The New Wave of British Heavy Metal, or its acronym, NWOBHM, was "the" movement that propelled heavy metal into the mainstream spotlight. This umbrella of classification has grown over time, and now includes a large number (hundreds) of bands. Most under the umbrella never made it beyond the "influential" title, remaining mired in "unknown," "underrated," or "under-appreciated" status. Jaguar is one such band.
Having some local success with their 7" singles, Jaguar's first full-length release, Power Games, was an instant classic. Thrashing first cut to thrashing last, the boys from Jaguar were metal thrashing mad. Power Games shouldered its way to the top of the metal board, standing beside Motorhead's Overkill, Judas Priest's British Steel, and Iron Maiden's eponymous debut as "must have" metal LPs. Fierce cuts like "Coldheart," "No Lies," and "Dutch Connection" represented the best of Jaguar--fast fretwork, light-speed tempos, and intelligible lyrics. These tracks also embraced a raw, unfettered sound, one the aforementioned heavyweights also had, but moved away from after reaching a modicum of success. By all that is metal, Jaguar appeared to be next in line, the band that would storm the heavyweight metal throne and lay claim to it as their own.
Alas, Jaguar was not--and never would become--a heavyweight. You've probably never heard of them. Following the release of the 7" single "Axe Crazy" in 1982 (a song highly praised in several fanzines), interviews with band members indicated a desire to play faster and faster on each successive release. While they fulfilled that promise on 1983's Power Games, they didn't on subsequent efforts. As was so often the case during that era, Jaguar's follow-up to Power Games was not nearly as intense, raw, or inspired as the one that had thumb-tacked their name to the metal map as ones to watch. Power Games was Jaguar's one and only collection of speed cuts among a tiny catalog released by the band.
Such a shame. They had talent, energy, and something to say on Power Games. It is a crime Power Games was not embraced as the epic it was, and a further crime Jaguar was not able to maintain the intangible qualities that brought this incredible album to production. Whether it was due to ego, boredom with the style of music they played, or the diverting cast of sycophants that often surround a band showing potential success, Jaguar changed things during the recording of their second album, and fan interest flitted away like a startled bird.
But what made Power Games such a satisfying blitzkrieg? Was it a technical tour de force? Nope. Was it a spacey symphony of all things metal? Nope. Was it diverse? Nope again. True, Power Games occupied a one-dimensional arena--10 cuts laced with lightning-fast and superb axe work, emotional vocals, and neck-snapping drum fills. Was it a mature effort, full of dual-meaning lyrics and effects-laden studio panning? Nope. It lacked glitz; it lacked menace; it lacked layered walls of reverb. Rather, Power Games was merely a slab of straight ahead, in-your-face speed recorded in the raw environment a first release generally affords. Jaguar surely didn't have the intimidating quality other bands like Venom had, but--like Venom's early efforts--there was palpable urgency to their music.
Lack of commercial success notwithstanding, Jaguar's Power Games still has the ability to resurrect that "metal" feeling--to unleash the subverted shackles adult responsibilities lay upon us. Listening to Power Games will allow you to escape frustrating life for a moment. It will unlock the "metal" in you. And you will ask: "Why didn't this band make it?"
You want to hear to the NWOBHM captured at its apex, right? Then go lay down some Jaguar from the amazing Power Games LP. Do it A.S.A.P. You'll experience the urgent tempos and fleet-fingered riffs of a raw young band trying to place themselves in the direct glare of heavy metal's 1983 growing spotlight. It unfortunately was a spotlight that never found Jaguar.