‘Power Games’ is the debut studio album for Jaguar, and it was originally released in March of 1983 by Neat Records. Even though the album was recorded almost a year earlier in early 1982, the label’s financial problems delayed the printing for several months. “Power Games” is a 100% classic album (but definitely overlooked) with a variety of speed metal and N.W.O.B.H.M. themes. Jaguar is one of the originators of Speed/Thrash metal, but when Pepperd and Merell decided that the successor of ‘Power Games’ will be a U2 meets Big Country –like album things got really bad for the band. Entitled ‘This Time’, the follower was so soft and melodic that it actually destroyed their reputation as the majority of their fans did not follow them to this totally different musical direction, which also led to commercial failure. Musically speaking Jaguar had a unique style and a personal sound, but you can (as always) find similarities with other great bands of the genre, so probably Saxon, Diamond Head or even Blitzkrieg can be named. The lyrical content is not only about war. You can find lyrics that are dealing about heavy metal attitude, a tribute to the Dutch fan base from the band’s early days, girls, or the lack of money and life matters in general or even about protesting against fox hunting (?). To be honest the 80’s lyrics are totally nostalgic from a rather too different era that sounds so naïve in our days. ‘Power Games’ is an absolutely interesting release that succeeded the famous ‘Axe Crazy’ 7” single that for an unknown reason wasn’t on the LP track list and had created a kind of anticipation about this album among the N.W.O.B.H.M. circles and fans back in the days (a single that actually delivered us one of the first speed metal songs in music history along the song ‘Faster Than the Speed of Light’ from the mighty Raven and the album ‘Wiped Out’ also issued via Neat in 1982). The production isn’t perfect (or clean) but it has a street feeling and the sound is raw and aggressive (same for the gritty vocals), while the guitar riffs are brilliant even though simple, while the album has plenty of great solos too. As Priest and Maiden were at the moment huge names, the dual guitars were dominating the metal universe and probably Jaguar that had only one guitarist may sounded a little weak back then and definitely with less harmonies. But these guys were delivering excellent proto Speed Metal anthems that were influenced by classic rock bands like UFO or Scorpions (‘Master Game’). The song ‘Master Game’ is a war ballad that shows the range of the band members’ talent of writing really good songs without necessarily being based in speed. Stand out tracks are the opener “Dutch Connection” with its hard rocker brilliant riff, the dirty ‘Out Of Luck’, ‘Rawdeal’ and my personal favorite ‘Ain’t No Fantasy’ where Cox’s killer base lines match so perfectly with Pepperd’s rough guitar. The re-issue by Dissonance Productions, as well as the 1998 release, has three more songs : the legendary ‘Axe Crazy’, ‘War Machine’ that originally appeared on the 1980’s ‘6 Tracks Demo’ and was on the B’ side of ‘Axe Crazy’ 7” (the song also appears on the High Roller Records release ‘Opening the Enclosure’ compilation that features many hidden unreleased material from their 1980-1982 demo era) and ‘Dirty Tricks’ that originally appeared on two compilations: ‘60 Minute Plus’ (Neat Records, 1982) and on ‘All Hell Let Loose’ (Neat, 1983) .
Genre: N.W.O.B.H.M./ Speed Heavy Metal
Label: Dissonance Productions (original Neat Records)
Year: 1983 (2017)