Grand Magus
Hammer of the North


4.0
excellent

Review

by Greg Fisher STAFF
July 29th, 2010 | 29 replies | 12,083 views


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Tight, instantly recognizable guitar riffs coupled with an uncanny aptitude for crafting great melodies without losing the sense of dread make for an excellent heavy metal album.

Old-school heavy metal might be considered a rather stale genre these days. Done to perfection many a time before by the likes of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, the confines of the genre are rather limited. The Swedish trio, Grand Magus, fronted by Janne ''JB'' Christoffersson of Spiritual Beggars' fame, doesn't make any effort to expand on the old formula at all. Their newest album, "Hammer Of The North" is a collection of songs that abounds with entirely fresh, seductive hooks. It also showcases the band's complete departure from their doom metal roots making a strong case for rock-solid songwriting prominent here more than on the group's previous outings. Although the fans may not be pleased with the act's transformation, it's safe to say that "Hammer Of The North" is easily the most consistent material Grand Magus have released thus far.

Tight, instantly recognizable guitar riffs coupled with an uncanny aptitude for crafting great melodies without losing the sense of dread are the album's selling points. No matter if it's technical riffing of "Mountains Be My Throne" or a more traditional melodic approach of "Northern Star," almost every track feels solid, featuring distinguishable, if totally traditional riffing. Janne Christoffersson himself can be described as a metal dynamo. Aside from exquisite guitarwork, he delivers a powerhouse vocal performance that feels both self-assured and unforced. He may resemble Rob Halford in his low range, but the strong sense of melody seems entirely his own. Many songs on the album contain shrewdly constructed sing-along choruses. "Black Sails" and "The Lord Of Lies" are arguably the standouts in this field, both benefiting a great deal from infectious melody lines.

The only weakness of "Hammer Of The North," which ironically stems from the band's decision to firmly keep to the only one subgenre of music, is the lack of diversity. This is chiefly apparent in the second half of the album when Grand Magus tend to emulate their previous ideas to the point when the songs begin to blend together seamlessly. One or two mellower, more varied tracks would certainly solve this problem. The only notable composition that does so in a way is "The Lord Of Lies" with its atmospheric beginning. Other than that, there is no fault to be found in the crystal-clear production nor Pagan-inspired lyrics. The disc has a much better, stronger and more selective sound than its predecessor, "Iron Will". As regards the lyrical content, Christoffersson focuses on the Pagan history of Scandinavia, occultism as well as explores anti-Christian undercurrents, which provides a welcome deviation in the heavy metal subgenre that often produces silly lyrics about dragons and elves.

Even if some fans of the band's previous doom metal offerings may remain reluctant, there is no doubt that "Hammer Of The North" contains all the necessary ingredients to make for an excellent traditional heavy metal album and thus brings Grand Magus even closer to the cult status they will certainly gain in the near future. It's one of the very best metal releases of the year.



Recent reviews by this author
Dog Fashion Disco Sweet NothingsSo Slow Dharavi
Mastodon Once More 'Round the SunFire! Orchestra Enter!
Ought More Than Any Other DaytUnE-yArDs Nikki Nack
user ratings (60)
Chart.
3.9
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
greg84
Staff Reviewer
July 29th 2010



7321 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The video to the song "Hammer Of The North":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPLiZ2ePZTs

Digging: Dog Fashion Disco - Sweet Nothings

pizzamachine
July 29th 2010



12571 Comments


Wow I haven't listened to an old-school heavy metal band for ages. Thanks for reviewing this.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
July 29th 2010



7321 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I haven't either. You're welcome.

Buccaneer
July 29th 2010



692 Comments


They play the NWOBHM sound pretty well.

But i still prefer their 'doomier' stuff. I'll check this out nonetheless...that track you posted was solid.

And good review mang

greg84
Staff Reviewer
July 29th 2010



7321 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah. Agreed. Their MWOBHM sound may not quite suit their old fanbase. Still, everyone even remotely interested in heavy metal should give it a spin.

DoubtGin
July 29th 2010



6748 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

this is pretty awesome; one of the few heavy metal releases from this year I actually liked..

greg84
Staff Reviewer
July 29th 2010



7321 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

That was exactly my point. You don't have to be a huge fan of the genre to enjoy their music. It's really accessible.

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
July 29th 2010



8318 Comments


good review man, though idk if I'll look into this. Standard heavy metal doesn't hold my attention anymore as much as it used to.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
July 29th 2010



7321 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks a lot, styles. Well, you may be surprised.

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
July 29th 2010



8318 Comments


How well does 'Hammer Of The North' stack up against the rest of the album? Because it was exactly what I expected it to be: good, but doesn't really hold my attention

greg84
Staff Reviewer
July 29th 2010



7321 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is not the best song on the album, but it does represent it quite well. So, I guess it is not your thing bro. Check out The Lord Of Lies as a last resort. It's probably my favorite track on the disc.

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
July 29th 2010



8318 Comments


Yeah it's pretty good, but I can already tell I wouldn't be hooked on this album for over 3-4 spins. I just listened to this kind of stuff so much when I was younger that nowadays it usually fails to hold my attention, no matter how quality stuff it is.

Also, check this album out Greg; if you can get past the vocals, I'm pretty sure you'd like this a lot: http://www.sputnikmusic.com/album.php?albumid=47924

greg84
Staff Reviewer
July 29th 2010



7321 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'll do it when I have some free time. I've never listened to folk metal before to be honest.

Metalstyles
Staff Reviewer
July 29th 2010



8318 Comments


Idk if folk metal in general would be your thing at all to be honest haha, but that one is way more serious and classical heavy metal-based than 95% of other folk metal out there and because of that I recommend it to you.

BludgeonySteve
July 29th 2010



558 Comments


Sounds good. I'm always skeptical about new classic heavy metal, since I find the newer fusions of classic metal, power metal, and hard rock to be more enticing. But I still like Priest and the like so I could like this.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
July 30th 2010



7321 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah. The fusions are good and potentially more rewarding of course if done right. You will like it for sure. I think the melodic aspect plus stellar riffing kind of sell this record even to a wider group of listeners.

SteelErectedb4you8er
July 30th 2010



2613 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Nice review Greg. I am glad some more people are starting to like these guys. I have been following them since Monument; so, I am fan of the more doom side of the band, but I like the approach they have progressively taken with later releases as well. Their songwriting gets stronger and stronger with every album. I agree with you through this review, kudos!

SteelErectedb4you8er
July 30th 2010



2613 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

But I like it just slight better than you. There are maybe only two songs that don't hit home as hard as the others, but I love the melodies so much.

greg84
Staff Reviewer
July 30th 2010



7321 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks. I agree it's very stellar and I dig the melodies a bunch as well, but I prefer my fave albums to be slightly more diverse. They should use some progressive elements on their next album to get these two additional points from me (exactly what Dozer did on their last record).

zaruyache
November 24th 2010



5899 Comments


Album cover reminds me of Dissection. Needless to say I'm a little disappointed to find out it's not black metal.

Digging: Sunwolf - Beholden To Nothing And No One



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2013 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy