Grand Magus - Hammer of the North
Roadrunner Records
Heavy Metal
10 songs (47:52)
Release year: 2010
Grand Magus, Roadrunner Records
Reviewed by Thomas

In terms of sound, style and song-writing Grand Magus is easily one of the most progressive bands around. They started out as a pure true doom metal outfit, and have slowly progressed to become a heavy metal monster, which probably is the most powerful out there right now alongside Slough Feg. They topped their career in many ways when they released the stunningly beautiful and riff-heavy Iron Will a couple of years ago. For old-schoolers tired of thrash wave after thrash wave and tireless shitty metalcore floating on countless radio airwaves and MTV's headbangers ball, Iron Will was a blessed strike from the metal gods. It was an album packed with awesome riffs, godly vocals, and an overall magic atmosphere weaved by dancing wolves, heathen rituals and well, stunning fucking musicianship. On Iron Will the transition from doom to heavy metal were almost complete, and many suspected a more upbeat and maybe more commercial follow-up due to the band signing with Roadrunner Records. Many have already stated that this has a more mainstream sound, lacking the doom-elements completely, and some other formulas that were successful earlier. Bullshit I say, this is Grand Magus fully and wholly, and though this isn't quite as fantastic as Iron Will, it's definitely a worthy sequel.

This is a thoroughly mid-paced album, opener I, The Jury however, isn't. The sound is just as you'd expect it. There's bunches of crunch and bass, JB sounds as great as ever, and the song itself is catchy and tuneful with driving riffs and groovy drums. Nothing revolutionary or anything, but just what you'd expect from these guys. The title-track drags the tempo down a couple of notches and has a much darker and heavier with head-bashing riffs ice-cold melodies that'll leave you grasping for air as they burst into joyful climaxes. So, if you're among the crowd that find these two songs weak for some reason (yes, they exist), Black Sails pushes everything up one level, and is an absolutely awe-inspiring song. Extremely cool riffs packed with fantastic vocal work, and a chorus that'll spawn some serious air-punching while you sing along to the pirate-like tune that sometimes reminds me of Running Wild for some reason. The sea turns read/bringing doom/bringing death!/ gives me goosebumps both because of the haunting melodies and the pitch black atmosphere when they charge ahead ostentatiously.

The doom elements clearly comes to show again in Mountains Be My Throne, but is perhaps overshadowed by slightly forced melodies, even though the lyrics give me a majestic feeling of towering hills white with snow. Northern Star picks things up again, and even though it's a good tune, it comes a little short considering the other kick-ass tunes on the album. It makes my mind wander back to Iron Will from time to time, but to be honest, I don't mind that at all. The Lord of Lies will steal your soul away, at least JB says so, and the black apocalyptic magic is alive again and bursts into speed with a Maiden-like lead-section that every heavy metal head with clench to their chest.

JB is still magnificent, but he seems to have slightly more hard rock approach on Hammer of the North, similar to Jørn Lande. It's especially audible on the 80's rock-ish, faster At Midnight They'll Get Wise where he sounds nastier and a wee bit snarlier. He also does a fair bit of falsettos, which hasn't been done a lot in the past. It still fits like a glove, and he does everything right as far as I'm concerned. In addition to this he does a bunch more of interesting soloing, the leads have at least become more visible in the sound-picture, which is nothing but enjoyable. He has in other words taken his playing up a notch, and they add a nice touch to most of the songs. I get the feeling that even though the songs may be a bit weaker than on Iron Will, the choruses on nearly each track are extremely strong. Bond of Blood is a perfect example of just that. The verses aren't particularly awesome, but the chorus will hook your attention with unbelievable authority. The same can be said about Savage Tales which will clutch you from the moment JB shouts Fight, you will do or die and the mighty aftermath will carry your torch. Said song leads into epic closer Ravens Guide Our Way which reminds me strangely of I am the North which ended Iron Will in fabulous fashion. This is the case here as well, as black birds take you home.

Expect Grand Magus and you'll get it. Amazing riffs, great vocals and overall awesome songs with very few exceptions. Everything is in good condition, as Roadrunner have obviously been denied access. Great album, and probably another one that'll go straight in on my year-end list. Don't believe the thumbs down this is bound to get just because it doesn't live up to Iron Will. Doing that is downright stupid. Highly recommended.

Killing Songs :
I, The Jury, Hammer of the North, Black Sails, The Lord of Lies, At Midnight They'll Get Wise, Bond of Blood, Savage Tales, Ravens Guide Our Way
Thomas quoted 89 / 100
Other albums by Grand Magus that we have reviewed:
Grand Magus - Wolf God reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
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 - Grand Magus reviewed by Thomas and quoted 85 / 100
To see all 9 reviews click here
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