Grand Magus

Triumph and Power

Written by: EW on 19/01/2014 18:48:08

It should be obvious to anyone with an ear to the ground that classic heavy metal currently sits basking in a period of renaissance, with a multitude of bands doing fine service to the legacy of the genre's 80s heyday and at the forefront of that charge for some years now has been Sweden's Grand Magus. Aside from the trio's serious songwriting chops and that incredible voice of JB's, two factors which alone mark them out from the pack, the band has always felt apart from their contemporaries like Enforcer and RAM through sheer force of will. Mark it down as the beneficiary of their blue-collar honest style or consider it the remnants of their stoner doom past, which is now only realised in small doses across "Triumph and Power", but the Magus are just not part of any 'scene'. On album number 7 the band are found honing their inimitable style rather than offering the revolution of their earlier discography but this makes it no less an enjoyable listen; in a back catalogue over-flowing with contenders for a sterling live set (and I should know, having seen them 11 times back to 2004) we now have a few more which I will be disappointed not to hear on their upcoming European tour.

Top of this list is the title track, which heralds the pomp and circumstance of Manowar at their swaggering prime for a bass-driven ride through the perfect live singalong. There is little I can add to the eulogies that have already been sung for JB's voice - clean, impassioned, masculine are three words that come to mind - and in this song he utilises a deeper delivery in the verses to further emphasise the soaring choruses as they leave thick marks in the subconscious. The team "Hail!" which commences them is hardly the subtlest of nods to the self-proclaimed Kings of Metal but that's fine with me, its better than anything Joey DeMaio & co have come up with in years.

The preceding song, "Fight", is hardly short of a Manowar influence either, notably in the repeating lines commencing with "Fight..." that make the song feel like a declaration of war against a deadly foe (false metal perhaps, if the stylistic influence continues this far), aired by that old hoary warrior himself. Like a good portion of the album it is a fairly straight-forward song in it's structure - chorus follows verse follows solo etc - and limited in scope, but the excellent execution throughout never suggests that Magus are mere genre clones devoid of personality. "The Naked and the Dead", which is essentially a hard rock tune running at double speed, is a fine example as it could have benefitted from being extended beyond the three-minute mark when it suddenly ends, much to my disappointment.

JB is heard to employ a deeper tone at times, with his baritone in "On Hooves of Gold" providing a cautious note to the positive conviction that pervades once the band break sweat after the gentle acoustic opening to that song, but more than this I like the subtle exhaling heard in the title track - a moot point at best it might be but it adds a human touch and displays a sense of urgency about his vocal delivery that sits well with the themes of strength and self-determination.

Far from this being a one-man band like this review makes it sound like, Ludwig Witt on drums and Fox on bass add plenty to the show. The gentle "Ymer" is a beautiful piece deploying Witt's military drum cadences to good effect, which segues wonderfully into the ambient introduction to closer "The Hammer Will Bite". Much more than typical metal band padding, the soothing chords have such a wonderful ring to them it is a minor disappointment when a fist-pumping metal riff blasts through, but needs must I suppose. It is a great closing track using a layered vocal in the chorus to provide serenity to the wise words being eulogised and a fitting end to yet another strong album in the Grand Magus canon, but just where does it sit among the likes of "Iron Will" or "The Hunt"? The over-riding feel is that the power trio have reined in their scope for a more consistent effort this time around but one that hits at every turn with a number of great songs on show. I'd rather a bit more of the variety we've seen in the past but considering "Triumph and Power" can stand alone is just more evidence of Grand Magus' status in the metal world today.

Download: Triumph and Power, The Hammer Will Bite, Fight
For The Fans Of: Manowar, Argus, Slough Feg
Listen: Facebook

Release date: 31.01.2014
Nuclear Blast Records

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