GRAND MAGUS – SWORD SONGS (2016)
Release Date: 13 May 2016
℗ 2016 Nuclear Blast
- Freja’s Choice
- Forged in Iron
- Born For Battle (Black Dog of Brocéliande)
- Master Of The Land
- Last One To Fall
- Frost And Fire
- Hugr (Instrumental)
- Every Day There’s A Battle To Fight
With the gritty guitar slide intro, percussive pump and deep growl of brutal intent hailing the arrival of album opener Freja’s Choice, your attention is immediately grasped by our majestic learned magicians, with the metaphorical sword of aural assault posed to plunge into your very being. With barely two years elapsed since the release of Triumph and Power, Grand Magus have stepped up the determination, gathered the forces of 20 plus years’ experience and pondered why lies at the very heart of the metal fan, thereby producing their finest work. Vocally, lyrically and musically this album is powerful stuff and tremendously well executed.
Wailing winter winds lure us into Varangian, and surely the Viking namesake would be pleased with the camaraderie that will surely be celebrated to this classic, worldwide. One can just picture the Varangian Guard of the Byzantine Empire gathered in mighty halls of post-battle celebration, engaged in beer stein slamming, butt slapping, high fiving and victorious sword chinking. Initially, this track casts the impression of a Thin Lizzy classic, before it is made a GM thriller. And why the hell not, as both groups celebrate lineage with pride and passion. Phew…where my sword?
Forged In Iron – Crowned In Steel introduces quietly, but majestically, right before we are launched full throttle into the heart of the track. The riffage, speed and hooks will have you captivated, along with the vocal delivery.
Born For Battle provides the perfect beat to accompany warriors slamming the hilt of steel on wooden tables, beverages spilling freely as this track rallies the troops to war. Right about now you realise what an apt title has been applied to the collection. The delivery from Grand Magus match those sentiments to an absolute tee with passion, speed and power being the cadence for this march into metal history.
Master Of The Land, Last One To Fall and Frost And Fire continue along the very same vein without skipping a single beat, but the magnificent harmonies vary quite brilliantly ensuring the tracks carry their own identity. All stand alone with tremendous strength. With subsequent listens to the album in its entirety, along with an opportunity to put the blades aside and calm down a little, you realise what subtle diversity has been superbly applied without losing the overall atmosphere. Frost And Fire is a tremendous example of an absolute metal classic, with everything one could possibly wish for.
Hugr is a haunting instrumental to break up the powerful assault, and I cannot help but picture a Norse warrior upon the bloodied fields of battle, sitting alone save for the shredded bodies of his enemies and comrades alike, pondering with tear filled eyes, the sense of it all. Thought.
Every Day There’s A Battle To Fight completes the collection with an emergence from the former, but without a return to the speed of the album mainstay. An emotive track more reminiscent of earlier Grand Magus and sequenced brilliantly. Perhaps the realisation that for all creatures, great and small, the requirement to combat for our very survival is a natural condition of all existence. As it has always been, so shall it be for all time.