Review Summary: Grand Magus invites you to a karaoke night at Valhalla.
“That’s not metal.” This statement has served as one of the most potent catalysts of petty arguments and pointless squabbling within heavy metal. There is always a constant war waging between those who think Traditional Metal should be held in higher regard than its counterparts where even the slightest detour towards experimentalism should be considered blasphemy. Opposing this army are those that prefer to evolve with the genre. As level-headed as this seems, they use stereotyping as their weapon and focus on aesthetics, age and apparent dim-wittedness of their opponent.
While heavy metal has evolved, it still retains its primary instincts: strength and unity. This is where the eighth album of Grand Magus comes into battle. Let’s take a moment to observe the mechanics behind this trio. They hail from Sweden- one of the most infamous origins of the Vikings, their lyrics revolve around Norse mythology, paganism, pride and power that is flanked only by their victorious soundscapes. “Sword Songs” is bound to be so muscularly ‘metal’ that it could to turn a cat into a lion. However, the sheer accessibility of it will easily win over soldiers from either sides of the battlefield.
Grand Magus has clearly set out to create an album that evokes every synonym of gallantry. JB and Fox Skinner’s craft anthemic riffs which swerve from charging gallops like in ‘Freja’s Choice’ and the rumbling ‘Master of the Land’ while retaining their epic sound while Ludwig Witt’s hammering on the drum kit is taken with rousing intentions.
With a length of only 35 minutes long, “Sword Songs” should be an adrenalized experience that leaves no time for leisure. However, towards the second half of the album, things start to become slightly repetitious. “Frost and Fire” and “Last One To Fall” fight the same wars as their predecessors with the systematic approach of marching rhythms, beating drums and heightening choruses. These songs do their job in providing a motivated mood but it’s like riding for battle with a sword that hasn’t been sharpened.
Not a shred of cowardice is found on “Sword Songs”. Instead of shying away from their grandiose approach to song writing and classic influences, Grand Magus grips the Flag of Bombast with both hands and raises it to the heavens for all to see. JB Christofferson presents feelings of pride and nobility with his vintage vocals, especially in the unifying closer, ‘Everyday There’s a Battle to Fight’. His choruses in “Sword Songs” elevate the songs to newfound levels of splendour in a flagrantly cheesy way. ‘Varangian’ has an irresistible call to arms of “Warriors! Defenders of Steel!” and ‘Forged In Iron- Crowned In Steel’ has lyrics so simple that the straightforward war cry of “VIIIIKING METAL!” is instantly infectious.
Grand Magus strides into modernity brandishing an unapologetic attitude while bearing a medal of honour to the roots of heavy metal. After a single spin of this album, the gargantuan choruses will lodge themselves in the semi-consciousness of your mind as “Sword Songs” is a dynamic, anthemic and heroic album bursting with unabashed spirit.