Grand Magus - Hammer of the North (Roadrunner) - take 2

The old school never sounded so resplendent. Grand Magus deserve their title as metal royalty and Hammer of the North cements their rightful place on the throne. You will remember their name!
Release Date: 
22 Jun 2010 - 11:30pm

I know that I'm a bit pedantic when it comes to my metal. Oh, their riff sags at 3:30-3:46. No tick in the box for you. The singer sounds like he has a cold. Lars Ulrich is on the drums. No accolades or laudatory from Mr. Crushtor. I have been in this game for about 8 or so years now - you'd think I've heard the gamut from glorious to grotesque. That's more or less true. But enter Grand Magus.

Even though we live in the 24/7 mobile Last.fm iTuned iPhone internets all day long, there are some bands that escape my reality tunnel of music. Sure, as a reviewer I find it helps to expand my musical sphere beyond the average Blabbermouth SLAYERRRRRR! first-post meathead. When I recieved Hammer of the North in the mail (one that requires physical effort to open - not just a click of a mouse) I was flabbergasted from the get go. The crunch that ripped forth from my speakers (not headphones this time - aren't CDs awesome?) and the accompanying powerful bellow sounding like a chimera of Matt Pike's (High on Fire) gravelly baritone and the regal quasi-operatic lungs of Marco Hietala (Nightwish, Tarot) just let me know that this was going to be a special album. Remember the opening riff of Invaders? Rapid Fire? Barbie Girl? Well...I digress.

Grand Magus are a doom/stoner metal band but their liberal infusions of and affinity with the classic metal riff is unparalleled. The bassline from the title track pounds through with boundless bravado and only serves to amp up the machismo as vocalist VB gives his all through the verses and anthemic choruses. They can pull off sinister (Black Sails), old school speed style with fist-pumping refrains (Northern Star) and balls-to-the-wall American  thrash that wouldn't feel too out of place at a rock n' roll party. (At Midnight They'll Get Wise). Just to think that these guys are Swedish. Swedish!

There are so many tracks that escape the clutches of automatic advance it's kind of ridiculous how good these guys are on their instruments. Bluesy, fluid guitar heroism of the highest order. Bond of Blood has a deceptively simple sweeping riff that are driven by drums more often than not, but it's the minimalism that makes it larger than life - especially the operatic, rousing and completely thrilling chorus. Take it from them - "Weakness plagues this land" - if so, then Grand Magus are the cure!

Hammer of the North is out now through Roadrunner Records.