NUCLEAR BLAST 2014
To be clear, I am a fan of Grand Magus. Ever since I first heard “Monument” ten years ago and saw them supporting Orange Goblin (with Witchcraft as well- what a bill!) at the Bradford Rio in 2004, I have bought every album and looked forward to each one. For me, “The Hunt” was a little too hard rock and somehow not metal enough. To make a comparison, it was Rainbow to Dio-era Sabbath (nothing against Rainbow, as “Rising” is superb). I love the doom of “Monument,” the unabashed Priest worship of “Wolf's Return,” “Iron Will” and the more measured “Hammer of The North.” Their first record- stoner/hard rock- was good stuff too, but not what I came to love about the band. The question regarding “Triumph and Power,” then is: is it more hard rock or more metal?!
Pleasingly, I can tell you that this is a metal tour de force. Yes, there is melody, vocal hooks and a more laid back pace to some tracks, but this is firmly, gloriously, unashamedly heavy metal. Planning on riding into battle? This record is for you. On Hooves of Gold opens proceedings with an almost slow burn feel and a glorious chorus. Steel Versus Steel is as good as the title suggests- very hooky and very reminiscent of the very best metal of the 80's. Mid paced and chugging, this showcases JB's astounding voice and his way with choruses that will stick in your head. The album is off and running! Fight follows and keeps the energy up- anthemic and oh-so-metal in theme in content, if you have missed prime Judas Priest (the metal years; I'm talking 77-84... and 90, here) then get this track on your stereo ASAP. Rolling triplets and superb lead work are very much on the menu.
Dare I mention Manowar here? Well, I have to; the record is shot through with hymns to a more straightforward and harsher time- the idea that crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you and hearing the lamentation of their women is very much a good thing and is expressed neatly throughout. Landing midway between “Battle Hymns” “Hail to England” and the Ross The Boss solo records, this album is a veritable feast for anyone who may feel either that getting into Manowar is a step too far, or wished that Manowar would make records like they used to.
The title track sums up the album perfectly, both in lyrics, title and music. The song lays waste to all before it with an immense chorus, great vocals and the band working together as an unstoppable unit. Fox's distinctive distorted bass tone underpins the guitar and vocal pyrotechnics as Ludwig Witte's very live and old school sounding kit gets a right hammering. Dominator keeps the album as metal as the most metal record you can think of (Painkiller? Powerslave?). This is pure traditional heavy metal with a Scandinavian sensibility behind it. The build up section to the solo and the solo itself is headbanging heaven, by the way.
Arv provides a Scandinavian break of acoustic melancholy, thus making the album even more metal. Holmgang follows with monk like chanting to open, Swedish title, English lyrics and a world-view straight out of the dark ages. The Naked and The Dead follows by upping the pace to foot on the monitor levels, more battle grounds and warriors abound, but certainly NO MERCY, continuing the metal in its purest form.
Ymer allows another brooding acoustic intermission before things go full blown epic for The Hammer Will Bite- following in the rich tradition of Grand Magus album closers. The track is epic and of course full of histrionics, but thankfully the band always stay on the right side of the metal spectrum; Euro power metal this is not- think classic Maiden, not Helloween/Blind Guardian etc. They never resort to Sabaton-style silliness.
Grand Magus were, are, and surely will remain, one of the greatest heavy metal bands in the world. Not thrash/death/retro/black/power/sludge/stoner/doom or even trad... this is heavy metal in its purest form. This is not about partying- there are no Americanisms here. This is about Triumph. This about Power. This album is real metal and looks back to that which once was. It also shows us all what metal could be again. Buy this album, make a start towards bringing back metal in its purest form and make a start towards being the hero you always knew you were.