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Considering how limp a few of Grand Magus's songs have been, Iron Will does its level best to prove that the heavy stays in heavy metal even when talking about the classic sort, opening on a high note with 'Like the Oar Strikes the Water' and never dropping after that. My initiation to the magic of the Magus was The Hunt, an album that sounds soft and indecisive compared to the bare-chested roar of Iron Will. Weak production notwithstanding, too many songs on The Hunt included parts that did not excite or emote or just fucking rock out, seemingly for the purpose of putting them there, which also plagued the two releases flanking it chronologically. However, prior to that minor slump, JB Christoffersson would seem to have overdosed on testosterone, leading to one of the most balls-out records you are ever likely to hear. I remember reading in a metal magazine that JB had no clue about the euphemistic meaning of "iron will", though was embarrassed but satisfied that he had basically called his band's album "huge boner". Trust me, it fits.
To understand why this album sounds so crushing, we need to talk about the bass first. The guitar isn't puny by any means, but the bass is like an avalanche on Everest and about as audible: that gruff gurgle like a mammoth awakening as each song starts up, or the dark churn beneath the rampant guitar riffs - it really makes itself felt physically. Listen to the transition between 'The Shadow Knows' and the brooding 'Self Deceiver' for forceful evidence. Even 'Hövding', which I know is a stupid 39-second instrumental, seems justifiable, because if I had that kind of bass sound I would feel the need to show it off just for a moment too. The guitar is much more classic metal, yet with Fox's instrument playing alongside, this becomes a doom album, even when it moves with those kind of lurching horseback/Viking battle paced riffs. Hell, even on 'The Shadow Knows', which actually takes off at a speed metal charge, has that enormous creaking tone backing it up, not to mention the glorious hook where guitar and bass plunge to bowel-shaking depths on a superlative lick.
Kudos to the other guys too, because an album wouldn't be an album with just that sweet bass sound: it needs inventive and energetic performances to make this kind of formula work. Earlier Magus albums like Monument really felt like an attempt to be true doom, sluggish tempos and all, though the three-piece didn't quite have the right attitude to make that kind of music, ending up a bit generic and underwhelming. What makes this album such a surprise is that it's arguably heavier than Monument but doesn't rely on the usual doom tricks, pairing joyous trad metal with crushing doom and getting the mixture totally spot on. JB has the kind of voice that suits faster-paced material, since he sounds amazingly confident and strong with the band backing him up, yet he also produces great performances on 'Self Deceiver' and 'Beyond Good and Evil', which fit the doom template much more closely. On these songs, his vocals sound a little distant (some effect has been added) and more nostalgic than commanding, while Sebastian Sippola gives the drums an astounding pounding on the latter track particularly, filling up the space within the sparser riffs and chords.
That said, the album does start running low on fuel by the time 'Beyond Good and Evil' is in its second half, since a lot of repetition and some lazily fluid soloing drags it through about 2 minutes before the closer enters the fray with a really fucking cool drum and bass intro, then ups the intensity once again. Other than the slight issue with the extended slower pace of that section (we are immersed in doom for a good 10 minutes), nothing else seems extra or dissatisfying, excepting the previously mentioned 'Hövding'. I suppose the solos could have been thought out a bit more, since they aren't exactly memorable, although they do add to the epic quality of some of the music, so that's not much of an issue, especially considering the quality of the riffing.
We do pretty well for variety too, considering Iron Will isn't a very long album. The two opening songs plus 'The Shadow Knows' provide the greatest excitement and pace, while the likes of 'Self Deceiver', 'I Am the North', and 'Iron Will' have that epic doom feel that a band like DoomSword also possess, though with the intensity turned up a notch. 'Silver Into Steel' and 'Beyond Good and Evil' aren't exactly weak songs, though they don't do quite as much for me, falling neither into the category of totally crushing, nor absolutely riveting. On the whole, we have an excellent and exciting metal album that you could use to start a crusade, piss off your neighbours, or just have a great time. Job done.
