GRAND MAGUS – IRON WILL (RISE ABOVE 2008)

REVIEW BY KASSU KORTELAINEN / AUG 2008

Sweden’s Grand Magus relies on the past. The thematics of their music draw influence from the days of ages past when the northern winters were long and cold and the folk resilient and stubborn. And not talking about your standard, corny tales of Vikings charging gloriously to fights with shining axes, in the world of Grand Magus the battle collects it’s toll in the darkening snow covered forests amongst the grimy northmen, leaving no heroes in it’s wake.

As the lyrical content of the band gathers influence from the northern folklore and old times, the music itself pays homage to the heavy metal’s old and respected champions. The elements from Black Sabbath, Dio and early Rainbow are obvious and rarely have they been adopted to new music this well. Iron Will’s nine tracks have a doomy, dark structure but rise above the numerous bands who utilize the same ingredients thanks to the good dose of riff-filled old-school heavy metal Grand Magus mixes into the songs. Sure, this all has been done before but not many bands have managed to come up with the result that works this well. The result: nine tracks of brilliant old school heavy metal sounding fresh and invigorating. The songs avoid the polished, generic taste many metal bands fall into but pack a whole lot of atmosphere, strength and creativity.

Songs of ‘Iron Will’ follow each other seamlessly and together form a very strong package that should please any fans of this kind of metal. The band puts on a ferocious, heavy performance; bassist Fox and drummer Seb construct a thick background on top of which guitarist/singer JB lays killer riffs and vocals. Known also for his work in Spiritual Beggars, JB’s clear and soulful vocals are indeed one of the key factors in Grand Magus music – the guy stands comparison with almost any metal vocalists of today, such powerful is his performance on Iron Will.

The curiosity of the album comes straight up front, in the form of a folky mandolin intro opening the first song ‘Like The Oar Strikes The Water’, but after the cool sounding acoustic intro is shrewdly transformed into the song’s main riff – ‘Iron Will’ is a heavy, riff and hook plenty march through the nine songs. ‘Self Deceiver’ and ‘Beyond Good And Evil’ towards the end of the album are the most traditional doom metal tracks on the record… epic sounding ‘I Am The North’ finishes the proceedings in a majestic fashion and in the middle we get stuff like the atmospherically Rainbow-esque ‘Silver Into Steel’, viciously powerful ‘Fear Is The Key’ and ‘The Shadow Knows’ which surfaces as the album’s fastest cut with a rich riff that has echoes of early Saxon and the like.

Grand Magus has shown promise with their previous releases, especially their second output ‘Wolf’s Return’ offered a strong taste with songs like ‘Kingslayer’ or ‘Blood Oath’. However, it’s ‘Iron Will’ that sees the band growing into one, seamlessly operating metal unit that has found their own style and knows how to execute it to the max. The austere heaviness of this kind, compared to a high level of songwriting and well thought-of lyrics have resulted into an excellent album of crushing northern heavy metal that sizzles to the listener’s brain like hot blood in virgin snow.

4halfk

grandmagus

1. Like The Oar Strikes The Water
2. Fear Is The Key
3. Hövding
4. Iron Will
5. Silver Into Steel
6. The Shadow Knows
7. Self Deceiver
8. Beyond Good And Evil
9. I Am The North

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About Kassu Kortelainen