Grand Magus | ‘The Hunt’
Four years ago, Grand Magus became the toast of the metal world.
Like Gustavus Adolphus 400 years before, the GM boys swept forth from Sweden to conquer. Wielding the muscular and towering ‘Iron Will’, that release was a new benchhmark for the band, standing out in the anthemic, fist pumping niche that that album fits into.
It’s follow up, ‘Hammer of the North’, almost, but not quite, reached the heights of its almost untouchable predecessor.
So, what of the 2012 incarnation? Having parted ways with drummer Sebastian just before recording got under way and with anticipation white hot, GM would have their work cut out from the get go to maintain the legacy they have created for themselves.
With a new home at Nuclear Blast, one imagines that it might just be possible. So, where to begin?
What becomes clear to the listener very quickly is the strange production on this album.
From the very beginning, a watered-down trebly sound seems to have replaced the penetrating, powerful engineering heard on the last two. The sound harks back to a different time and doesn’t do this album any favours.
It’s not a game changer, nor does it have the farcical quality of other maligned productions. However, it dampens the enjoyment and makes immersion a little more challenging.
Obvious also is the fact that Grand Magus have not forgotten their magic formula. Painstakingly crafted songs, full of gigantic and memorable hooks and trademark sing-a-long choruses are still to be heard. ‘Silver Moon’ is the epitome of this culture, catchy as hell and one feels as if ones fist
is on the verge of answering the call, whether one likes it or not.
‘Valhalla Rising’ is in the same vein, its chorus will stick in the mind and be hummed along to long after the needle has parted company with the record. ‘Son of the last breath’ easily clinches album highlight. Showcasing supreme, effortless songwriting, along with the powerhouse vocals of JB, it is superb and emotive track.
This is all well and good as long as consistency is delivered. Sadly, this is what ‘The Hunt’ fundamentally lacks.
There are too many tunes on this album which don’t deliver the riff building and rousing sentiment that the band are clearly capable of. One mitigating factoris that ‘The Hunt’ is what is known as a ‘grower’, but it doesn’t have the potential to be as good as what has come before. The problem may lie in a crisis of personality.
Having come back to their ‘roots’ over the last 5 or 6 years, one does get the impression that the NWOBHM fixation is a little overbearing at times, and it is preventing the band from flourishing in their own right.
Make no mistake, Grand Magus are not a band in inexorable decline. There is enough here to suggest that this modern leviathan of heavy metal have the wherewithall to add several classics to their impressive catalogue.
Nor is this a album poor. By the standards they have set themselves, it leaves something
to be desired. The wonderful guitar and general string work, the songwriting knack and the outrageously good vocal delivery are all still there.
Clarification is needed in terms of identity is what’s needed. This is a solid album, but when the band in question is Grand Magus, perhaps ‘solid’ is now simply not enough.
3.4 / 7 – Kevin Jacob:::22/06/12