If Grand Magus falls in a forest when no one is around, does it make a sound? Hell yes it does, and you can bet the sonic waves sent from its rhythmic pounding are so unbelievably gigantic that even the smartest person caught in the crossfire of the unrelenting lash of Grand Magus will morph into a thick-headed dummy. Grand Magus plays an extravagant hybrid of heavy/doom metal that is remarkably simple at its core yet dramatically heroic and bold, roiling on in a massive shockwave of bruising riffs and the manly croons of Janne "JB" Christoffersson's sensational vocal chords. "Iron Will" strikes hard and sounds like an excellent testament to classic heavy metal rolled in a pagan tint and finally glazed with an electric sense of enthusiasm and conviction.
While the songs are far from technical or layered in any sense of compositional achievement, they are smoldering with affection the likes of which are seldom reached. Grand Magus is all about delivering a few amazingly crushing riffs that usually cycle around very simple choruses and guitar solos, but their sound is actually original and they really bring a ton of energy to songs that otherwise would look a little banal. The riffs are generally inspiring, and the meaty production makes the whole package a huge mesh of steel courage. I'll fully admit that I may have a bit of a mancrush on Christoffersson's stellar voice, which fits perfectly into the heavy-as-hell firing occurring throughout the whole record. His vocals are deep and powerful, not a far cry from his work in Spiritual Beggars, but still just pure metal sliding off his tongue.
The nine tunes all follow the same structure and seldom deviate from the doom-laden heavy metal blueprint. No complaints here though, because these Swedes knew just what they wanted and absolutely CRUSHED any chance of forging mediocrity. Right from the start, the mountains of pristine gruff take complete control during the gliding “Like the Oar Strikes the Water” and the rocking “Fear is the Key.“ The title track and “Silver Into Steel” are rigorous anthems of epic dominance; both keep the atmosphere fresh and insanely catchy. As I already said, it’s the devotion which runs “Iron Will.“ You can tell Grand Magus were playing their hearts out, and the power literally drips like a drop of molten steel. Talk about the most motivation piece of music ever; you have serious problems if the sheer passion and energy doesn't make you want to conquer every kingdom and government.
I love the simplistic churning of "Self-Deceiver" and I love the upbeat chorus chugging through "The Shadow Knows." I love the unrelenting bashing of "Like the Oar Strikes the Water" and I love how epic and cunning the chorus of "I Am the North" slithers out of Christoffersson's voice. In fact, most of "Iron Will" is entirely loveable. Grand Magus can take heavy/doom metal and stuff it with an illegal amount of voltage, and "Iron Will" is a monolithic landmark to the poignant and dynamic material wallowing in this wonderful faction. They can write compelling and passionate heavy metal tunes with just a few riffs per track, never leaving one of the nine songs to fall beneath the standard of sheer iron. Great stuff.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com
You know, with some bands, simplicity is not just a virtue, it is a fucking force to be reckoned with. On Grand Magus’ Iron Will, when you hear the hammering, later-Bathory-esque riffing and the loud, hollering vocals, it is like being plowed through a wall by a goddamned tank. They use simple, repetitive ideas and crushing dynamic and urgency to make you feel the fire as if it’s right under your nose. The choruses are just the song titles shouted out repeatedly, but they carry so much oomph that they could probably light up your house during an electric storm - they are incredibly effective, even with so little put into them. Every time they repeat a chorus, every time they hammer out another lightning-forged riff and beat you over the head with it, it becomes apparent that these guys mean business, and they intend to use everything they have as a lethal weapon of mass destruction against your ears. Prepare to be destroyed by the IRON WILL!
