Grand Magus – Sword Songs (Album Review)

GRAND MAGUS– Sword Songs

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GRAND MAGUS Line up:

Janne „JB“ Christoffersson – (Vocals, Guitar)
Mats „Fox“ Skinner – (Bass)
Ludwig – (Drums)

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Refused once said ‘the classics never go out of style’ and while they most definitely are not a metal band, they had a point. The last decade has seen a rise in the number of bands taking on the often unfairly maligned, classic sound of metals past with many of the metal-heads of today choosing to ignore the glorious roots of history. But as we all know, heavy metal will always have a foot in the past.

Arguably one of the leaders of the pack; Grand Magus have always crafted a unique take upon their influences,  but it’s obvious from the first note of Sword Songs – the follow-up to the exceptionally well-received Triumph and Power – that they are going to wear those influences firmly upon their blood stained armour. Their eighth album recalls all the best parts of Dio-era Rainbow and Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and Manowar. But make no mistake, this album does not sound rooted in the past – if anything this album makes a statement that this kind of metal is still firmly needed within the future.

Marching out of the gate with album opener Freja’s Choice, lead vocalist Janne Christoffersso soars high above a hard and meaty riff; as his majestic howl makes a case for claiming the throne left in Ronnie James Dio’s absence. Follow-up song Varangian is a melodic hymn to heavy metal with the gang vocal chorus ‘we are warriors! Defenders of steel!’ recalling the best parts of the beer soaked, chest beating antics of early Manowar.

From there it’s onto the axe-wielding, mead-fuelled brilliance of Forged in Iron – Crowned in Steel which storms into the halls of Valhalla as the guitars and drums join together to craft a weapon of power; turning the song into a furious battle cry. The chorus of ‘Viking metal/death is victory’ launching a volley of arrows into your brain and staying there long after the last note has rung out into the ether.

The highlights of this album are numerous but the two stand-out tracks here are the epic Last One to Fall and the album closer Every Day There’s A Battle to Fight with the former riding out into the darkness upon Ludwig Witt’s monumental drumming. The spellbinding chorus of ‘marching on/you’ll be the last one to fall’ conjuring up the sound of the classic Black Sabbath album Heaven and Hell. While the latter begins with a doom metal riff forged straight out of the fires of hell, galloping along as Christoffersso’s bellows ‘every day there’s a battle to fight/never let yourself surrender to pain’ before decapitating you with a majestic solo and ending in a brief moment of feedback and silence. It’s a great way to end this monumental album.

Grand Magus have retained all of the things that made these Swedish masters so unique and beloved by their fanbase. But in constructing Sword Songs they have not only crafted a love letter to old-school metal, but have created a battle cry for old-school metal’s bright future and if this album is anything to go by. I hope it stays around for a very long time to come.

Go out and buy it now; you won’t regret it.

By Kaydan Howison

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The tracklists are as follows:

01. Freja’s Choice
02. Varangian
03. Forged In Iron – Crowned In Steel
04. Born For Battle (Black Dog Of Brocéliande)
05. Master Of The Land
06. Last One To Fall
07. Frost And Fire
08. Hugr
09. Everyday There’s A Battle To Fight
Bonus Tracks (digipak only)
10. In For The Kill
11. Stormbringer (Deep Purple Cover)

 

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