Monday, 1 April 2019

ALBUM REVIEW: Grand Magus, "Wolf God"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 19/04/2019
Label: Nuclear Blast 

This is a strong and dark record made by veterans of the form and sees Grand Magus further cementing their reputation as front runners in the niche of traditional heavy metal.

“Wolf God” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Gold and Glory  
2. Wolf God 
3. A Hall Clad in Gold 
4. Brother of the Storm 
5. Dawn of Fire 
6. Spear Thrower 
7. To Live and Die in Solitude 
8. Glory to the Brave 
9. He Sent Them All to Hel 
10. Untamed 

The Review:

Grand Magus are now in the enviable position of being a very well established metal band- this is their ninth album. As noted in previous reviews, their sound has gone from stoner/rock to doom to heavy metal, detoured into hard rock and then gone back to the type of metal that Dio, Priest, Manowar et. al. have made millions from. That Grand Magus are still a somewhat underground band is a travesty. If this was 1984, they'd be headlining Long Beach Arena by now.

As it stands, though, Grand Magus may not be financially rewarded, but they are rewarded with the reverence held in reserve by fans for the very best in the genre. As far as their discography goes, there are no howlers; the debut is an oddity but a fine album and “The Hunt” was just too restrained for my liking- but still with great songs.

Coming off the back of two great records, expectations are high for “Wolf God”. “Triumph and Power” and “Sword Songs” contained some classic metal songs and put the band into a very enviable bracket indeed- that of an act with multiple 4*+ albums. 

The question here is: can Grand Magus sustain their run of form and/or outdo themselves eighteen years into their career? Read on to find out... 

The orchestral opener, “Gold and Glory”, sets the tone in grandiose terms. From there, it is straight into the title track. First impressions? Huge drum sound, mid-paced riffage and bombastic vocals courtesy of JB. Make no mistake, this is weighty stuff and the toms sound as if they are being played by Thor himself.

“A Hall Clad In Gold” picks up the pace and delivers a pounding snare to back each beat of the bar through the verses. Good hooks through the bridge and then an unexpected switch to bass and drums back to the verse. Once again, the band excel at cutting the fat from the songs and delivering catchy verses, strong riffs and memorable structures- think Judas Priest at their best. “Brother of the Storm” is a mid-paced rager; great hooks- before “Dawn of Fire” delivers a more epic approach. Grand Magus have done this kind of 6:8 time feel before and they have done it well (“Triumph and Power” springs to mind) and this is another example of the band nailing a groove to the (longship) mast.

At the halfway point, then, this is an album that has more in common with “Triumph and Power” than “Sword Songs”. It is a little more restrained, a little less bombastic, a little slower and a fair bit darker than either of the two most recent albums. All of that said, when “Spear Thrower” kicks off then the album takes a turn. The tempo goes up, the histrionics are back and the hooks are stellar. The band thus start the second half of the album in the best way possible. The solo is fantastic too. A killer track, front to back.

“To Live and Die in Solitude” is similarly hard rocking- triplet time feel, a muscular riff and the band firing on all cylinders. This is rousing stuff and fits in nicely with the “Wolf's Return”/”Iron Will” era. It's worth noting at this point that Grand Magus may well have paved the way for bands such as Visigoth to rise to prominence. The two bands may be from different continents, but they share the same musical DNA;strong hooks, energetic performances and epic feel. “Glory to the Brave” starts moody and features a rim shot (seldom heard in metal) prior to the guitars bursting in. The band then goes for quiet/loud dynamics and tried and true heroic themes. 

“He Sent Them All to Hel” has a much more hard rock feel to the rhythms and pacing; If AC/DC ever decided to pursue a Viking themed album, then I guess it might sound a little like this. It's a fine and hard rocking track and easily one of the catchiest on the album. The closing “Untamed” tells its tale of rage with conviction and tempo shifts. Strong riffing is the order of the day.

And there we have it. Ten tracks, a mostly fairly dark feel and some real stand outs. Overall, then, this is another good entry into Grand Magus' body of work but does not quite scale the heights of “Sword Songs”. Of course, it is mandatory listening for fans of the band and may well make new converts as well. This is a strong and dark record made by veterans of the form and sees Grand Magus further cementing their reputation as front runners in the niche of traditional heavy metal.

“Wolf God” is available HERE

Band info: facebook