Buy it! Will that do as a review? No? Oh well; time to expand upon that simple statement into a review of the latest CD offering of the metal power trio that is Grand Magus. For year on year they have been one of the hardest working, most approachable, and most down to earth metal bands in Europe who have never compromised towards the trendy and commercial, instead just working bloody hard to get their frills free but excellent metal to all who are willing to hear.
I have a feeling that the first time I saw or heard Grand Magus would have been about 2002 when they were supporting Orange Goblin in London, and the next time again when Orange Goblin recorded their Healing Through Fire DVD at the late lamented Astoria. Originally they were far more doom driven, self titled début and equally dark follow up ‘Monument’ being in danger of pegging the band out as a solid support, non headlining doom act. How well have the years proven that concept as wrong! Year on year, the band, focused around the core of JB on vocals and guitar, with Fox supporting so ably on bass, now with Firebird and Spiritual Beggars alumni Ludwig Witt on drums, have grown and grown. They continue to support bigger and bigger acts, get higher and higher on the bill of such prestigious festivals such as Hammerfest and Bloodstock, and with UK headline slots under their belt, they have really stepped up to the plate with their latest opus. Time and again the band have proven their ability to write and play anthemic metal tracks that manage to be both massively catchy, but also trend free, a skill that is distilled and injected into each track on the new album.
‘On Hooves of Gold’, a truly Viking metal track that opens with a sound that could only enhance The Lord of The Rings. the special effects of a horse galloping through a storm seamlessly merging into one of the band’s doomier concrete hard riffs, every note demanding fists to be pumped and heads to be banged, JB’s vocals being both uncompromising yet hook laden; the choruses demanding every festival crowd to join in; and the arrangement of guitar bass and drums seeming to be both massive, yet from personal experience, easily reproduced live by an act of this skill and quality.
Firing up next is ‘Steel Versus Steel’, a track that sounds like simple metal, whilst at the same time telling the complex tale of Michael Moorcock’s signature anti-hero Elric, one of fantasy literature’s greatest creations. As a single to draw in a casual listener, it is near perfect, showcasing the clear yet non sell out vocals of JB along with the solid bass, drums, and guitar of the whole gestalt. ‘Fight’ follows up, a simple yet near perfectly composed metal track, all racing guitars and bass, managing to distil pretty much all that is metal into a 4 minute track, the same uncompromising sensibility threading through and merging seamlessly into the title track ‘Triumph and Power’. Every track follows perfectly from the predecessor, even the funereal dirge of the instrumental ‘Arv’.
Some I know will only award high marks to bands who are constantly innovating and producing new sounds; with Grand Magus, the opposite is true. Nothing of what they play would leave them open to criticism of copying or plagiarism, but rather they execute unashamed heavy metal with a precision and passion that is unmatched. When I listen to this album I just keep hearing over and over a friend’s quote that he remembers when “metal was metal and everything else was shit.” forget restrictive definitions, this is metal, and it is not shit!