The music of Panzerballett has been designed for functioning as a perfect workout to highly develop, expand and reinforce the connections between your brain and each muscle you use for headbanging. Some people reported head shaking as early side-effects that mostly, at more frequent exposure, resolved into smiling, sometimes even rapturous laughter.
That Panzerballett mastermind Jan Zehrfeld does not shy away from difficult musical experiments was and is a fundamental principle of Panzerballett. After the last album X-Mas Death Jazz, however, one could well ask oneself if and to what extent this could be topped. Not only drummer Sebastian Lanser had set the bar very high with his drum arrangements. So Jan Zehrfeld came up with a new, crazy plan: to bring together the most experienced drummers of their kind on this new Panzerballett album. But that’s not where his own reinvention ends. In addition to his own pieces, this time he had to record custom-made works of highly esteemed composers to the highest perfection.
A whole handful of world-class drummers from the circle of prog, jazz and fusion legends such as Frank Zappa, Devin Townsend, Meshuggah and Allan Holdsworth, will be performing on Planet X. And Jan Zehrfeld succeeds in combining rhythmic lunacy and compositional shamelessness in one “unheard of” album. For what Jan “Z” does together with drummers Marco Minnemann, Virgil Donati from Planet X, Grammy Award winner Morgan Ågren – ennobled by Zappa, Gergo Borlai from Tribal Tech and regional representatives Hannes Grossmann – Blotted Science – and Andy Lind on Planet Z is simply brimming with unheard of.
On Planet Z, Panzerballett once again pushes the boundaries of the possible. Already the complex opener Prime Time by avant-garde composer Nélida Béjar impressively proves that Jan Zehrfeld and his chosen line-up can play with many ideas without losing their own identity.
Who The Jack Is Migger by Martin Mayrhofer, on the other hand, is heard in best Panzerballett style and unites Martin with his former Illegal-Aliens band colleague Marco Minnemann. Saxophonist Sam Greenfield conducts a virtuoso solo conversation with guitarist Joe Doblhofer with shameless ease.
If there was anything like a single in the Panzerballett cosmos, it would be Mind Your Head by composer Leonhard Kuhn. A catchy heavy riff at first perfidiously feigns normality, until it is surrounded by Morgan Ågren’s unusual drumming and Florian Fennes’ saxophone lines in a wonderfully filigree way.
The highlight of the album and definitive sample tip is the big band number No One Is Flying The Plane by composer Jeff Novotny. There is no better way to combine metal and big band jazz: a fat brass section, the piano voice brilliantly transposed by jazz pianist Jan Eschke, impressive big band breaks and an epic, dynamic build-up towards the finale, in which many things turn out differently than expected.
During the Walkürenritt (Ride Of The Valkyries) Richard Wagner’s well-known theme – with Hannes Grossmann on drums – was translated into quintuplets in such a blatant metal death style that Wagner’s reputation as a heavy metalist among the classics could thus be finally cemented.
The only composition without saxophone is the guitar cabinet piece Urchin vs. Octopus, which Jan had originally written to demonstrate various seven and eight-string guitars.
For a piece whose working title was Mathprog, Alle Meine Ändchen also leaves room and time for melodies despite rhythmic pitfalls. It is a matter of homer that composer Andy Lind drums it himself.
With Coconut there is also a piece by Jan’s former guitar student Simon Backes, which Minnemann refines rhythmically brilliant on drums. The crowning finale is SOS, a treatise on what can be derived from the SOS Morse code as rhythmic inspiration.
Like the musical performance, the production and sound of the album are on the highest level. Despite the completely different line-up, sound engineer Victor Bullok succeeds in creating a homogenous sounding album. An astonishing achievement when you consider that all musicians have recorded themselves.
Panzerballet Planet Z is state of the art, which is musically possible in the field of tension between jazz, fusion and heavy metal. Simply a fascinating album, which is a must for fans of prog, jazz rock and metal.
Jan Zehrfeld – guitars (all tracks), bass (except 1, 4)
Virgil Donati (1)
Marco Minnemann (2, 8)
Morgan Ågren (3)
Gergo Borlai (4, 6, 9)
Hannes Grossmann (5)
Andy Lind (7)
Florian Fennes (1, 3, 5, 7)
Sam Greenfield (2, 8)
Georg Gratzer (9)