I mean, holy shit! Grand Magus is a band that apparently used to play stoner type metal, but on here all I hear is barbaric, pounding heavy metal that sounds like Doomsword with more immediate hooks, a brassier production and a heavy influence from bands like Viking-era Bathory or something. It’s quite an original sound for a genre like traditional metal, which usually focuses so much on establishing oneself in the already-established genre traditions rather than innovating. They don’t do anything really outlandish, but the sound still isn’t exactly like any one other band or even any one regional template. These guys make no apologies for that. In fact, with their bashing cavalcade of masterful riffery, they will make you want to apologize instead!
They waste no time. “Like the Oar Strikes the Water” gallops out with a big, galloping riff and a heroic melody, as well as absolutely fucking crushing vocals. Seriously, one of this album’s trademarks is the tendency to utilize singer JB Christofferson’s clear, punishing howl like it is an extra guitar rather than a separate entity. He just wails along with these songs and makes them even heavier than before. “Fear is the Key” and the anthemic pounder that is the title track up the ante, and we get some real killers with “Silver Into Steel” and the magnificently pulverizing “The Shadow Knows,” which pack enough hooks and manliness to fuel an entire album. But all bow before the triumphant “I Am the North,” which rocks out with a morose lead melody and a cutting riff, exploding into the best chorus on the album:
The Wolf will riiiiiiise
The end of liiiiiiies
Awe-inspiring, really; manly enough to turn any gay man straight. Grand Magus is a top notch band, and this album is worth checking out for anyone who likes traditional metal in the least. Iron Will is a big, fat metal middle finger to anyone who dares to slander the good old name of True Metal in its finest form. And you will know that by the end of this, or you will be nothing. Nothing, I say!
Some bands always seem under-appreciated and smaller than they should rightfully be, with Sweden's Grand Magus being a perfect case in point. Having slowly shifted from the Stoner/Doom groove of their self-titled debut and "Monument" to a more NWOBHM/classic Metal feel on "The Wolf's Return" and new album "Iron Will", Grand Magus have avoided being confined to one genre without losing integrity nor goodwill from their fanbase due to the conviction in which the change has taken place. Not for one second does their largely unmodern approach feel contrived or forced, giving an air of defiance and pride that can surely be loved by any fan of what is essentially hard rock music.
2005's "The Wolf's Return" was largely free of the ponderous Doom found on the preceding "Monument", and "Iron Will" has gone further, being largely free of riffs slow enough to be classified merely as 'Doom'. Strangely though, a strong-Candlemass influence is noticeable in a number of tracks such as "Beyond Good And Evil" and "Iron Will", and this works because the approach harks back to the fact that Doom was spawned directly from the birth of Heavy Metal itself (read: Black Sabbath) with the two having always been somewhat long-distance siblings. The strongest moments to be found on "Iron Will", a title as defiant as one can get this side of chest-thumpers Hatebreed, come in some gloriously upbeat and epic choral sections during "The Shadow Knows" and "I Am The North" that would not be amiss in a recent Candlemass record. Such fine moments of melodic, epic Heavy Metal are really something to behold and backed up by an excellent production courtesy of Oneman and the band themselves create as strong and forceful a music as any Metal band can muster. Vocalist (/guitarist) JB also cements his position as being one of Metal's most recognised voices during the course of "Iron Will" and deserves commendation for having furthered himself with each record. For any fans of the aforementioned "Monument" album, myself included, who were still hoping for some Doom-iness this is largely contained to "Self Deceiver" which maintains a more desperate feel that is generally of the preserve of Solitude Aeturnus. The lack of Doom is acceptable though for fans of classic Metal bands such as Accept and Saxon will find much to love to here through such a shared kindred spirit.
Despite being the self-confessed Kings of Metal, Manowar could take a leaf out of Grand Magus' book in how to write songs that are catchy, epic and Metal as fuck without moving so far in to the field of the ridiculous to come across as over-weight and up their arse. The progression between "The Wolf's Return" and "Iron Will" might not have been great but then does it really matter? This is a damn catchy album and Grand Magus have found themselves a style preventing their pigeonholing and are the better for it. Whether this remains a peak for the band that cannot be topped however is not clear as further development will be required to expand the sound in the future, but all that is required now is for YOU to buy this record and enjoy its upbeat anthemic Heavy Metal for yourself.
Originally written for Rockfreaks.net
Sweden’s Grand Magus might just be the most metal band ever. I know most of you who just read that sentence aren’t familiar with Grand Magus and must think I have just uttered blasphemy. However, I guarantee you that one listen through the band’s latest album, Iron Will, will chage your mind and have you bowing before their brand of infectious groove.
The rest of the album continues much in the same fashion as the first song. The pagan imagery and an atmosphere of anticipation and excitement are captivating. It’s hard to not listen to any of these songs to their fruition. 0:44 in “Self-Deceiver” is awe inspiring with its lyrics (“Bow down! Submit! Wishes granted! This is what you seek, self-deceiver!”) and the guitar riffs that chug along give the whole thing a ritual feel, which in a way is whole reason for this album. Iron Will feels like the soundtrack to a pagan celebration involving virgin sacrifice, Merlin, and a whole lot of demons.
A word needs to be said about vocalist JB. His powerful voice carries the songs through their snaking course. His range is also something to revel in. The high note he hits in the beginning of “Silver Into Steel” (which has one of the most catchy chorus’ I’ve ever heard) is extremely pleasing to hear and fits the mood of the song like a glove. I know that seems like an odd way to describe it, but when you listen to the track and hear how perfectly everything fits together a shiver runs down your spine. Another note should be made on the production for Iron Will. The album sounds damn near perfect. The drums have a heavy, rumbling resonance to them which give the impression of war drums. The guitars, bass, and vocals are all mixed very well also.
Iron Will is one of those rare albums that you don’t want to end. Every song on here is full of memorable parts that will have you singing them to yourself for weeks after you’ve heard the songs. The chorus on “I Am The North” sums up the feel of this album with its call to arms; “The Wolf will rise! The end of lies! Corruption dies! Free forever!” As far as I’m concerned, whenever I think of metal, my mind will immediately jump to Grand Magus and their swansong, Iron Will.
Iron Will who?
Iron Will kick your ass.
How much do you like your 70s hard rock and 80s metal? If you're like me and consider them the best thing that ever happened, here's some good news. JB, the vocalist/guitarist of the Swedish band Grand Magus is with you on that too. What started as a phenomenal blues heavy riff based doom on the first album kept evolving over the next two, becoming heavier, at times faster, and overall more epic metal. While Monument is probably still going to be my favourite album of theirs, Wolf's Return is the one for you metalheads.
The fourth album, Iron Will continues to see the band evolve. As far as lineup goes, Seb is the new man in since the old drummer quit back in 2006. But sonically, there's more than a passing resemblance to Dio's matchless recordings with the Blacker and Iommi, and many of these vocal harmonies are completely droolworthy if your favourite Deep Purple albums include the Mark III ones at the top. 80s metal is another influence on this but what completely signals the chequered flag for me are the Michael Schenker influenced leads by JB. The flying V and the half-cocked wah should be enough to imagine how big a disciple of Schenker's he is, but JB's phrasing and vibrato on this album are his best yet. Every solo is a song by itself and every solo is fucking awesome.
The Shadow Knows begins like Scorpions' one-chord-riff masterpiece Blackout, but also goes on to sound like a classic Dave Mustaine song on the verse. By the time Beyond Good and Evil, the second last song is on, you're absolutely convinced about a few things. The band is even capable of writing a metal anthem with just one riff, with the power of the heavy motherfucker of a groove, the unmatched singing, the solo and not to mention the greatness of that single riff itself. The album closes with just the enviable sounding drums pounding, joined a little later by the bass, almost sounding like something on the latest Riverside. The song in question is I am the North, and it is again a lesson in writing heavy, catchy and groovy epic doom with a load of That 70s Sex. As always with the band, this album has the perfect runtime of 38 minutes (without including the short hidden track). Classic stuff.
Originall written for http://www.kvltsite.com