Review Summary: Ballsy, hard-hitting and supremely melodic, The Hunt is a heavy metal album for the masses.
Traditional heavy metal has had a flourishing year thus far. The latest top-notch albums of Dawnbringer and Christian Mistress have brought the sense of purpose to this presumably stale genre, reinvigorating it with powerful songwriting as well as exquisite musicianship. The newest release of Stockholm-based Grand Magus doesn't disappoint either. Following on excellent Hammer Of The North
, The Hunt
revolves around the same formula that made the band's previous disc so appealing.
The trio once again has delved into accessible heavy metal that abounds with soaring, ultra-melodic vocals and infectious, driving guitar riffs. By now it seems that oppressive doom metal of their early offerings is long gone in favour of a more streamlined, not to mention traditional approach to song craft that has plenty in common with the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal and the output of Judas Priest from the 1970s. What easily distinguishes Grand Magus from their copious peers though is that their aptitude for channelling the spirit of that era feels perfectly natural and unforced. For instance, “Silver Moon” blends all its classic influences so swiftly that you can't help fist-pumping to its undeniable hook.
While The Hunt
doesn't really stylistically deviate from the band's previous two discs, the production is much warmer and crisper emulating the vibe of 1970s proto-metal discs even to a larger degree. Janne ''JB'' Christoffersson remains a charismatic frontman whose admirable set of pipes allow for vocal lines that are both boldly melodic and powerful. Classic hard rock-inclined rhythm section comprised of Fox (bass) and Spiritual Beggars' Ludwig Witt (drums) provides a backdrop for JB's expertly-executed guitar work which sparkles with many memorable leads and superb guitar solos.
The main gripe that some critics may have with The Hunt
is that Grand Magus refuse to progress beyond their own safety zone and thus there's hardly anything surprising about their music. However, the trio truly compensates for a certain lack of diversity with remarkable consistency offering a collection of nine songs that are all meticulously written and performed, except “Storm King” which may be a sole tenuous link featuring a fairly uninspired, repetitive chorus. The act's songwriting skills are so consummate though that the strongest tracks are difficult to decide upon. “Son Of The Last Breath” certainly stands out from the bunch since it is the most ambitious song on the entire disc. The seven-minute-long composition starts with a soft acoustic guitar play and beautiful strings that impressively build to a galloping, heavy metal groove. Not only is the song the most evident encapsulation of the Viking folklore the lyrics on the disc derive from, but also provides a welcome shift in style. Here's hoping that such elements will be more prominent on the forthcoming albums of Grand Magus since they bring another layer to the trio's formidable rendition of heavy metal.