The Tygers of Pan Tang may be mostly known for being the springboard for legendary guitarist John Sykes but they are also highly respected for being one of the NWOBHM pioneers alongside bands like Saxon, Samson, and Iron Maiden. The band formed way back in 1978 in Whitley Bay, England by guitarist Rob Weir (only remaining original member), bass player Richard ”Rocky” Laws, lead vocalist Jess Cox and drummer Brian Dick. The name was derived from the fictional archipelago Pan Tang featured in writer Michael Moorecocks Fantasy series. In this series, the wizards keep tigers as pets.
The Tygers of Pan Tang classic era is mainly considered the four albums they recorded and released in the period of 1980-1983. The first recordings were made as 7” singles for local label NEAT Records in the late 1970´s. This caught the attention of major label MCA Records and in 1980 the classic debut album Wildcat saw the light of day. The album was an instant success and peaked at no 18 on the UK album chart. John Sykes (ex-Streetfighter) was added as a second guitarist just before Jess Cox had a serious fallout with the rest of the band. He was replaced by former Persian Risk shouter John Deverill. This classic line-up would go on and release the legendary albums Spellbound and Crazy Nights, both in 1981. After the release of Crazy Nights John Sykes was recruited by Thin Lizzy just shortly before the band were to head out on tour. He was quickly replaced by ex-Penetration guitarist Fred Purser who had to learn the songs in just two days before embarking on the planned tour.
This line-up recorded the last of the four classic albums called The Cage (1982). The band scored a hit with the cover ”Love potion #9”. This created a major conflict with the label who wanted the band to record more covers which the band didn´t. The fallout with MCA eventually led to the demise of the band.
In 1985 John Deverill and Brian Dick reformed the band with other members changing the musical direction in a much more melodic and commercial direction. It was not very successful, however, yet spawning two albums; The Wreck-age (1985) and Burning in the Shade (1987). In the meantime, Rob Weir and Jess Cox formed the spin-off band Tyger Tyger but no official releases came from them. The Tygers of Pan Tang broke up again in 1987 due to lack of success and was put to a long sleep. In 2000 Rob Weir reformed the band as the sole original member and since the release of the 2001 comeback album, Mystical, Craig Ellis has been behind the drumkit. In 2004 the somewhat awful album Noises from the Cathouse emerged. But things would soon be back on track with a new singer, the Italian native Jacopo Meille and he provided the continuity that the band really needed. The albums Animal Instinct (2008) and especially Ambush (2012) saw the Tygers of Pan Tang return to form and prove they had a lot more to give. The lineup had now stabilized on Jacopo, Rob, Craig with Gav Gray on bass and Mickey Crystal was the last man in as a second lead guitarist in 2013.
The new Tygers of Pan Tang album is being released by Danish label Mighty Music. What hits your right away when spinning this CD is that the classic riffing and the driving hard rock/metal is there. The band seems to build on the newly found energy and freshness of Ambush. The self-titled effort starts with the intense riff-monster ”Only the Brave”. It is almost impossible not to play air guitar to this song! A driving beat carries the song forward. No doubt this is classic Tygers of Pan Tang territory revisited. This is also one of my favorite tracks off the album. Meille shouts ”Living on the edge, between black and white” with total conviction and dedication. This is followed by another riff laden midtempo hard rocker called ”Dust”, a little heavier and grittier than the previous track. It almost has a sort of 70´s feel to it and it features a cool guitar solo from Weir/Crystal. The 70´s feel takes over completely in the albums big let down – track no 3. “Glad Rags” is a sort of bluesy song with almost Gospel-like choirs and far away from the band´s comfort zone. This song does not impress me at all with a chorus being constantly repeated. I press the skip button and go on to the next track. Up next is the power ballad ”Reason Why”. Once again the Tygers of Pan Tang are out of their comfort zone but this is an excellent track that has you singing along to the contagious hook line. Meille´s vocals really shine on this one!
A quick turn around and we are in for the fastest track on the album called ”Never Give In”. It is a fast paced track in the vein of their early work but with a twist. A driving riff and a nice hook make it a pleasant acquaintance. Up next is a ”Do it Again” with a riff that to me resembles the riff in the classic Kingdom Come song ”Do You Like It” from 1988. The rest of the song is not similar but it is that riff…. The rest of the song is a midtempo rocker with a nice chorus. It is followed by another of the weaker songs on the album ”I´ve Got the Music in Me” which again has the terrible gospel vibes coming back. I again skip forward to ”Praying for a Miracle” and here you have my definite favorite of the whole album. Melodic yet heavy and with a hook that will stay in your head for a long time. The whistling from Meille is so cool. I think this might be one of my favorite cuts from all of the band´s albums. I really wish we can get this track in a live setting!
After that highlight, we are back on the heavy rocker side with ”Blood Red Sky”. It has a really nice stick in the middle of the song and a cool, bluesy riff to build the choruses around. Up next we have another one of my favorite tracks on this album with the beautiful and short acoustic piece ”Angel in Disguise”. An all out acoustic song is not something you usually get on a Tygers of Pan Tang album but this little piece is a superb addition to the overall impression and adds variation to the mix. The last track on the album ”The Devil you Know” starts with a driving bass line from Gav Gray. Soon the heavy chugging guitars enter and at the same time my head start to bang. This is a great rocking heavy track with a really catchy chorus. So we end the album on a high note.
With the Ambush album, the Tygers of Pan Tang proved they were relevant in this decade with a fresh batch of heavy rocking songs. Still, they stay true to their past and in Jacopo Meille they have found an excellent singer that can also provide stability in the position. Since the last album they´ve put out a CD with re-recorded classics but in my mind the Tygers of Pan Tang do not need to resort to that kind of recycling. The new songs are heavy, they are catchy and they are relevant in this day and age.
With two or three mishaps this is still a solid and hard rocking album. In ”Praying for a Miracle” they´ve written one of their best songs yet and there are a couple of more highlights like opener ”Only the Brave”, the beautiful ”Angel in Disguise”, ”Blood Red Sky” and closer ”The Devil you Know”. The album has been produced by the band themselves and it worked out fine. I would award this album 8.5/10 Geeks and it is great to see the band not resorting to play old classics. On the contrary, they prove they have lots more to give!