Company: Roadrunner Records Release: 2010 Genre: Traditional Reviewer: EC
Crushing display of heavy metal spirit
I've forged the icy rivers and paths set forth by Sweden's Grand Magus for a decade now. The traditional metal act never fails to please, delivering top-tier genre albums through their short but illustrious career. My first venture with the band was back in 2005 with the stellar "Wolf's Return" album. The record was a marvelous entry in the true metal realm that embraced the Sabbath fundamentals while exploring a colder and darker environment reminiscent of Swedish death metal. The band has been very active since then, playing all of the European festivals and touring in support of "Wolf's Return" as well as the 2008 release "Iron Will". The band have released all of their studio efforts on Rise Above Records and now find themselves at the upper echelon of metal's hierarchy; an album release for the powerful Roadrunner Records brand.
The Stockholm band's first release for Roadrunner is "Hammer Of The North", a crushing display of heavy metal spirit that burns with 70s and 80s raw finesse. These riffs are just mammoth, recalling the finest moments of Sabbath, early Judas Priest, Overdrive, and the mighty Heavy Load. Often I hear that frost permeate throughout, recalling the writing style of Amon Amarth or Bathory but politely dropped into that "clean" true metal sound. The band is loud, obnoxiously heavy, and overall delivers another solid gem that speaks well for the Swedish metal scene and the sub-genre it represents.
"I, The Jury" is a strong opener, pushing along with a bulldozer riff that backs vocalist Christoffersson's mid-register Halford wail. This track along with "Norther Star" really embrace that "Screaming For Vengeance" Priest sound with Christoffersson's vocal register and the huge melodic riffs. The title track pounces on a wicked bass line and even incorporates some atmospheric elements, almost as if Sergio Leone directed a viking tale. The album is rather memorable as well, with songs like "Mountains Be My Name" and "At Midnight They'll Get Wise" shaking with a bit of thrash tendencies, all classic and dressed up with a chorus that will stay with you for weeks.
The Bottom Line - The band recently stated to "Terrorizer" that they write songs, not riffs and sketches but actual songs and it definitely is evident with this fantastic entry to the group's catalogue. "Hammer Of The North" is the best of Grand Magus and one that should really put the band on the mainstream map with the Roadrunner partnership. If anyone questioned the relevance of the "true metal" movement then look to the sky for this shining star.
About this Writer: Eric Compton // Eric Compton lives in the most haunted city in the world, St. Augustine, Florida with his family and two yorkies. He has served as senior editor for MaximumMetal.com for nearly 10 years and is the author of the heavy metal book series--Denim & Letters. His reviews, interviews and social commentary has been featured on websites like Brave Words, Blabbermouth, Metal Temple, Metal Rules, Ultimate Metal, Metal Maniacs and Wikipedia.
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