"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Grand Magus - "Sword Songs" (CD)

Grand Magus - "Sword Songs" CD cover image

"Sword Songs" track listing:

1. Freja's Choice
2. Varangian
3. Forged In Iron - Crowned In Steel
4. Born For Battle (Black Dog Of Brocéliande)
5. Master Of The Land
6. Last One To Fall
7. Frost And Fire
8. Hugr
9. Everyday There's A Battle To Fight
10. In For The Kill (Bonus Track)
11. Stormbringer (Deep Purple Cover) (Bonus Track)

Reviewed by on May 20, 2016

"Over and over again, Grand Magus has proven to be the very essence and purity of minimalist metal (a traditional style with a dash of doom) and every album I’m reminded of how utterly prodigious they are."

With 17 years and seven albums in the discography, all of which can be still found in moderate rotation, you would of thought that Sweden’s Grand Magus would seem stale considering the sound is consistently the same (and pretty patented). You would have thought that similar rhythms and fist pumping choruses would be lost in the armada of tracks beginning with “Gauntlet” and ending with “The Hammer Will Bite.” Over and over again, Grand Magus has proven to be the very essence and purity of minimalist metal (a traditional style with a dash of doom) and every album I’m reminded of how utterly prodigious they are. “Sword Songs” is another collection of go-to tracks when there is a great need for self-sacrifice, motivation, and power.

Replacing Manowar in terms of the band I personally pull out when I equally feel great as opposed to utterly depressed is not an easy feat, but Grand Magus has done it. This is blue collar metal at its finest – appealing to the basic work minded metalhead who likes it pure, vanilla and catchy. Pretty sure JB and the band would agree that they shoot for that exact image. With the hallmarks of Grand Magus lying within the riffs and JB’s deep soothing vocals, “Sword Songs” is precisely what fans should be clamoring for – you know the ones that bitch and moan about why every band doesn’t release an album that sounds exactly like the first one.

Grand Magus also offers everything they have from the first note – barreling out of the gate with “Freja’s Choice.” The offering is delicious, but basic meat and potatoesl no gravy, no A-1 sauce, maybe a little butter. The riffs, bridges and choruses demand your fist in the air and your head banging. The battle cries that spew forth range from “Forged in Iron – Crowned in Steel” (which has all the hallmarks to be as classic as Manowar’s “Carry On”), “Varangian,” the uber metallic “Born for Battle” (a nod to the military prowess of Bertrand du Guesclin, Breton knight and commander during the Hundred Years’ War) and the inspirational “Every Day There’s A Battle to Fight.” Be sure to pick up the limited edition with “In for the Kill” (a vicious and essential track that is not a Black Sabbath cover) and the band’s take on Deep Purple’s classic “Stormbringer.”

As always, Grand Magus has a penchant for keeping a natural true metal sound, with the drums sounding much less Euro than the band’s German power metal counterparts, but with overall production far superior than the tinny sharp 80’s U.S. counterparts (best represented in modern times through 80% of the Pure Steel catalog). This purity in sound has been the backbone of Grand Magus for well over a decade. On “Sword Songs,” the band recruited longtime producer (and Entombed A.D. guitarist) Nico Elgstrand, who has patented that “modern olden” sound since 2010’s “Hammer of the North.”

If you are looking for the perfect band to consistently put out driving but pure true metal with a touch of doom and a backdrop of Viking lore, then Grand Magus is your band of choice. This is a working class band who puts out no frills, no bullshit, straight-up power crafted in and surpassing the style Manowar did from 1982-1984. Stripped down production aiming for a natural but beautiful sound – “Sword Songs” will undoubtedly have you pumping your fists and banging your heads. Its metal forged in iron and crowned in steel.

Highs: Pure power and tradition with fist pumping and inspirational anthems.

Lows: No change in the formula or anything that might attract a broader range of fans.

Bottom line: "Sword Songs" won't shock you in the least, but it sure will leave you in awe of pure metal.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)