as an advertising salesman before dying soon thereafter. All was not lost however. Heavy metal was undergoing resurgence and the band managed to secure a new deal with Century Media. The band had also brought graphics work in-house and built itself a studio making things easier. Most importantly, Conkin ‘The Tyrant’ was back and the band had a demo called The Return it was shopping to the labels. The band’s first album for the new label was called The Fourth Judgement and like its follow-up featured older material. It even featured guitarist Taffola. Many shows followed on both sides of the Atlantic. Thane To The Throne was based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth and, once again, produced by Jim Morris. Jag Panzer issued a compilation of older material called Decade Of The Nail-Spiked Bat in 2003. The band had sought permission from former guitarist Taffola for the right to the music and having failed had opted to rerecord the material. Century Media would also re-issue the bootlegged Chain Of Command with a new cover. Chris Broderick, once again, was tapped to fill in for Nevermore in 2006. Nevermore’s guitarist Smyth was unavailable due to a medical emergency. Chris Broderick joined Megadeth as replacement for Glen Drover in January of 2008. That band returned guitarist Chris Lasegue to his old position. Jag Panzer, in the meanwhile, was trying to record a live album, but was limited by a frugal Century Media budget. 2009 brought news that the band has picked The Scourge Of Light as the title for its next album. The band was playing a couple of European festivals simultaneous to its search for a new label.
Jag Panzer was back with a new label and album in 2011. Scourge Of The Light was tentatively due in February through SPV. Early guitarist Christian Lasegue was back with the band. After losing guitarist Christian Lasegue to school Jag Panzer threw in the towel in July 2011. High Roller Records would release a 4-LP vinyl box set by Jag Panzer, entitled Historical Battles - The Early Years, on April 19th,2013. It was limited to 500 copies and featured much of the band’s early material. The band was scheduled for Keep It True festival, on April 25-26th, 2014.
JAG PANZER - THE FOURTH JUDGEMENT - CENTURY MEDIA
Aptly titled The Fourth Judgement, Colorado's Jag Panzer latest release is a reunion of sorts for the band which seemed to gather more momentum in absentia than when actually releasing albums in the mid-'80s. The band's history is rather complicated and extends into the BC era. Suffice to say that original vocalist Conklin is back after releasing three albums with Titan Force and guitar virtuoso Taffola is back from a band called Gravity and an acclaimed solo career. Not recalling the band's original albums I am unable to draw direct comparisons, but compared to the band's 1994 record on Rising Sun where band and new vocalist came under fire for too much Pantera likeness this record is pure heavy metal. The vocalist Conklin closely sounds like Eric Adams of Manowar, while Taffola proves he is a match for the likes of Marty Friedman and Malmsteen and to the benefit of the album channels his fret board runs into the context of the songs. The album, overall, is not revolutionary then; yet fans of '80s metal like Manowar, Metal Church, Dio et al will most likely want this. - Ali "The Metallian"
JAG PANZER - THE AGE OF MASTERY - CENTURY MEDIA
The Colorado heavy metallers need little introduction as they have been at it since the mid-'80s. Little has changed here as the band, now minus axe man Joey Taffola, deliver the goods old and new via songs like Iron Eagle, Twilight Years and the belting Viper. The guitar work is also just fine. One cannot be certain whether these songs are all new or old, but the powerful voice of singer The Tyrant and the in-your-face production work of Jim Morris stack the odds in the band's favour. The band is now at renewed crossroads. With the advent of classic metal again by bands like Hammerfall, Jag Panzer can pick up the pieces and push its career forward or pick a more commercial path and sacrifice the future. In the meanwhile, Age Of Mastery is a good testimony to the band's potential. - Ali "The Metallian"
JAG PANZER - THANE TO THE THRONE - CENTURY MEDIA
