Jag Panzer is one of the most legendary US Metal bands of all time! No doubt about that.
The band's actual roots go back a long time. Not a lot of people know that before they christened themselves Jag Panzer they were also called Stormbringer, Roller, Dragon, then Tyrant and finally Jag Panzer. The original (classic) line up of the band consisted of Mark Briody (guitars), John Tetley (bass), Rick Hilyard (drums) and Harry Conklin (vocals). The final name change came about because there also was a Metal Blade recording artist called Tyrant. Fittingly, Jag Panzer's vinyl debut from 1983 was also christened Tyrants... It was the band's legendary EP released on Azra Records/Iron Works.
The original cover artwork of ?Tyrants? (also used for the High Roller edition) was quite iconic. Mark Briody explains: ?Actually, the artist Keith Austin was a good friend of ours and loved our music and we had a lot of the same interest in music and horror movies and such. Keith had this idea of a character he had been imagining in his head for quite some time, a character that was kind of like Tarna in the ?Heavy Metal? movie but his character?s name was 'Terrorzonia' which was a force to be reckoned with. I remember we all sat around one night thinking of ideas for the EP cover and Keith thought about having 'Terrorzonia' holding a chainsaw and standing on our corpses in a rumbled out city background.?
Putting out an EP as a debut might in retrospect look like an odd move but according to Mark there were reasons for that: ?John and I paid for the complete EP recording prior to signing with Azra, so those songs were ready to go. Dave suggesting putting out a four song EP that would get the Jag Panzer name out there.? To this date, the band hasn't got a clue how many copies of ?Tyrants? changed hands (nor how many different picture disc and shaped editions were done). However, it was a glorious feeling for the musicians to hold their first vinyl record in their hands: ?We were living in California at the time. It was 1983 and when we picked up copies from Dave of the EP it was so overwhelming and we just felt so proud that we had accomplished putting out a record of our own music. It was a dream come true ...?
I can't recall having seen too many reviews of ?Tyrants? back then in the press (especially not in Europe). Mark Briody explains: ?I think Dave of Azra relied on the distributors to help get some word out. As far as reviews are concerned, yes, we did see some reviews here in the States in the underground metal magazines and we got very good reviews. We don't know if Dave was sending review copies of the EP over to Europe but eventually we started seeing reviews as well coming from Europe and they were good as well. The metal scene was already growing in Europe and fans were more aware of the underground metal scene. The US was always a bit behind as far as underground metal goes. There were pockets of metal here and there in the States, but nothing like Europe. The US is so large geographically that it would have been hard for the scene to develop the same way the scene did in the UK.?
With ?Tower Of Darkness?, ?Under The Knife?, ?The Oracle?, ?The Crucifix?, ?Battle Zones?, ?Rock & Roll Suicide?, ?On The Rocks? and ?Sit On My Face? the High Roller edition of ?Tyrants? contains no less than eight bonus tracks! Mark Briody elaborates: ?'Under The Knife', 'Rock And Roll Suicide' and 'On The Rocks' were just based on our influences of listening to Def Leppard's ?High 'n' Dry? and Judas Priest?s ?British Steel? album. They had more of a hard rock sound then our later material. 'The Oracle' and 'The Crucifix' were based on our Black Sabbath influence. 'Battle Zones', honestly, that really just came out of me. 'Sit On My Face' was just us being stupid and silly.?
Promoting ?Tyrants? live was hard for Jag Panzer back in 1983: ?We had just played very small gigs and a lot of people back then were not really caught up yet on what the metal scene was like, we would play our originals and play some Black Sabbath and AC/DC tunes, even some Budgie.?