HardReviews 2
by Martin Popoff

Van Halen - The Best Of Both Worlds

Well, one wonders if we'll ever get a follow-up to the mess (of a title) called Van Halen Best Of Volume I. Obviously, this is the follow-up, containing many of the same songs, yet significantly not the two new DLR tracks of that record, or blustery non-LP Hagar track 'Humans Being'. But of course, this one includes three new songs with Hagar, and man, I dig 'em. Hated 'It' About Time' on radio, but now that I can let this mess sink in with repeated lessons, I love its daffy and spontaneous Who-like chaos. 'Up For Breakfast' is even better, pulsating it home with power trio pyro. Finally 'Learning To See' is heavy then light, weirdly spiritual, beach zen with tequila as it were. It's fine, not great, but pretty inspiring come dark chorus time. And I love the production on all of these. They sizzle, boom, groove, Sam sounds great, and man, Van Halen is back, and importantly, now in a classic rock zone where you don't care either how heavy or how composed the songs are. Listening to and appreciating the abundance of chemistry is enough. Then there's 33 hits you're being sold again, all jumbled by era and year, no review necessary, except I'd have to call it a little lite, a little too Hagar-y and... dammit, I want the rare b-sides and early demos. Final note: the packaging is a gorgeous, embossed, spot-varnished, fold-out digi, classy with enough documentation. Now back to them three songs thar over and over again, he says surrendering compulsively to the whole idea of Van Halen for approximately the fifth stretch of time and effort in 26 years of patronage. Rating? Bah... consider my 7.5 an "unrated."
Rating 7.5

Jag Panzer - Casting The Stones
(Century Media)

Colorado's Jag Panzer have always used their long, complicated, inscrutably metal history to positive effect, and now regularly touring and with a stable line-up for five albums now, the specific vision is honed even sharper. First off, Jag Panzer is in a class of one, only Nevermore and Eidolon serving as some sort of comparison but still not quite. Casting The Stones possesses a harrowing underground metalness that is somehow, in comparison to the recent stuff, more melodic and triumphant but darker at once, the twin riffing of Broderick and Briody working rhythmically, with spaces, o'er which Broderick solos artfully. Up top, Harry Conklin unites the package with long, soaring notes while the bruising yet hi-fidelity rhythm section of John Tetley and Rikard Stjernquist is uncommonly busy for a traditional metal act. Galloping, trotting, pummeling... Casting The Stones is dirty, level-busting, nearly chaotic, fully fire-breathing traditional metal that manages to let loose with a live feel despite meticulous crafting, which is I guess where the band gets its timeless, non-sterile, "not power metal but power metal" uniqueness.
Rating 8

Hard Reviews Page 3