When it comes to thrash, chances are classic bands from either the U.S. or Germany come to mind as both countries have produced plenty of killer albums over the past three decades. In recent years the U.S. has gotten more attention, particularly with the surge of young crossover bands, but there are still newer German bands like Panzer Squad that have the same level of scorching riffs to grab listeners’ attention. On their full length Ruins the group takes a no-frills approach, letting the fast-paced riffing and in your face vocals drive the songs without any filler. It may not be pushing the genre in any truly unexpected directions, but when delivered with this level of fury and precision Panzer Squad is still likely to appeal to a wide range of thrash fans.
Ruins kicks things off with a short sound clip and then launches right into full throttle riffing that takes the energy level from zero to one thousand without any hesitation. From there the instrumentals keep this amount of intensity consistent for the entire album, delivering scorching fast paced sections on songs that are only a couple minutes in length and Earth shattering bass lines on some of the longer numbers where the tempo slows down ever so slightly. While old-school thrash is the biggest influence on Panzer Squad they’ve also incorporated some d-beat into their writing, which is best displayed by the destructive cover of The Shitlickers’ “Warsystem” that ends the album. What makes Ruins so appealing is the delicate balance between complete chaos and precision, as the fastest moments channel Kreator and Sodom at their best but the instrumentation is more polished than many of the other thrash bands who play fast and sloppy to the point of falling apart. There are plenty of headbanging and mosh worthy riffs and some killer solos, but admittedly Ruins does fall into some similar songwriting patterns by the end and there are a few tracks that blur together.
Guitarist Petri took over on vocals in 2015 after Panzer Squad’s previous vocalist left the band, and it’s clear from his performance on Ruins that he is the right fit for their material. Coming in at the harsher end of the spectrum, Petri has the type of scream that stands above the instrumentals and doubles the amount of raw intensity that the album can generate. I’ve always been a fan of vocals of this type in thrash rather than the cleaner, shouted ranges that are common in the U.S. variants of the genre, so this was one of the elements of the band’s music that drew me in right from the beginning. Although the screaming stays at around the same pitch for most of the album, there are enough breaks between verses to keep them from becoming repetitive and each word comes through like a razor-sharp attack to the jugular.
Ruins is a strong showing from Panzer Squad, and anyone that’s in the mood for an album that captures the old-school fury and chaotic nature of thrash will want to check this one out. The band does a great job of hitting the speed and intensity level of the classics while showcasing a level of finesse that isn’t always common from relatively newer groups. There is still plenty of room for them to grow and stand out further from their influences, but these guys already are ahead of a good amount of the pack. Ruins is available from Testimony Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg
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