What’s that on the cover there? An eagle holding a sword on a simple grey background that must mean that there is a new GRAND MAGUS album out! The kings of catchy back-to-basics traditional metal have been putting out consistently good albums for the entirety of their twenty year career. With such a high standard to live up too can they deliver again with Sword Songs?
Opener Freja’s Choice kicks in the front door with a spectacular opening riff before descending into the classic headbang inducing formula that has served the band so well. Galloping along at a fair pace, the final third of the track is given over to a solo before frontman JB Christofferson roars out the closing lines. Hugely powerful opener. The second track on offer here is Varangian. One of the slightly shorter tracks on the album, the focus here is on the chorus and the pacing is a little slower, letting the bands doom influences show. Letting the vocals and drums stand alone on the final chorus works particularly well.
Forged In Iron – Crowned in Steel begins with an acoustic passage to set the scene before the main riffs hammers in. Both riff and chorus are some of the catchiest of the album, with the chant of “Viking Metal” sure to be heard in many a venue for years to come! Continuing this tendency to be catchy is Born For Battle (Black Dog of Brocéliande) with both riff and chorus sure to elicited plenty of headbanging and singing along amongst the crowd.
Even for a band such as GRAND MAGUS known for their simple catchy style Sword Songs is proving to have a huge number of tracks that seem written to be shouted along too. Master Of The Land may turn the tempo down to a more doom laden pace but loses nothing by it. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Last One To Fall, a mid paced song which suffers from a lack of anything to distinguish it on an album filled with frankly better tracks. Luckily this brief descent into mediocrity is immediately dispelled by Frost And Fire which has a strong riff, catchy chorus and blistering solo.
Of course it would be a GRAND MAGUS album without an acoustic interlude. Sword Songs features only the one, Hugr which is used to set up the albums final track Every Day There’s A Battle To Fight. Lyrically shying away from the bands usual themes while still firmly rooted to them, the track is as much of an outlier as such a stylistically simple band can have. A slower, bass heavy song that surprisingly lends itself to nodding rather than headbanging along, it’s a solid closer to an otherwise faster album.
What is there to say about Sword Songs other than that it is another GRAND MAGUS record. There is enough variation between tracks and with other records for it to stand on its own two feet easily while changing nothing between them. Fans of the band know what their getting here. Simple catchy lyrics, riffs to break your skull too and the sense you’re listening to a band that know exactly what they’re doing and doing it damn well perfectly.
Sword Songs is set for release on May 13th via Nuclear Blast Records.
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