Grand Magus - Hammer Of The North

This band should need no introduction, since forming in 1999 Grand Magus have slowly but surely turned themselves in underground superstars with killer live performances and a string of strong albums starting with the self titled album in 2001 and the awesome "Monument" in 2003. The 2005 album "Wolf's Return" broke them worldwide, in the underground at least and the last album "Iron Will" built that popularity ever further. The sound of Grand Magus has changed and developed over the years however, the first two albums were built on Stoner / Doom grooves but from 2005 onwards the band headed into a more straight-forward Heavy Metal direction. "Iron Will" was a album with some great songs but i felt the production was a little thin. This new album called "Hammer Of The North" has new, revitalized production that blows away Iron Will in terms of sound but the style of the band has gone even more into the realms of standard Heavy Metal. That is not a bad thing but don't expect any Doom grooves or fuzzy riff-rocking here, this is Heavy Metal straight-up, no Doom, Black or Thrash to be found, this is Heavy Metal pure!!

The album opener "I,The Jury" sets the tone for the rest of the album, classic riffs built upon the Judas Priest tradition complete with Janne "JB" Christoffersson's vocals that are less deep and more high-pitched and wailing. The sound is punchy, crisp and sophisticated but wait a minute, this is pretty stock-standard Heavy Metal but a extremely catchy version of it. The title track and "Black Skies" continue in a similar vein with the Nordic trio blazing a trail of more great riffs, pounding rhythms and the remarkable vocals from JB which seem to get more powerful with every release. One recurring feature of the album is every song has a infectious melody line and only three tracks in and you will already have some unforgettable hooks burying themselves in your brain, you may try hard to resist but you will lose the battle because this is one damn catchy album. "Mountains Be My Throne" is a brutal riffing assault that sits halfway between Painkiller era Priest and early Spiritual Beggars, the chunky guitar work on this tune is predictable but full of class. There is also a lot to be said for the guitar solo's, more intricate than ever before they are a highlight of each tune on Hammer Of The North. "Northern Star" begins with a thundering, hammering drum beat and never lets go, a great song that is exceptional in its musicianship.

"The Lord Of Lies" hints at being a Doom Metal track but never quite gets to that level of melancholy, rather it builds itself in tension and dramatic melodies. "At Midnight, They Will Get Wise" sounds more like Judas Priest than Priest themselves with more driving dramatic vocal melodies and wailing solo's. "Bond Of Blood" is track number eight and features classic riff number eight, each track has at least one mind-blowing riff and this one has another killer. The bass playing is also more dominant than usual too and some of the bass lines are ear-catching, great stuff! "Savage Tales" and "Ravens Guide Our Way" rounds out the disc, the former is one of the more ordinary tracks on the album but the later is a monster of driving, melodic, classic Heavy Metal. Great bass lines and the most varied arrangement on the album, its a fitting way to close the album and there you have it. All in all, i rate this album higher than Iron Will but not as good as the Monument and the classic debut album. The problem i feel is that while this is a excellent example of how Traditional Heavy Metal should sound, they have move a little too far away from their original sound. That may seem trivial and it kind of is because this is still a great album but its getting a little too predictable and cliched in parts for me. Grand Magus fans should dig it though and it will draw more legions of fans to the band due to the brilliant musicianship, the incredibly gifted vocals and the infectious melody lines.

1. I, The Jury
2. Hammer Of The North
3. Black Sails
4. Mountains Be My Throne
5. Northern Star
6. The Lord Of Flies
7. At Midnight They Will Get Wise
8. Bond Of Blood
9. Savage Tales
10. Ravens Guide Our Way

Rise Above Records
Reviewer: Ed
Jun 24, 2010
Next review: Nogg - EP

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