Grand Magus - Hammer of the North (Roadrunner)

Iron-willed Swedes pile into the Dragon Ships again for another assault on our ears...

Grand Magus’s last album, 2008’s Iron Will, was one of the heavy metal albums of that year; A musclebound triumph of steel that quite literally slaughtered the opposition in terms of songwriting and performance. An album so effortlessly metal it would be hard to come up with a better exposition of the genre in its truest form then or, indeed now. An impossible album to top, you might think.


Or was it?


Well, yes, as it goes. Hammer of the North is a wonderful record, a record which would easily better the output of many more illustrious outfits – indeed that is just the case - but it isn’t as good as its predecessor. Where once before the band soared, it now seems content to operate a bit closer to the ground... still obliterating what passes for opposition but with a little less panache than of yore - and certainly not as many memorable choruses.


Whilst Iron Will glittered, Hammer of the North merely gleams. Sure I, The Jury kicks things off in suitably no-nonsense fashion, and Mountains be My Throne possesses a stately, Dioesque majesty many seek but few can attain, but overall HOTN just fails to equal what’s gone before.


That's not to denigrate overly those involved with this album. In fact if anything vocalist Janne Christofferson ups his own personal performance on ...Hammer (in fact if he gets much better he'll be rivalling Jorn Lande in the throatsmith stakes), it's just that, well, you get my drift, right?


Of course, if you didn’t get round to hearing Iron Will, then a different picture emerges. You’re unlikely to here a better balls to the wall metal anthem than Northern Star this year, and in At Midnight They’ll Get Wise the band have a great, if clunkily-titled, fists-in-the-air, swords-in-the-wind live staple for the ages, whilst closer Ravens Guide Our Way once again recalls the epic majesty of primetime Ronnie James. You’ll love every minute of this, I guarantee.


So,  we've established that this release is not as good as the last one, then, but, in real terms, this is still as good as true, traditional, old school heavy metal can be in 2010. And it’s marvellous.


Grand Magus's Hammer of the North is out now on Roadrunner Records.