It's fifteen years since Grand Magus were formed in Sweden and in that time the trio have produced seven full length albums – each better than the previous one and each with its own individual stamp on it.
Their latest album, 'Triumph And Power', is probably the least Heavy Metal (or should that actually read 'most accessible') of all their albums, but that doesn't mean they've compromised on what a Grand Magus album should sound like.
'Hooves Of Gold' starts everything off with its quiet intro before the simple guitar line comes in backed with some accompanying harmony vocals, but as the volume increases and the track builds, you're a full ninety seconds in before it really gets going.
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There's a good solid guitar riff from frontman Janne 'JB' Christoffersson who has a great vocal sound but doesn't really stretch his voice until the extended notes in the chorus. The simple chorus itself is memorable and the addition of backing vocals gives the track a bit more body. Christofferssons' guitar solo towards the end, is short and punctuated by a couple of vocal lines but overall the song is a classic example of the Grand Magus sound.
'Steel Verses Steel' has a simple guitar intro which is augmented by an equally simple drum pattern proving that things don't have to be complicated to be good. The band's musicianship is evident though as they launch into mid-tempo number which has the chugging guitar riff very much to the forefront in the mix. There's another catchy chorus here too, and that's sure to have those experiencing the band live chanting along whilst the incessant rhythm of the main guitar riff will keep the head bangers in the crowd happy too.
'Triumph And Will' has a slower tempo still but straightaway you can understand why the band chose this to be the title track for the album. Christoffersson puts in one of his best vocal performances here – lyrically articulate and full of power and emotion with perhaps just a hint of menace in his voice when required.
Again, the solid guitar riff drives the song as drummer Ludwig Witt and bass player Fox Skinner serve as the engine room keeping the rhythm track solid and dependable. Having said that, the main guitar riff never really deviates either (save for the guitar solo), showing that Christofferssons' skills as a guitarist are also second to none along with his vocal talents.
One of the faster tracks on the album is 'Dominator' but even then, there's no real sense of urgency about the song. Witt is really the back bone here and proves what a solid drummer he is as he pounds away on the drum fills while the rest of the band take a more leisurely approach to their playing. The guitar solo from Christoffersson is amongst the best on the album, although it is relatively short. Having said that, this song along with the title track, are two of the standout tracks on the album for me.
'Arv' (which, I'm told, is Swedish for heritage or inheritance) – is by far the slowest and the shortest song on the album. Coming in at just under two minutes, the track features an acoustic guitar and simple (minimal) drums which keep the track going at an extremely slow but steady pace.
The lack of vocals means you get to enjoy some precision playing and as the track comes to an end, I certainly wouldn't have minded if it had continued for a bit longer, and it would still be an enjoyable experience. Initially I thought this would be an intro to the next track, 'Holmgang', but on listening to the album I realised it's a standalone track - and a very good one at that.
Likewise 'Ymer' (though I'm not exactly sure what the English translation is) is another track that deviates from the usual heavy elements of the Grand Magus sound. The tuneful acoustic guitars blend together while drummer plays a military style drum beat. Just as the track reaches full flow, it slows right down before segueing into the final track, 'The Hammer Will Bite'.
'The Hammer Will Bite' itself is by far and away the longest track on the album and I'm not hesitating at all when I describe the song as epic because, to be honest, that's exactly what it is. There's another fairly simple melody which is augmented by another sparse guitar sound before, seemingly out of nowhere, the electric guitar bursts through with the main riff.
The measured guitar solo from Christoffersson is also a tour de force here as the band gives everything they've got one last time before the strains of an acoustic guitar bring the song to a close in an extended fade (running at over a minute long) that never outstays its welcome.
To me, the last two tracks are the real deal here and go together so well that it's difficult to see them as individual tracks. I certainly don't think the band could have closed the album with any of the other tracks. Like I said earlier – epic.
Looking at this album as a whole, though, it's far and away the finest the band have produced so far in their career. Let's hope they continue on this trajectory because if they do, it won't be long until they are headlining major European festivals, which is something they so richly deserve.
You can see the lyric video for the track 'Triumph And Power' here:
'Triumph And Power' Track list:
On Hooves Of Gold
Steel Versus Steel
Triumph And Power
The Naked And The Dead
The Hammer Will Bite
Grand Magus are:
Janne 'JB' Christoffersson – Vocals/Lead Guitar
Fox Skinner – Bass Guitar
Ludwig "Ludde" Witt – Drums
Grand Magus Online:
Official Website: http://www.grandmagus.com
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