(Nuclear Blast Records)
Swedish trio Grand Magus take their influences from Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, Rainbow and Uriah Heep and their sound encapsulates elements of blues, hard rock, Heavy Metal and doom to create their unique sound.
The band was originally formed in 1996 by former Cardinal Fang vocalist Janne "JB" Christoffersson and bass player Fox Skinner and the fledgling outfit recorded their first demo in 1998, which led the band to an appearance on a Waterdragon Records compilation, 'Greatest Hits Vol. 1' in 2000 and this was followed by a split 7" LP with fellow countrymen Spiritual Beggars for Southern Lord Records.
Their debut self titled album hit shelves in November 2001, via Rise Above Records with who the band would release another three albums and this album has since achieved cult status within the doom and Heavy Metal genres. The 'Monument' album would follow in 2003 and 'Wolf's Return' came two years later by which time the band had stepped away from a doom metal based sound to a more mainstream Heavy Metal sound whilst still retaining the charm of their groove and stoner roots.
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Early 2006 saw the band embark on a European tour supporting Cathedral, along with Electric Wizard, showing that the band were not only a successful recording act but could also deliver a powerful live show. Their fourth album, 'Iron Will', was released in 2008, which garnered critical acclaim from rock and music press alike. However, the elected to leave Rise Above Records after this release and inked a deal with Roadrunner Records in 2009.
With Roadrunner they released album number five, 'Hammer Of The North' in the Summer of 2010, which became a breakthrough album for them. This release led to Grand Magus supporting on a joint headlining tour featuring Mötorhead and Doro, which tapped into the burgeoning fan base. The band have had several drummers over the course of their career and in April 2012 they recruited long time friend Ludwig "Ludde" Witt, previously of Spiritual Beggars, to fill the recently vacated drum stool.
With Witt on board, the band signed a new deal with Nuclear Blast Records who subsequently released 'The Hunt' in 2012. This was followed up by album number seven, 'Triumph And Power' in early 2014, which continued with the ground work laid by 'The Hunt'.
Album number eight, 'Sword Songs' again sees the band once again in fine form, building on the previous two releases to produce another solid piece of work. 'Varangian' has a long instrumental intro that harks back to the bands earlier doom metal sound before the mid paced track starts properly. There's a good vocal performance from Christoffersson including any easy to remember chorus but it's the guitar riff that's the star here and a well performed guitar solo too.
The follow up track, 'Forged In Forged In Iron - Crowned In Steel' sounds like it could be the album's token ballad with its soft acoustic intro before it kicks up a notch as the drums and guitars blast out with Skinner coming through well. It develops quickly into a fast paced "fist in the air" type number with another easy to remember chorus. Christoffersson gives a astounding vocal performance in the middle section and the track quickly supplanted itself as a firm favourite of mine from very first listen, and I don't see this changing despite repeated listens.
'Master Of The Land' continues the brisk pace with Witt's drums leading the way. It's an inconsistent drum beat but certainly demonstrates his talent whilst Christoffersson gives one of his best vocal performances overall whilst his guitar solo is somewhat understated. 'Frost And Fire' is another faster paced number with an outstanding guitar solo from Christoffersson that's a bit more upbeat than some of the other tracks. His guitar stabs are thrown in at the back of the mix as an extra bit of texture whilst the guitar solo is technical and well played – a future Grand Magus classic track I'm sure.
Towards the end is the instrumental track 'Hugr' with its what sounds like a ticking clock featuring as percussion along with an acoustic guitar. It shows the band can do subtlety and they can do it very well, as the track takes its time. Album closer 'Everyday There's A Battle To Fight' is a slower almost plodding number backed up with a razor sharp guitar riff from Christoffersson whilst the drums from Witt are simple but effective. Christoffersson gives a sincere and softer vocal performance than on some tracks but overall it's a majestic end to a great album.
You can see the official video for 'Varangian' here:
You can see Grand Magus live here:
Sunday 12th June – Download Festival, Donington Park
Friday 17th June – Graspop Metal Meeting, Dessel
Sunday 19th June – Hellfest, Clisson
Thursday 7th July – Rockharz Festival, Ballenstedt
Wednesday 17th August – Summer Breeze, Dinkelsbühl
'Sword Songs' Tracklisting:
Forged In Iron - Crowned In Steel
Born For Battle (Black Dog Of Brocéliande)
Master Of The Land
Last One To Fall
Frost And Fire
Everyday There's A Battle To Fight
Grand Magus are:
Janne "JB" Christoffersson – Vocals/Guitar
Fox Skinner – Bass Guitar/Backing Vocals
Ludwig Witt – Drums