RSS Feed

Triumph And Power

Nuclear Blast (2014)
Rating: 6.5/10

Grand Magus, in case you’re unaware, is a trio of musicians who’ve been causing quite a buzz since their inception in 1996 (initially as Smack) when vocalist / guitarist JB Christoffersson – of Spiritual Beggars fame – and bassist Mats “Fox” Skinner formed the band. Sticksman Ludwig Witt sits in the hot-seat for studio album number seven, after his commendable skin-thumping on 2012’s The Hunt.

Grand Magus has been a prolific team, so it’s great to see Triumph And Power hitting the racks, the Swedes not content with leaving too much time between their platters.

This time round they offer us ten tunes, beginning with ‘On Hooves Of Gold’, which begins with an ancient Nordic flavour as a storm brews in the distance over a reflective, simmering guitar before the percussion and riff crashes in. Immediately, I’m almost drawn to Manowar-type hails and plights as the drum slams hard and JB booms out that distinctive narration with tales of mystery.

‘Steel Versus Steel’ is pure masculine metal, which flexes its muscles with those big riffs and mammoth drums as JB roars, “Drifting away into dreams of despair”, evoking oaken images of old Manilla Road and other galloping metal. There’s a sense of NWOBHM there too, with all fist-pumping majesty and warlord wails, but it’s a track that at times lacks variety in its trudge. ‘Fight’, however, adds an extra dose of metallic beef to proceedings, and is again bolstered by a leather-clad slog. However you look at the first three tracks on Triumph And Power, though, there’s an element of the basic about it all, Grand Magus opting for a rather dour plod in their quest for pure metal Armageddon.

Lyrically, this opus offers nothing remotely new or inspiring, except for those generic Manowar-type acts of bravado where we see our heroes thumping their chest from mountains up high. For all the fuss being made about this trio I’m finding the riffs a tad mediocre, backed by equally gargantuan yet no frills percussion, which acts as a sturdy backbone to JB’s manly bellows. It’s amazing how many mocked Manowar all those years ago for their loin cloths and rages of war, and yet here we are, decades later, praising Grand Magus as if they are revolutionary.

The title track is another basic yet effective plodder, JB’s thunderous vocals yelling, “Will of iron, Quiet soul, Empty words, Empty roles, Break their walls, Break their rules, Fiercely defiant, Damn the fools”, but through all its valour this is metal-by-numbers as ‘Dominator’ rumbles in with extra pace and mythical sauce. It’s one of my favourite tracks on the record, really shaking the foundations with its beef. It’s as cheesy as hell lyrically and vocally, but it does take on a mincing, lower tempo turn three minutes in. It’s a shame it doesn’t last, although the mood is fractured by a killer solo before we return back to the trudge.

Elsewhere, the album offers another batch of half-decent bone-crackers, particularly the epic ‘The Hammer Will Bite’ with its gentle caress of an opening before lurching into another solid riff and spine-shattering piece of percussion. The more upbeat ‘The Naked And The Dead’ is equally satisfying as a no holds barred chuck of molten metal, but when this album reaches its silence I can’t say I’m blown away by the power of Grand Magus. The instrumentals are nice touches but again predictable fare and so I’m left rather unfulfilled, as I have been with each of their offerings.

While I can appreciate the bombastic nature of what Grand Magus do, there’s nothing on show that captivates me, let alone hints at originality. Triumph And Power is very much a straight down the line metal experience, but nothing more.

Neil Arnold