American metallers Jag Panzer are back with TTTT which recounts Shakespeare's Macbeth. Both label and the band have made a gutsy move here, releasing an album with so many intricacies, both in its concept and market potential. For as bands like King Diamond and Virgin Steele have already discovered, such complex concepts are best left to theatre. As in most musical concepts, Panzer's music has become enslaved to the theme of Macbeth. Such a limitation means the band sound both forced and unnatural at times, with many phrasings and riffs directly clashing with the flow of the music. A pity, seeing that the band circa 2000 is musically and vocally at its best ever. - Ali "The Metallian"
JAG PANZER - MECHANIZED WARFARE - CENTURY MEDIA
Yeah Jag Panzer's heavy metal has its banging moments and I like this CD's cover art, but Harry Conklin's voice has always been an acquired taste. The band's musical abilities have always been hit and miss and I am simply getting sick of all the trendy elements every little silly band uses believing it to be the launch of the dawn of a new era of originality. As if the use of a classical four piece (cheap - Moscow String Quartet) on the last album wasn't cliche enough, this one features keyboard fillers in the background, a violin and the usual quart of Iron Maiden riffs especially on track three interestingly named Unworthy. Bands forget how they achieve their growth and status without the use of K&F, orchestras, banjos and other miscellaneous non-metal elements. A lesson only today's elite seem to have internalized. - Ali "The Metallian"
JAG PANZER - DECADE OF THE NAIL-SPIKED BAT - CENTURY MEDIA
Here is an uncommon release. Decade Of The Nail-spiked Bat is a two-CD set featuring songs from the US metal band's pre-Century Media era. Since the band was unable to get permission from its original guitarist Joey Tafolla to re-release the material it opted instead to redo everything from scratch and here is the outcome.
On the one hand, this compilation is a god-send for the fans of the band. An old, but unpublished cover artwork, explanations about and trivia on the songs, etc. form a compelling package of vintage Jag Panzer material.
On the other hand, Jag Panzer has never been one of the better metal bands. While fans remain grateful for the band's steadfastness to its style, JP's take on all things Maiden/Priest/Accept never quite approached the originals' excellence. Furthermore, classic material should be entrusted to the underground. Diehard fans will find the material and the band itself will never match the originals' atmosphere or passion and will, invariably, end up hurting its own legacy. Certainly, and this is no secret, there is money to be had by re-releasing older material and placing them into a proper royalty regime, but is it worth the above-described price? - Ali "The Metallian"
JAG PANZER - CASTING THE STONES - CENTURY MEDIA
Jag Panzer has always been an also-ran, a band that wants to occupy the same territory as Tad Morose or Nevermore and never comes close. It is not for lack of trying either. It's just that all the production, promotion and fan boy-ism in the world is not going to transform bad songs and bad singing into good songs and good singing. Casting The Stones is an improved product and the band's best work. Still, it is a case of two steps forward and one step backwards.
In the past the panzers have suffered from ugly vocals, indifferent music and a monotonous approach and the new album's opener, entitled Feast Or Famine, seems to repeat the formula. Irksome vocals, second-rate music and even background synthesizers get in the way of a good guitar solo, a crunchy rhythm guitar and competent drumming. All is not lost though, for beginning with the next track The Mission (1941) things do pick up. This song has upper tempo, nice riffing and a couple of welcome and interesting guitar parts. Things seem to finally be coming together in order to resemble something respectable. Jag Panzer featuring innovative melodies, nice harmonies and lots of axe work, who knew it is possible? A couple of weaker songs and the standard indifferent vocals follow, but there is some redemption to be had in a song like Tempest with its great solo and thrashing power, the urgency of The Harkening which approaches Nevermore in heaviness and the quirky Zeppelin-influenced melody of Cold.
