Review Summary: Classic Metal gods winding the clock back in style.
Following the relative successes of their previous albums - "Monument"and "Wolf's Return" - now arrives their latest, "Iron Will". Grand Magus' sound is a mixture of classic rock, doom and just straight up heavy metal. However, the doom influence isn't as prominent on "Iron Will" as perhaps it was on previous releases.
Drawing on bands such as Trouble, Black Sabbath, Candlemass and Iron Maiden it's not difficult to imagine the sound. Massive riffs, terrific solos, powerful vocals and reasonably catchy choruses. The most pleasing aspect of their sound, though, is the bass influence, accentuated by the bass-heavy production. There's even a brief bass instrumental track - "Hovding". This gives a darker and heavier sound to the tracks.
The albums kicks off in style with "Like the Oar Strikes the Water". Starting off with an oriental style riff, it progresses into one of the heaviest and catchiest tracks on the album. "Fear is the Key" continues in the same vein, albeit less successfully as the chorus doesn't quite hit home. This is soon forgotten as the title-track kicks in with its monstrous riffs and terrific chorus. It succeeds in blending perfectly the retro influences from which it's inspired and the modern metal sound of the 21st century. The anthemic and catchy "Silver into Steel", featuring an acoustic intro closes the first part of the album. This song does however become rather tiring as the chorus is repeated about 4 times. However, the solos almost manage to lift it from mediocrity. All these tracks are 100% heavy metal with all the traits one would expect from such an album.
In the second half, the album gets darker, less catchy with its doom influences showing through. "Self Deceiver" is a prime example of this, similar to something you'd expect from Candlemass. The verses particularly are typical of doom metal with its slow plodding riffs followed by a haunting chorus. Terrific. Similar in style is "Beyond Good and Evil" however this doesn't work as well and is definitely the weakest track on the album. It has no variation in tempo throughout the whole track, featuring the same riff repeated over and over again. Still listenable but it's the kind of song that gets forgotten once it's dumped into an iPod featuring another 3000 tracks.
Elsewhere, "The Shadows Knows" sounds like very early Iron Maiden and is definitely another highlight. Just to clarify, though, these songs are certainly not bad rip-offs. The last song on the album, "I am the North" is the best on the album encompassing all that is good about the album.
So there are essentially 5 excellent tracks, 3 rather average (and bordering on the boring) tracks and one instrumental. And therein lies another problem. It lacks the fun factor which makes you come back to it time and time again. Although only 40 minutes, it's actually very difficult to listen to it all the way through. Another problem is that it's not really catchy enough or heavy enough for it to be a point of call when you require a catchy tune or a heavy one. In that sense it's a bit bland. But I guess this is just a characteristic of the whole genre.
Overall, however, this album has everything you'd expect from a heavy metal album, perhaps reminding you of how you fell in love with the genre in the first place. It contains all the trademark aspects of heavy metal and this can only be good news for both the band and metal itself. Simply put, if you like heavy metal and are able to appreciate all genres of metal, you can't really go wrong with this one. Not perfect, granted, but it has enough good songs to make this a worthy purchase.
1. I am the North
2. Like the Oar Strikes the water
3. Iron Will
5. The Shadow Knows