Let me begin by admitting right away that The Fourth Judgement by Jag Panzer was a grower. It didn't grab my attention as quickly as Ample Destruction, which is simply a flawless record in every way. After all, it is really tough to compare anything to this album. For a while, it was the only Jag Panzer release I cared about because it had everything I needed. It truly stood as a testament of what American Metal truly stood for, and a quintessential album for the genre as a whole. When you're used to listening to this record and this record only, it makes it hard to take down the nostalgia googles and look at the rest of the band's discography objectively and learn to appreciate its value.
Thankfully, I have changed my views considerably since then, and I hope this article can help you do the same. Because nowadays, I can easily call The Fourth Judgement one of Jag Panzer's best records after numerous listens. I'll be the first to say that it is not flawless, as the pacing during the first three songs is not a strong as later in the album but it certainly deserves to be called a classic album. It is darker, much grittier and edgier than Ample Destruction, offering a more mature and modernized take on the band's classic sound. It is also albums like these and Cauldron Born's Ascend From The Cauldron that kept metal alive in the late 90s, which was a truly hellish time in retrospect, and we should be thankful for it.
One thing I need to mention more importantly, is that The Fourth Judgement was the first Jag Panzer record in years to feature original vocalist Harry "Tyrant" Conklin who also sung on the band's debut "Ample Destruction". Harry had gone into different ventures following his departure from Jag Panzer, playing with progressive power metal giants Titan Force and the underrated Satan's Host. His return to Jag Panzer was greatly welcomed within the scene as Conklin is definitely one of the finest and most charismatic vocalists out there. This alone is worth the price of admission as his return made this album all the more symbolic.
I must say this however : What REALLY sold this album for me was also the return of original Lead Guitarist Joey Tafolla. Simply put, The Fourth Judgement features some of the most tasteful, if not THE most jaw-dropping lead guitar work I have ever heard on a metal album. Seriously, listening to this record will feel you very inadequate as a guitarist. On The Fourth Judgement, Joey demonstrates that he has clearly surpassed his past mentors and have taken his unique sound to another level. Filling the songs with bombastic legato runs to die for and flawless whammy bar control as an effective way to complement and elevate the already well-crafted compositions to another level, Joey had succeeded in putting himself at the top of the shred food chain amongst the all-time greats. Of course, Joey's work is the cherry on the top of the sunday, for we must also credit the work of Mark Briody whom surpassed himself in the songwriting department to give us the best Jag Panzer album ever made aside from Ample Destruction. Sit back, enjoy and take notes, fellow shredders. This record shall one day be recognized as one of the bests in the genre and a true shred bible. Ample Destruction was for some time, the only Jag Panzer release I was into. Huge mistake. DO NOT OVERLOOK The Fourth Judgement like I did for so many years. It truly is worth your time.
Written by Phil Tougas // The Vault
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