Reviews

Grand Magus - Triumph and Power

grandmagus

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.



Richard Maw


   

Bruce Dickinson - Accident of birth

CMC International Records ‎1997

Wait, didn’t we just have a review for “Accident of birth”? A pretty damn good one, written by a certain former staffer/demon (former in that he’s no longer on the staff, I mean, he’s still as demonic as ever)? Oh well, it got sucked into a black hole or something, so now it needs another one, so here it is. Anyway, if you read ex-staffer Baalzamon’s old review of this, or have been following Maiden/Dickinson’s careers, you’ll already be aware of what I’m about to say, but it still needs sayin’ anyway; after leaving Maiden in ’93, a band that would have a very disappointing 90’s, Bruce Bruce returned to a solo career he had laid the seeds for while still in Maiden, and released the middling “Balls to Picasso” (wouldn’t that mean 4-D testicles?) and “Skunkworks” (these fucken names…) in ’94 & ’96, respectively.

Fortunately, by about the time Dickinson started picking decent album names again, his music started to take an upward turn for the better, and while I don’t find “Accident” quite as consistent as that other GD’er did, and feel that it does fall short of the heights the great “The chemical wedding”, its follow-up, reached, it’s still a nice little comeback for Brucey. I guess getting his old fellow Maiden-er Adrian Smith back helped, and the fact that Smith and Roy Z put in some absolutely killer soloing here definitely helped.

But, as for the individual songs, the softer tracks here are pretty wonderful, and much more consistent than the heavier stuff; the haunting, bittersweet melodies of “Taking the queen”, the despair-ridden, faith-questioning ballad “Man of sorrows”, and the low-key, one-two punch at the end with “Omega”/“Arc of space” provide for a very unexpected, memorable way to cap off the record. Kudos to whoever did such a good job with the acoustic guitar, plus Bruce’s vocals sound as good as expected, which only gives the more intimate moments here that more impact.

On the other hand, the heavier cuts here are generally disappointing, with overly-blunt riffage that lacks finesse; what made “The chemical wedding” such a success was its unique, elegant blend of heaviness & melody, and while “Accident” doesn’t lack for the former, it definitely could’ve used some more of the latter, at least in the more aggressive cuts. “Road to hell” does have an awesome drive to it, I appreciate the effort put into “Darkside of Aquarius” to try to make it feel epic, and most of it is still all decent, but still, the majority of the heavier material here just isn’t as interesting as it coulda, shoulda been.

However, “Accident of birth” was still the first real hint that Bruce’s solo career wasn’t just going to remain a weak after-note to his work with Maiden in the 80’s, it laid some of the groundwork for an incredible follow-up, and has enough satisfying material on its own for me to say still I like it, even though I do prefer his next two releases in the end. I’ll probably move on to “The chemical wedding” now, solo-Bruce’s finest moment, and just ignore the other ones. Hey, that other guy never got around to reviewing the first three either (even though he hinted he would), so I guess that means Baalz thought “balls to ‘Balls to Picasso’”…? Okay, that was kind of a dumb joke. At any rate, go listen to “Accident of birth” and enjoy the good shit on it, and don’t worry too much about the rest.

Smalley

Band
Bruce Dickinson: vocals
Adrian Smith: guitars
Roy Z: guitars
Eddie Casillas: bass
David Ingraham: drums

Tracklist
01. Freak
02. Toltec 7 Arrival
03. Starchildren
04. Taking The Queen
05. Darkside Of Aquarius
06. Road To Hell
07. Man of Sorrows
08. Accident Of Birth
09. The Magician
10. Welcome To The Pit
11. Omega
12. Arc Of Space


   

BLEEDING GODS - SHEPHERD OF SOULS

PUNISHMENT 18 RECORDS 2015

Release: 23-02-2015
Origin:    Netherlands
Length:    41:25

One god, no good! No god, all good! More gods are only leading to bleeding souls of mankind.
Bleeding Gods from the Netherlands are here to decapitate any religious aspect with their strongly believed death metal. So either seek shelter at their antireligious herd or end up around 30 centimetres shorter and brainless…
Bleeding Gods is a new preacher within the Dutch death metal scene, but can rely on a strong historical background. With members, who also have contributed to the growing popularity of Dutch death metal through institutes like Sinister, Houwitser and Supreme Pain and in retrospect Ceremony, Bleeding Gods can preach some quality written (hi)stories based upon the deeds of their shepherds.
This past is also the basic for their new and first complete chapter “Shepherd Of Souls”. Strongly Sinister based death metal is twisted with a thrash orientated direction. The ten Commandments on this record are blessed with a solid technical background, a furious aggressive faith and a clear and impressive persuasion done at the holy “Soundlodge” cathedral. Praise the mighty parson Jörg Uken.
The more you worship this Bleeding Gods movement, the more strength you draw from the several single aspects and become a believer. Predecessor Mark Huisman convicts his words with a strongly The Grotesquery and Bone Gnawer creed, while both drum and guitars choirs avow the sermon with  Seance confusing riffs and an Immortalis hammering conviction. Take cover and you may find even more godly preservations.
Interesting start of a young and promising new Dutch Death metal herd! Praise the Gods.

BLOODCORPSE


   

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