Album review: GRAND MAGUS Triumph And Power
Heavy metal music has a spirit all its own. Many bands reach for this feeling, but only some bleed it from every note they play. Grand Magus has always flown the denim and leather flag, though their first few albums displayed a much more doom-laden sound. With each release the songwriting duo of JB Christofferson and Fox Skinner has drifted closer to the realm of power-infused traditional heavy metal of the sort Manowar once perfected long ago. Prior albums had moments of utter perfection on them, but at times they plodded along a little too much, ticking all the right boxes but failing to achieve the needed climax. But with their razor sharp delivery and JB's powerful voice, Grand Magus were always a band you felt were getting closer to releasing a masterpiece. On Triumph and Power, out Feb. 3rd in the U.S.A. on Nuclear Blast Records, the trio has never been closer.
As far as album titles go, Triumph and Power at first glance might seem derivative, or lacking imagination, until you hit play and hear the "Hooves of Gold" flashing by in the midst of a storm. Grand Magus are the embodiment of musical honesty and the true northern spirit which is such an intrinsic part of who they are as people. Gimmicks and false images they neither use or need. Riffs as massive as mountains belt from the speakers, JB's powerful voice lacking any of the cheesy histrionics that might accompany such balls to the wall heavy metal anthems. "Steel Versus Steel" comes off like a true triumph of fists-in-the-air metal glory. Its nothing you haven't heard before in metal, but its done so convincingly you can't help but get your blood up for it.
The songs vary in theme, with some like "The Naked and the Dead" being inspired by the Norman Mailer book of the same name, an ode to war and courage. Nordic folktales abound, the trio's origins never far from their hearts. "Arv", which means 'heritage' in Swedish, is a creaky, acoustic passage penned by Fox Skinner. The bird song and traditional drum sound lend it a Wardruna-like atmosphere.
Grand Magus are not afraid to give tribute to the spirit of Nature so alive in their homeland. Amid the album's tales of bloodshed, Thor, and lamenting the loss of our values as a society, such sentiments are right at home. "Ymer", another epic instrumental, tells the tale of the world-giant, while the excellent, understated use of piano, flutes, and acoustic guitar evoke the true Nordic spirit.
Listening to the track reminds us just how old these legends are. We are brought close to the redolent majesty of Swedish forest and field, upon which the rugged mosaic of her people's history has shaped itself for centuries. Blending seamlessly into "The Hammer Will Bite", Grand Magus does better with the slower paced rocker on this one than in years past. The song has true gravitas.
The guitar solos on Triumph and Power are the best the band has ever made. "Dominator" and "The Hammer Will Bite" feature some of the most rocking leads this side of Valhalla. Between these solos, choruses of true steel will wrap themselves around your head like a cold war helm, insulating you from the false metal and vapid values peddled by most bands calling themselves metal these days.
The concepts are simple; the subject matter nothing we haven't seen before. But the songwriting acumen and stunning delivery make Triumph and Power exactly that; a triumph of power. Grand Magus haven't just laid down the gauntlet of true metal, they've just forged the damn thing.