Label: Nuclear Blast
Release date: June 5, 2012
It seems strange to say Sweden metal beasts, Grand Magus returns with its sixth studio album this summer. It is hard to believe a band this good has been around for over a decade that most people haven’t heard of.
Formed in 1996 and hailing from Stockholm the trio released its first four albums on Rise Above Records, its previous album on Roadrunner, and now The Hunt on Nuclear Blast. Not having heard their back catalog, all I can tell you is they’ve either been a well guarded secret, or they’ve really stepped up their game on The Hunt. I’ll opt for the former, as I simply don’t believe they got this good over night.
The Grand Magus sound is steeped in classic heavy metal, mostly European in style with a dose of doom in the mix. The opening track “Starlight Slaughter” immediately recalls for me a Rainbow vibe. Guitarist and vocalist Janne “JB” Christoffersson even channels a bit of Joe Lynn Turner, without direct intent, I’m sure.
While there are certainly Nordic and doomy overtones threaded throughout this record, it is the traditional elements the stand out most upon first listen. On “Sword of the Ocean” one can hear a classic Accept sound, while “Valhalla Rising” could have come off any Dio album. “Storm King” harks back to classic Deep Purple, and “Silver Moon” hits like early Judas Priest. And so it goes track after track.
All the elements of traditional metal live in the Grand Magus sound. The Hunt is packed with raw driving power, ample hooks, strong melodies, and even occasional folk touches, as the listener gets on the magnificent “Son of the Last Breath.”
JB’s guitar work is dynamic, and bassist Fox Skinner and drummer Ludwig “Ludde” Witt lay down a thunderous and rumbling bottom end. So enthralled was I by The Hunt I set everything aside and took the time to listen to their previous efforts. I can safely say this is a sadly overlooked band. Albums like 2008’s Iron Will and 2010’s Hammer of the North are decidedly brilliant.
The Hunt fits right in with the band’s previous work, though with less of the Grand Magus doom element. One could argue The Hunt is not quite as strong overall as their last two efforts. I disagree. It is just as powerful, but slightly different in focus. There is more of a NWOBHM vibe on this one. And it is certainly better than so much dreck that strives to do what Grand Magus so successfully excel at.
If you’ve yet to check Grand Magus out, The Hunt is an excellent place to start.