Schmier and Destruction need no introduction, and now on the back of two strong releases (‘Send Them All to Hell‘ and the latest offering ‘Fatal Command‘), nor does Panzer. The first album had very strong reviews and it is a great heavy metal album – no fillers, no ballads, just straight out metal tracks dripping with sincerity. Remembering back, the live shows that supported the album were equally well received as the songs translated from the studio to the stage seamlessly. However, since this initial phase of the band, the line-up has mutated into a twin guitar attack and they have come back with a renewed energy and aggression, which is Fatal Command. The album was officially released on October 6 and I caught up with front man, bass player and heavy metal man extraordinaire, Schmier, to discuss their new work.
Schmier, you have made it very clear that ‘contemporary heavy metal sounds like kindergarten,’ so what does Panzer sound like in your own words?
“I guess we sound like the metal I used to listen to when I was young. I used to listen to Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Jaguar and we are playing tribute to heavy metal. We don’t use pop melodies but the early eighties metal bands melodies and structures. It must be real metal and this is the rule for Panzer. The kindergarten metal bands are those European bands who utilise pop melodies that sound too nice and two one dimensional. Ultimately, Panzer is an old metal melodic sounding band.”
The new album, Fatal Command, while remaining true to the sound of your debut album, Send Them All to Hell, has a new life and energy, do you put this down to the twin guitar attack?
“Yes. You know when we lost Herman as a guitar player and song writer we knew we needed something good. When we wrote this whole album it was for two guitars and therefore it is wider in range with more melodies and harmonies and has twin guitar solos. It is more rounded as an album and I think this is the balance that the two guitars provides to each song.”
We Can Not be Silenced lyrically is a real battle cry for all modern people, in my opinion, but can you talk us through your thoughts behind this song?
“Basically the inspiration of this song was after I saw some documentaries about Edward Snowden. This situation got me thinking and I was diving in to so many things mentally. You know you need to ask yourself how much freedom we pay for, for our safety. And you know ultimately, this is not just happening in America, it is everywhere. It is a hot topic, we all want to be free but we all want to be safe. A lot of people believe heavy metal has nothing to say and that it is just kindergarten topics about unicorns and dragons but heavy metal is political and it needs to be and that is this song.”
Now to talk about the track musically, the guitar melodies are amazing and seem to float above the heavy rhythm section and dancing around the vocal melody, and for me, this seems to be the musical theme of the album, do you see it this way?
“Yeah we used a lot more melody guitars in the choruses especially. If you have the guitar melody in the background from the vocal, this lifts the song and provides balance and an extra dimension. You know even Kreator are doing this well now on their last few albums. You know we can’t do this with Destruction it is a different attack, so it is nice for me and it is working very well. After we wrote the first song it was working well and we kept that recipe. It is important to keep the song ringing in our head and this is working so well for us .In Panzer we are utilising the guitar melody as much as possible.”
We have talked about the new guitar attack, so can you talk us through how both V.O. Pulver, formerly Gurd and Poltergeist, as well as Pontus Norgren, formerly Hammerfall, came to be in the band?
“The philosophy for this band is always to play with friends and to do something different. Pulver was already our live guitarist and you know he is also a great song writer and producer and we live close together. He is in Sweden and me in Germany but we are close. So we met up live and work on songs rather than over the net and I prefer this, it makes for much better writing. With the second guitar we needed a shredder and someone with a sense of melody and Pontus was so keen to do it, despite him being so busy, and he is also a great friend. As friends we let the music do the talking, as we didn’t need to talk things through. It was an easy process to work together as we have the same sense of everything and we know each other so well.”
Where does the inspiration for song writing come from with Panzer, and how is this different to your writing for Destruction?
“I really just think heavy metal and not thrash. Normally I just sit down and focus on the early days and what I like about metal. However, with Destruction, it is more crazy as I twist the beats and use diminished harmonies rather than more straightforward. In Panzer I can do correct harmony flows and so it is very easy to divide. This I struggled with in the beginning but it has gotten easier. I still have to really be in the frame to write differently, I couldn’t write them together as this would stuff me up, so I am either writing solely for one or the other.”
In the press you have stated that playing Panzer’s music ‘evokes a lot of memories’ for you, and that in producing this music you are ‘praising your roots.’ What are your heavy metal roots?
“My earliest roots is Judas Priest and their live album Unleashed in the East. Prior to this album I listened to Priest but it didn’t grab me like this album. When I saw this cover I loved it and when I heard it I was blown away. The music live was more aggressive and the vocals were amazing. We also liked a lot of the underground bands like Angel Witch and Raven and Jaguar. The guitar playing especially on Jaguar had a huge influence on Destruction too. I also love Wildfire and so many of those other bands from the eighties who were heavy but still had that really strong melody. I still love all of this music today.”
I remember the last time we spoke, in promotion of Send Them All to Hell, you stated that Panzer was not just a side project but a band in its own right, so what are the future plans for the band?
“You know we have to find time as we are all busy with so many different things. We will be playing more shows next year definitely. You know, we love these songs and they have been made to play live. We will find some place for Panzer, but like everything we are busy and it will depend on the success of the album also. We will see, but ultimately it is up to the fans and promoters wanting to back us.”
In support of Send Them all to Hell, you played a lot of festivals but will there be more extensive touring this time around, and maybe a trip to Australia?
“To come to Australia would be great, but we are working on bringing Destruction back over there. We are hoping to be back in Australia next year and then I will talk with promoters about Panzer. But you know, playing down there is so far and so we have to work through this to make it all happen. Australia doesn’t have a huge metal base, but they have a very loyal base and we love playing there. So ultimately, I sincerely hope so.”
If I could just touch on Destruction to end our interview, where is the band at currently, and what are your next steps here?
“We are actually releasing a best of album, Thrash Anthems 2. We have chosen this album with the fans and their input. It will have a lot of nice memories on this and it will be raw and rough, so our early fan will love it. We have had great reactions so far and we are so looking forward to this release. We are doing some shows actually next month, a cruise thing which involve a lot of heavy metal and a lot of alcohol, so this will be great! A lot of things are happening with Destruction, it is keeping us all busy.”
It was a privilege to speak with Schmier and it is so positive to see Panzer becoming a real force to be reckoned with on the back of the release of Fatal Command and their debut. I remember buying the first album in 2014, Send Them All to Hell, and being sincerely impressed, but this second release really takes the band to a new level. The band has quite literally reinvigorated their sound and material whilst remaining true to the soul and tone of their initial release. Fatal Command is released through Nuclear Blast on the sixth of October and this album will not disappoint any old school metal head, or any fan of hard hitting melodic European metal, the only losers here are, in the words of Schmier himself, “kindergarten metalheads and those looking for songs about unicorns!”
Interview by Mark Snedden
Fatal Command is Out Now via Nuclear Blast Records. Get a copy here