Having released their eighth studio album, Sword Songs, the Swedish rockers GRAND MAGUS certainly know how to create good music. Their blend of rock, doom, and heavy metal with influences among BLACK SABBATH and MANOWAR, has appealed to metallers since their self-titled album was released in 2001. Accompanied by Greek rockers PLANET OF ZEUS and Leeds trio BLIND HAZE, we caught their show at Sound Control in Manchester
Wasting no time in getting into it, BLIND HAZE burst out with material off their EP, The Quick or the Damned, to a brilliant reception. Inspired by classic and hard rock, with plenty of nods to the likes of MOTÖRHEAD and TANK, the trio from Leeds kick off the night brilliantly. Vocals from bassist Conan power through the crowd while he delivers heavy bass tones, which really shine through on Take a Look Around You. On Thin Ice is a fast-paced belter that really gets the crowd going from the get go. No mosh pits, just heads bobbing harder and harder as the sets goes on, fully appreciating the humble threesome. Guitarist John Nicholson delivered frantic and meaty riffs while Jason Hope provided a steady barrage on the drums, making for a sound that would crack a smile on any MOTÖRHEAD fan. One thing that must be said about BLIND HAZE is how humbly Conan interacted with the audience. Laughing and joking between most songs, his charm is part of what made their set a fantastic opening for what was to come.
After the frantic yet well-oiled performance of BLIND HAZE, PLANET OF ZEUS had a high bar to jump over. Hailing from Greece, PLANET ZEUS deliver hard grooves, slick bass lines, and powerful vocals, supported by a strong beat of the drums from Serapheim Giannakopoulos. Vocalist and guitarist Babis Papanikolaouz has some fantastic energy and expression, as can be seen as he gets lost in the music and encourages the crowd to clap along. Not having quite the same impact as BLIND HAZE, the night’s momentum staggered somewhat with PLANET OF ZEUS’ set. While they performed brilliantly, with tracks such as Vigilante and Little Deceiver offering thumping riffs to get the crowd moving and brilliant vocals from Babis, it felt slightly like a step down from BLIND HAZE’s energetic, lively set. This is by no means a criticism of PLANET OF ZEUS themselves, as they’re clearly talented musicians with a fantastic sound, but BLIND HAZE set the bar incredibly high and they didn’t quite hit that mark. Saying that, the crowd engaged incredibly well with PLANET OF ZEUS, especially as they dedicated a track to a kid in the audience. This was a nice little moment demonstrating that, despite stereotypes and whatnot, metal is welcome and accepted with all.
Coming onto the stage with the anticipation seeping from the crowd in the form of rapturous roars, GRAND MAGUS enter and waste no time in continuing the momentum of the night. Offering a nice mix of tracks, many of which deriving from Swords Songs and Triumph and Power, GRAND MAGUS delivered riffs worthy of a war of the ages, lifting the spirits of every person in the crowd to the massive, anthemic chorus of On Hooves of Gold. Vocalist JB delivered consistently throughout the set, his vocals almost identical to studio recordings (although the audience helped on more or less every chorus), while bassist Fox provides backing vocals which are a little off but forgivable.
The only downside across the board of the show was the lighting – it was somewhat monotonous, with just either blue or red dominating the stage. While this is a minor criticism, it would’ve been nice to have some varying colours to excite the crowd a little more, however they were plenty riled up from the brilliance that played before them throughout the night.
Finishing with their ever-popular track Hammer of the North encapsulates what GRAND MAGUS succeed in doing in a live format – filling everyone in the room with a sense of triumph and unity. Singing in unison, you can see what effect this Swedish outfit has on people as they come as one, resulting in the entire venue roaring with pride and an overwhelming sense of community. It’s moments like this that really make you appreciate how music, especially metal, can truly bring people together.
Check out our photo gallery from the night’s action in Manchester from Occult Photography here: