Saturday, May 3, 2014

Grand Magus - Triumph and Power

Back in January, these Swedes returned to carry forth the banner of good old fashioned heavy metal yet again. How did they fair? Well let's talk about that.

I thoroughly enjoyed the band's 2012 release The Hunt, so I suppose a certain amount of comparison is inevitable. Sadly, that fact doesn't do Triumph and Power  any favors. Different moods and approaches work in different styles of metal, but I find that in order for traditional heavy metal to really click and feel fresh these days, energy level is of paramount importance. On The Hunt, the engaging wails and enthusiastic riffing were infectious. I was caught up in the pure cheesy Manowar-esque exuberance. It made me want to wield a pair of over-sized battleaxes as I blasted through a horde of goblins on my flaming Harley Davidson. I wanted to wrestle a dinosaur on the top of a volcano. Pretty much if it looked like it belonged in the movie "Heavy Metal" then The Hunt  evoked my desire to do it.

Triumph and Power, however, is a lot less energetic. I can deal with mellow and melodic, but this doesn't sound relaxed: it sounds tired. The vocals are, with a few scattered exceptions, flat and unengaging. The riffs sound like uninspired material that the guitarist was already bored of as he recorded it. There is a certain rhythm and flow to the songs, and I feel like I can tell where the band wanted to go, but they just didn't get there this time. It's odd, because it's not like the band sold out or totally changed their style or even fell into a repetitive rut. It just feels like they weren't really into what they were doing.

Now this is not, as my review so far may suggest, a terrible album. It's fine. Every song is perfectly pleasant to listen to, some of the quiet passages are interesting, and there are moments where the band feels right on the verge of breaking through into their usual engaging selves. They never quite make that leap, though, leaving this album short of the Grand Magus standard of quality in my opinion.

I hope these guys get their passion and clarity of purpose back, because there aren't enough traditional heavy metal bands making really compelling music these days. I'd hate to lose one of the best to some bizarre apathetic malaise.

Grade: C+

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