Sound: Grand Magus signed to Roadrunner!? Oh man, the internet won't like this. It can't be denied that this record label has had suspicious effects on some of its new signings. Many criticisms levelled at their influence on the creative process seem well-founded, if a little exaggerated, but Grand Magus seem to have picked up all the marketing and distribution perks, all the while sidestepping the dwindling quality. Nice one! Cynics will always find a way to pick holes though, probably using the lack of doom as ammunition this time, conveniently forgetting that Grand Magus haven't really been a doom band since 2003's Monument'.
So, much like the excellent Iron Will', Hammer Of The North' is a heavy metal record; one with genuine nods to your Maidens and your Accepts without feeling like a retro novelty, la Cauldron. Real epic riffs', real pounding rhythms' and real...*shudder*...soaring vocals'. It's a shame that every single heavy metal album has been described in this sort of a way, seeing as Grand Magus are one of the few contemporary acts that can actually do it. Another important thing that sets this band apart from many other metal acts (and that goes for all its stylistic nooks and crannies) is that, rather than creating good strings of riffs, these guys really write songs. That's not to say verse-chorus rules, more that it's not just the usual intros and choruses that make each tune distinguishable from the next; it all makes perfect sense. // 7
Lyrics: I don't think it'd be exaggerating to say that a majority of Grand Magus' biggest and best moments have been so because of JB Christoffersson's vocals. Highlights like Bond Of Blood' wouldn't be highlights without his cracking melodies, that's for sure. As for lyrics, they match the quality throwback artwork with well-crafted words that should appeal to all the right leathers and denims. With a combination of musicality and balls to match the big names, these are rousing lyrics. // 8
Overall Impression: Watching the impressively shiny video for Hammer Of The North' (cheers, Warner!), there is something a little odd about the band's dynamic as a three piece beautiful wails like the one on I, The Jury' (that opens this album in gorgeous fashion) don't come from guitarist/vocalists, do they? They must come from monitor-mounting, fist-pumping frontmen, surely!? But that's JB, taking it upon himself to give the Grand Magus sound its two strongest elements, vocals and riffs, with apparent ease. Maybe having a trio that sounds like a beefy quartet, or even quintet, is just a small part of the fresh air that this band's breathing all over us. These are the sorts of solid, satisfying songs that we need more of. You may have read interviews where bands wonder why Iron Maiden and Judas Priest can pack out arenas while Grand Magus are lucky to play to 500 people; with any luck (and/or promotion cash), that will all change soon and these guys absolutely deserve to be leading the way. // 8
- Duncan Geddes (c) 2010