St. Paul, Minnesot'as True Metal Record Store (RIP as of Dec. 24, 2015)
Finally, another new release review. Yes, this is the number two of two from Nuclear Blast as they’re very liberal with actual promo discs; if other labels would like to step up we’ll be more than happy to accommodate them with an honest listen, digital copies included.
GRAND MAGUS (SWE) – Triumph and Power
Nuclear Blast Records
Release date: February 4, 2014
In three words: Plodding, epic simplicity.
What kills: No pretense here. This is straight-up and down-tuned heavy metal; no dissonance and nary a riff to be found that isn’t almost exclusively power-chord banging with basic, mid-paced solos (outside of the occasional acoustic mood-setting intro). No melodic surprises and only the occasional up-tempo track mar the band’s rock-steady approach. Back to basics can be refreshing, and when GRAND MAGUS gets the tension play just right, it results in some fine arms-outstretched, headbanging moments.
What rots: Anything of this stripe is going to suffer from the predictability bug. Depending on your preferred flavor of metal that might be totally acceptable, but it doesn’t necessarily enhance the staying power or lend itself to a clearcut musical identity. Very rarely does GRAND MAGUS strike against the mold of verse, pre-chorus, triumphant chorus, repeat, bridge, instrumental, repeat; this would be less noticeable if the riffs weren’t so absolutely, starkly naked in the first place.
What matters: Strip BATHORY circa Twilight of the Gods of virtually all embellishment and non-linear songwriting, up the ante on vocal melody (a fairly brusque, but not displeasing tenor) and you have an idea what to expect. An appropriate comparison might be Abbath’s I project if HAMMERFALL coerced them into dropping all nods to MOTÖRHEAD riffing by force-feeding them Robitussin. For the sake of that visual, assume Oscar Dronjak weighs more than the cost of discounted bus fare.
Tell me more: This band started under the name SMACK, which is possibly the most inappropriate name for a band of this stripe, assuming they’ve always been of the same stripe. A better name, if the descriptive route is helpful: PERFECT FIFTH.
Disclaimer: I knew nothing of this band before hearing this disc and writing the review, so take anything I have to say with a large grain of contextual salt. I can’t imagine this band has been a stylistic shapeshifter by any means.
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