Saturday, January 17, 2009

Licensed to Critique: The Fine Art of Ample Destruction

Though I should,at some point,type out a lengthy and in depth review for this pinnacle of U.S. power metal, I'll stick with my original plan for now..that being a study of the original 1984 Ironworks/Azra cover art(and cover art only). I have never been too interested in Jag Panzer's other works though the 1983 EP is a pretty solid effort. You could say it's a taste of things to come. Their resurgence never piqued my interest but I'm glad to see them writing,recording and performing. On this particularly freezing January day I'm shut tight in my bedroom looking at an 844 x 588 jpeg of the original vinyl cover art. It's a photograph and unfortunately it wasn't taken by me. No, I'm not a heavy metal LP collector though I almost always wish I could be. I've not the funds to splurge on private pressings and original NWOBHM 7"'s. I do buy vinyl but nothing that comes close to the price tag of an "Ample Destruction" original. I'm more of a "just picked up Control & Resistance or Death Or Glory" music listener. Nothing too hard to get your hands on..easy to find for around $30.00. I also like buying new/current metal vinyl releases but current metal bands that floor me in amazement are few and far between. So anyways, I'm looking at this photograph and as usual I'm a bit irked by how blurry it is but I remind myself that this is the biggest jpeg I've ever found and there isn't any wallpaper sized version to study from either. A smaller,but clearer picture of the cover is open on a tab in Firefox..I'll be inspecting this one a bit,alternating between the two. I'm not going to spend time on the pic disc version with the tank photograph on it because there isn't much to it.
When "Ample Destruction" was bootlegged throughout the 80's and reissued in 1990, this incredible cover art was never re-used. The 1985 Banzai Records bootleg presented buyers with an ugly uninspired cover,a multi-armed robot emitting weird fluids in a vague mountainous valley(?) It's very hard to understand exactly what this fucking is and I cannot find a hi-quality jpeg anywhere. It probably goes without saying that this LP/cassette art was thrown together in a rush in order to get the album out on the street. Barricade Records put out their bootleg version in 1989 and opted for a less forgettable,though equally random,cover. We've got three or four hookers in front of a bar or diner..liquor on the table,the woman standing up has a tit sticking out of her leather trench coat, and she looks rather vexed. Maybe it's the fact that she's on the cover of a crummy bootleg and there is what looks like a lighting storm approaching in the distance. Who knows..maybe she's mad at somebody for laughing at her cheap looking butterfly necklace? A biker is making his/or her way into the scene from the right and there's a digital clock in the background (up above the police hat worn by a lustful Latino vixen). Nothing about this transmits the fury of "Generally Hostile"..the burning energy of "Licensed to Kill." It completely fails at registering any type of bond with the music on the album. Maybe if you were about 13 when you sat down and took a good gander at this cover art you'd find yourself "Harder Than Steel" but that's about the only link I can find here. It's at least executed with good technique. I wonder if the art was lifted from something else?

As the year 1990 rolls around, Metalcore Records officially reissues the album and what do they do with the cover art? Why they add a THIRD horrible and embarrassing cover to the collection of course! The most lazily drawn pile of bodies is the first thing that I notice(man..these look awful!). I don't think there would be much of an argument over the quality of this drawing. It's not as if all other heavy metal cover art coming out at the time was lacking in skill. Certainly a better artist could have been acquired. The bodies of all these bald headed male corpses are bloodstained and sitting in a heap upon a rock or queer shadow of some sort. It looks like it could be a puddle..but it's a black puddle so that gives us a clue that it's not a puddle of their blood. Atop this miserably drawn mess sits a thin but muscular elf,brooding,staring at his blade,..dripping with fresh man blood. He's got a terrible hairdo but I am not going to pick on him for his individual style..rather he just looks a bit awkward overall..sitting there. In white Times New Roman font,"Ample Destruction" hovers near the bottom of the cover. The general hues are a pink/red..kind of warm and not at all striking or eye catching. This could be the worst cover in my opinion. The "but it's just a crummy bootleg!" reply is no excuse this time around. We've traveled through realms of terrible art and just now come to the end of the list. The very last alternate cover reissue is a Metal Blade reissue from 1991. Twelve shields,bearing relatively simple designs,sit 4 to a row on a grayish background. The band name above,the title below..really a bit of a fresh air compared to the last few covers. I can't say that I like it.If you were to look at it quickly it easily looks like some type of car ad. Again, this is not the least bit worthy of a package in which to house such an electrifying collection of perfectly laid out metal songs. The only upper might be how royal and dignified the cover appears..kind of falls into line with "The Reign Of The Tyrants" or the power metal ballad,"The Crucifix."

So let's get back to that original album art work now that we've covered all of the alternate reissue covers. Most likely your eyes will at first be drawn to the head of the apocalyptic riders as she's front and center. Her jet black steed seems to be aware that he's posing for your viewing pleasure as he's turned to the side and looks to be flying upwards. At this angle you can get an almost full body view of the rider..a horned,scantily clad cross between a gypsy and a geisha. Unlike her three cohorts, her face bears an expression of rage or maybe she's reveling in feeling evil? Her scimitar sword in one hand,the other looking as if it's about to cast a spell or hurl a fireball. Being a woman on an 80's metal album cover, it's no surprise that she's top heavy(ample distractions?), but she's a far cry from the big breasted temptresses and helpless slave women that adorn many records. She's got a belt of baby sized skulls which probably rattle against one another as she rides through the skies on her demonic horse. I've never once looked at this album art and felt as if she's NOT the leader of the seems obvious that she is. Behind her to the left there is a far less cool robotic knight type of character. His head/face have always bothered me a bit,looks kind of crooked. His horse appears to be fairly normal compared to the woman's and there isn't much in the way of detail going on with him..kind of a hellish automaton or something. Thankfully there's a skeleton rider galloping behind him through the air, and now that I think of it you can almost imagine both of these horses galloping in time to the drums in "Symphony Of Terror." Then again,the reaper's horse looks quite sickly and bony..kind of like a skeleton himself but while retaining the form of a full horse? Maybe it's safer to say that this particular horse just floats along,a assembly of bones and hunks of flesh animated by way of sorcery. The skeleton rider looks tremendously bad ass, with a horny helmet and scythe in hand. Obviously we can draw some parallels to the fabled four horsemen of the apocalypse here but there are a lot of inconsistencies. This menacing reaper is obviously 'death' and all the way to the right of the cover is a man on a black horse holding a balance who is undoubtedly modeled after the third horseman,famine. There is nothing particularly awesome about this character..he is holding a balance after all(and wearing a stovepipe hat) but I think he adds variety to the group..looking somewhat like a regular human being. As I noted before, there are a good amount of inconsistencies when comparing this gang to the four horsemen. Mostly on behalf of the lady who isn't riding a white horse,doesn't have a bow in sight,nor a quiver of arrows and she's certainly not wearing a crown. I guess the robotic black knight could be the rider of "war" upon his red horse waving a sword? Calling his horse red might be a bit of a stretch. It's safe to say that the artist knew about the four horsemen and used it as inspiration but they didn't seem to sacrifice the overall presentation for historical accuracy. I'm sure that you who have heard "Ample Destruction" can agree that this is the most befitting cover out of all that I've reviewed. Everything about it as a whole perfectly illustrates the music on the album. The passionate fury,the glory,the praise of battle and bravado..I could go on and on here. And look at the terrain and the sky! Doesn't look anything but American to these a scorching hot desert now becoming slightly chilly as the sun sets. There are some shapes around that could be ruins or craggy buttes..Utah,Arizona,Mojave desert? Who knows really? An artists name(too small for me to be able to read of course)sits in the bottom right hand corner. It begins with an "A" but I've never been able to get any farther than that. All the colors of the sunset,the creamsicle oranges,baby blues and smoky grays, they compliment the dark riders and the mesa over which they fly but even better do these warm sunset colors compliment the border of the cover. A black border with red lettering, almost always a good color combination. The band name isn't too fancy but neither is it treated without any looks very classic. In what I'd call a "Terminator font" on the bottom of the album is "Ample Destruction." What a fucking clear but wonderfully worded album title. These guys really knew what they were doing here.

One can only wonder why Jag Panzer don't uphold the glory of the olden days. Try as you might you will most likely NEVER come across any old pictures of the band, definitely not by way of their website or Myspace. There is nary a quality scan of this album art and I think they oughta get on it as this is surely something to be proud of. Maybe something to type on another time. As it stands today, this album art is among my top ten favorite metal album covers of all fact.......

*original art ONLY thus cancelling out (favorite)Burzum and Cirith Ungol covers
1.Iron Maiden-Powerslave:Derek Riggs
2.Judas Priest-Screaming For Vengeance:Doug Johnson
3.Fates Warning-Awaken The Guardian:Third Image
4.Jag Panzer-Ample Destruction:????
5.Emperor-In the Nightside Eclipse:"Necrolord"Kristian Wåhlin
6.Saint Vitus-Mournful Cries:Lionel Baker
7.Ved Buens Ende-Written In Waters(original):Lise Myhre
8.Black Hole-Land Of Mystery:????
9.Black Sabbath-self titled:Marcus Keef
10.Voivod-Killing Technology:Michel "Away" Langevin


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