Nuclear Blast Records (2012)
Always a favorite at this webzine, Sweden’s traditional meets doom minded metal trio Grand Magus clearly received an upswing in terms of recognition, tours and sales increases with 2010’s fifth album “Hammer Of The North”. So it seems quite fortuitous that JB, Fox and new drummer Ludwig swiftly shift into another record deal from Roadrunner to Nuclear Blast in the hopes of continuing their consistent track record with “The Hunt”.
The opening song “Starlight Slaughter” contains some cleaner guitar strains and a super catchy chorus from JB that veers the band into early American 80’s metal, specifically reminding me of “Wild Child” from W.A.S.P. By the second song “Sword Of The Ocean” you should have no problem fervently head banging to the mid-tempo galloping riff and rock solid rhythms straight out of a marriage of Black Sabbath down tuned heaviness and the Priest traditional framework. As the nine songs travel through your mind and body, nostalgia lives as JB’s guitar soloing comes from a place where notes and their sequences are thought out and not merely self-serving exercises for ego’s sake- remember the days of Iommi, Blackmore, Schenker, Moore and such? Take a gander to his emotional note bending and preciseness on tracks like “Storm King” and the Viking nature title cut tale to understand that there’s more to great metal guitar playing then shredding or technical prowess.
The trio also subscribe to as natural of a sound as one can achieve in the digital studio age- the directness reflects their musical philosophy. It’s no wonder their appeal goes beyond their sub-genre into people who may prefer more abrasive or underground metal output. Even when they take a left field chance with acoustic instrumentation and violin work on “Son Of The Last Breath”, Grand Magus isn’t going for a commercial sound- it’s just another epic element to their influence base, incorporating some darker Pink Floyd nuances amidst the lower, gruff vocals.
As much as I love their last two albums (“Iron Will” still resonates with me four years from its initial release), I think “The Hunt” will prove that Grand Magus knows how to balance the music fans desire versus the trio’s own need for slight creative exploration. Strap on your denim, leather, bullet belts, back patches, and bottles of ale- “The Hunt” is this year’s soundtrack to youthful exuberant pent-up relief. Join the legions for glory!
Rating: 5.5 / 6
Composed by Matt Coe