Casting The Stones is more melodic, more harmonic and more layered, but the resulting better songs are hampered by the presence of the silly keyboards and a couple of standard Jag Panzer performances. The band has nonetheless put forth its best effort ever here. - Ali "The Metallian"
It is normally appropriate to offer some background information or introduce a band before writing a story on it. Even better is to remark on the band’s abilities and/or attitude and stand on different topics. The preceding is not applicable to the Colorado quintet Jag Panzer, comprised of Daniel J. Conca (vocals), Mark Briody and Chris Kostka (both guitars), John Tetley (bass) and drummer Rikard Stjernquist. For having contacted Daniel in order to find out more about the band and Dissident Alliance, Jag Panzer’s first album in eight years, I noted that the man has a lot to say and says it without holding back - a most refreshing attitude. So I let Daniel fill you in. - Ali “The Metallian”
DANIEL: in the early ‘80s John originally started (a band called) Tyrants, which contacted Azra Records. Azra said they better find a new name; between Mark, John and this guy from Azra they found Jag Panzer, which is the name of a series of German tanks. Azra was a smaller record company in east LA where you had to go down an alley and dodge the bullets (laughs) to find the record company. They wrote and recorded Ample Destruction in 1985 on Azra. At the time the guys actually had a choice between Azra and Metal Blade, which sucks because Azra never developed into anything. Shortly after Joey Taffola (noted guitarist who went on to a struggling career) decided to leave the band. They were talking to some labels like A&M Records. Everyone wanted Jag Panzer to do Ample Destruction II and that is what Chain Of Command (released in 1986) is. But Mark and John said ‘fuck this.’ This isn’t what we want. This is what every goddamn sell-out motherfucker who wants to make a dime off this band is expecting us to do. This is bullshit. After a while they hooked up with this singer from Germany who didn’t work out. At the time I’d come back from LA to Colorado, and I’d heard that a band here was looking for a singer.
METALLIAN: Were you in any bands in LA?
DANIEL: I didn’t record anything. I was in Teacher’s Pett, Lizzie Grey and Raising Kane. Actually with Raising Kane we signed a subsidiary deal with Metal Blade, but it didn’t work out. So back in the mid-west I listened to Ample Destruction, and I thought this is just too dated - too ‘80s-ish.’ Then again when the guys listened to my demo tape, they thought ‘this guy’s into Bullet Boys and that kinda shit.’ The first meeting we had John and I looked at each other and said this won’t work. What happened is they gave me some material like The Clown and I went back that night and worked and re-wrote some of it and came back the next day.
METALLIAN: The very next day?
DANIEL: Yeah. I came back and said let’s give it another try. We did it and looked at it each other and it was like ‘wow.’ They threw me a T-shirt and said we’d love to have you become part of the band. I was like ‘this can’t be the same band.’ They had gotten so much heavier. We actually did the Carcass and Life Of Agony show this last week.
METALLIAN: How did you guys hook up with Rising Sun (the label which grew out of the major mail-order service in Germany and currently works with Metal Church, Riot and Dead Head among others)?
DANIEL: What happened is we released a demo and we distributed thirty copies of it. We got a lot of literature from all over Europe – from Italy to Moscow – yet in this country the people we approached said ‘it’s too fucking heavy.’ If it’s not some kind of a Seattle grunge band or a fly-by-night pussy band that sucks dick for a living no one wants to talk to you. We were talking to Wolfgang at GUN Records (the new home of Forbidden) then out of the blue Rising Sun asked our fan club in Germany for a tape. They said ‘let’s sign a deal and we will do everything for you.’ They just cut through the bullshit. Once people see the packaging for our new CD they’ll know what I mean.
Now we have submitted material to Pavement, Megaforce, Roadrunner, et cetra in the US. So we will see for America. But what concerns me is that you have to go to Europe. Only when they say it’s cool will America take it. It’s terrible. In Europe they don’t care for the status quo or what junior says.
METALLIAN: Tell me about your lyrics.
DANIEL: Jeffrey - Behind The gate is about Jeffrey Dahmer. When he was younger he would stand on the roadside fantasizing about walking up to them and fucking them. But we are not trying to capitalize on that. Spirit Suicide is about the Indian plight.
METALLIAN: Is anyone in the band Indian?
DANIEL: Yeah, me. My wife is from the Pine Ridge Indian reservation and my family is from Southern Colorado. You know people talk about the third world and the situation there is horrible, horrible, horrible. But in our own backyard Indian babies are going hungry.
METALLIAN: What does the future hold for Jag Panzer?
DANIEL: Well, we are going to tour either with Metal Church and Riot or we may do it with Forbidden. We need a tour as Jag Panzer has been out of circulation for a while. You know in the one and a half years that we’ve gotten together we’ve done so much. We are writing new songs which we will record next spring. They will be more towards the ‘Jeffrey’ sound. Finally I would like to tell everyone, Canadians, Europeans, etc. thank-you. People, please don’t take advantage of any position you are in. People who buy our album and come to our shows: thank-you from everyone in Jag Panzer. The band is going to be around for years to come. Get used to it.
This interview initially appeared in Pit Magazine No. 12.