Grand Magus - Wolf God
Nuclear Blast
Heavy Metal
10 songs (38:51)
Release year: 2019
Grand Magus, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Goat

Following a string of less than brilliant albums Swedish trio Grand Magus were very close to being written off. They'd fallen into something of a rut, usually writing a solid but increasingly less interesting or gripping sets of songs that continued along a Viking-themed path that from 2014's Triumph and Power was in danger of seeming like a parody, the lowest point yet being Forged in Iron - Crowned in Steel's downright cheesy 'viking metal' chorus. Pirate metal did its best to spoil things for Running Wild fans; we don't need Vikings becoming more of a meme than Amon Amarth has already made them! Yet Wolf God succeeds by being blessed with the songwriting magic that hasn't always recently been present, showing off an excellent set of songs that play to the band's strengths and more than hit the grandiose heights that Grand Magus should be known for. There's never been any doubt that JB Christoffersson has the gritty yet epic tones to be the perfect true metal frontman, and his guitar isn't far behind in cranking out the riffs, ably backed up by bassist Fox Skinner and drummer Ludwig Witt, both having spent time in Michael Amott's Spiritual Beggars stoner side-project.

Here, there are no complaints to be had about the instrumental side of the band, little moments like the almost funky intro to Glory to the Brave as fun to listen to as they must have been to record. That track takes steps into Black Label Society with its groovy riffing and bass-led verses, and as you'd expect from that Hammerfall-esque song title it's absolutely packed with hooks. The part towards the end of the five-minute song where the instruments drop out and JB bellows out the song title is Manowar-esque (in a good way!) a heavy metal legacy that Grand Magus have as much claim to as any other band. Of course, there's much more to this band than loincloths - the ever-present 80s Judas Priest influence in their DNA comes to the fore in He Sent Them All to Hel and the closing Untamed, chugging riffs and plenty of lead guitar widdling keeping listeners happy.

Grand Magus are at their best when unashamedly going for the epic peak of the heavy metal mountain, however, and from the opening instrumental Gold and Glory (complete with cello from bassist Fox) onwards they make a serious attempt to do so in nearly every song. First song proper and title track Wolf God has that hint of doom metal that once ruled the band's sound, effectively channelled into a pounding heavy metal anthem. Any cheesiness is restricted to a single backing wolf howl, the band otherwise focusing on the hooks, of which there are plenty even ignoring the stellar chorus. Dawn of Fire approaches power metal levels of grandeur without the expected cheesiness thanks to JB sounding wholeheartedly engaged, the opening crashing waves seeming fitting rather than an indulgence too far, while the likes of Spear Thrower and To Live and Die in Solitude are more than solid vocal-led stompers.

The best track on the album has to be A Hall Clad in Gold, opening with Painkiller-esque drum battery and soon building to the best chorus on the album as JB sings about the glory of Valhalla, followed by a fantastic guitar solo and some near Bathory-esque lead guitar atop blowing winds before a big, hard-rock outro. If Grand Magus were as consistently fantastic as this then without a doubt they'd be one of my favourite bands, and Wolf God shows them at their height of their powers. Even if you've become cynical about the Grand Magus brand, without a doubt this is their best album since 2010's Hammer of the North, showing that great songwriting can make up for most other flaws. And while we'd all still like to hear them return to their doom-drenched heyday, Wolf God shows that there's gold to be mined in the Viking realm yet.

Killing Songs :
A Hall Clad in Gold, Dawn of Fire, Glory to the Brave
Goat quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Grand Magus that we have reviewed:
Grand Magus - Sword Songs reviewed by Goat and quoted 65 / 100
Grand Magus - Triumph and Power reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
Grand Magus - The Hunt reviewed by Thomas and quoted 50 / 100
Grand Magus - Hammer of the North reviewed by Thomas and quoted 89 / 100
Grand Magus - Grand Magus reviewed by Thomas and quoted 85 / 100
To see all 9 reviews click here
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