REVIEW: GRAND MAGUS – “Wolf God”
Few acts manage to combine the sheer heaviness of the doom genre with epic heavy metal so competently as Sweden’s Grand Magus. Completing 20 years of activity in 2019, Fox Skinner (bass) and JB Christoffersson (guitars, vocals) – accompanied by Ludwig Witt (drums) since 2012 – have their ninth studio album in ‘Wolf God’, a return of sorts to their early days.
The atmospheric/epic heavy parts are still prominent here – a feature added in the early-2010’s with albums like ‘Hammer of the North’ (2010) and ‘The Hunt’ (2012) – but there is a stronger sense of rawness and straight-forward playing, like in the cadenced “Brother of the Storm”, follow-up “Dawn of Fire” and in the final portion of the record with “Untamed”.
The album doesn’t actually start very well, with a cliché intro and the title-track being anything but full of energy, and with “A Hall Clad in Gold” providing good but forgettable moments. It’s only when the aforementioned “Dawn of Fire” kicks in that JB and company show why they are Nuclear Blast’s “go-to” heavy/doom band. The peaceful start to the track paves the way to some of the most sexy riffs and better instrumental performances of the effort, which gets better from then on.
The duo “Spear Thrower” and “To Live and Die in Solitude” are the best songs here, by far. The former is a full-speed punch in the liver with powerful and brutal verses and a brilliant solo, and the latter has wonderful guitar-lines and overall vocal performance by JB, while the kitchen also provides perfect backup.
There are some minor Judas-esque influences by the time “Glory to the Brave” starts, especially in the riff department, but this is where the epic aura is stronger. Grand Magus can easily shift between the straight-forward and the epic, and this track is the perfect example of it. There’s also strong stoner elements here, which makes for an interesting mix.
“He Sent Them All to Hell” is pretty much a filler track, with little room for anything more than some simple verses and a simpler chorus. This could please the more purists and rock ‘n’ roll enthusiasts, but it just feels detached from the album proposal as a whole. “Untamed”, like I said earlier, borrows a lot from Grand Magus’ heydays. It’s more cadenced at times, but it’s a good closer overall and features one of the best choruses in the record, more so when the final choirs enter to bring a welcomed doom-ish aura.
Essentially, ‘Wolf God’ is a mix between Grand Magus’ old and new elements. It’s definitely a step up from the good ‘Sword Songs’ (2016), as the Swedes bet more on the crunchy riffs and doom elements rather than forcing an epic, more pompous aura every chance they get. A great choice for fans of the heavy/doom genre, and a statement that there’s still a lot to come in terms of consistency. Recommended.