Grand Magus - Triumph and Power - (8/10)
Published on January 29, 2014
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.
Now, I’m not sure if they’re entirely worried, but ever since the band’s self-titled 2001 debut, Swedish doom-turned-heavy metal kings Grand Magus have had a kingdom-sized amount of hope cast upon their furry brows. While there had been flashes of folk and epic nuance in previous albums, it wasn’t until 2008’s break-through Iron Will did the band ultimately move away from their bluesy Black Sabbath roots. Two years later and they released what this reviewer believes to be the pinnacle of their career thus far in Hammer of the North, a brilliant stretch of soaring heavy metal that witnessed the band at its most natural and battle-ready.
Then came 2012’s The Hunt, and what was once so novel and courageous suddenly seemed a retread, run-of-the-mill. But this is what happens when you’re dealing with a band that stole so many hearts and clubbed so many skulls so quickly – unfair, lofty expectation. The Hunt, in all truth, was not a poor album. In fact, all considering, it was above-average, but again, when you expect Duvel and you end up with Heineken, you’re gonna get a little frustrated.
It’s now 2014, and these Stockholm bad-asses are back in the saddle with Triumph and Power, their seventh LP, and an album that continues Grand Magus’ epic heavy metal trend of clashing swords and majestic warriors, and although it still doesn’t eclipse Iron Will or Hammer of the North, this one has just enough power to cite it as a triumph.
Over the course of what is now assuredly over my 20th spin, what Triumph and Power has that The Hunt didn’t are, well, songs that are not only catchy, but that also wield a considerable amount of might behind the riffs and their ensuing anthems – both of which are bountiful. The album starts with “On Hooves of Gold,” a worthy intro song that opens with a rolling of thunder and the galloping of steeds and soon transitions into a galloping of riffs and JB Christoffersson’s thundering voice. It’s straight-forward, heavy, and it’s one of the better songs on the album. “Steel Versus Steel” is up next and although it falls a bit too much on the safe side of things, it’s home to another infectious refrain; something that Grand Magus never fail to achieve. Thankfully, the blood comes back into the fray with “Fight,” a track that’s much more in keeping with the spirit of battle then its predecessor, namely due to JB’s forceful singing and the track’s gung-ho, take-no-prisoners tempo.
In this regard, the band never play with extremes, but rather work at an even pace throughout; sometimes marching into battle, other times riding horseback at a steady clip. The album has a genuine feel of toughness, of the band doing their all to transport the listener into all of the legendary tales and, for the most part, they succeed admirably. Even when a track like “Dominator” is hard to take seriously with its corn-fed chorus and backing vocals, the band engineer ways to make it more compelling than it should be; case in point the riffing in “Dominator” is aggressive and JB’s choice to mix narrative perspectives is a wise and effective decision.
There are few, if any, surprises to be found on Triumph and Power, which, depending on your – word of the day – expectations, may be a bit disappointing. But fear not. Instead, what you will find is a band plying their trade with as much assurance as you’re apt to find. The album-titled track is a feast of granite-heavy riffs and munificent head-banging, and the closer, “The Hammer Will Bite,” is an imposing seven minutes of story-telling, both tender and deadly, that serves as a quintessential Triumph and Power track. Although the greatest days of the great Grand Magus may very well be in the past, I for one would not defect to any other kingdom. As always, an enjoyable jaunt through the grounds of battle.