without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
I remember reading an article about Grand Magus quite a while ago which focused heavily on the band's atheist leanings (is that a leaning?) and yet, as far as I can tell, they have a ton of pagan lyrics and so on that are pretty interesting and picturesque, certainly not anti-Christian in any overt way. Then, they are sometimes labelled as a doom band, which I'm incredibly skeptical about, especially in their more recent years. They have an old school sound and aren't the fastest heavy metal band on the planet, but I can hear more reasons to call them hard rock or (annoyingly, because I hate this term) retro, certainly when they introduce a song like the rather pedestrian 'Valhalla Rising' that lacks bite and dwells calmly on its simple riff. Also, 'Valhalla Rising' is not a song title that screams atheist to me. Just saying. Grand Magus just do what they like and it's not really that edgy one way or another.
What they do, however, is perform well. Perhaps the album makes a rather strange choice by kicking off with what I think are probably the three weakest tracks, all of which dawdle a little and don't have anything incredible to mark them out, but that means that once everything starts to move as 'Storm King' bounds forward, the whole album begins to landslide down on the listener and as the quality heaps up they are well and truly buried. 'Storm King' works because it has a sense of urgency about it and zips along quite forcefully on several fluent riffs and cleverly paced verses; then 'Silver Moon' has a more impassioned vocal delivery; then the title track has a very smart lick and an incredibly classic bridge riff pops up; and so on - it keeps getting better. The point isn't that the first three songs are poor attempts, it's just the fact that Grand Magus are evidently capable of piling on the riffs, upping the excitement, and making everything sing in wonderful harmony, so I find myself dissatisfied with what seems like half measures. Tha said, the closer 'Draksådd' isn't quite up to the same level of quality either, though I can be lenient in this case since it's more relaxed strains seem more welcome after the furious surge of 'Iron Hand'.
My analysis of this problem is very simple: Grand Magus sound better when they play faster or louder. 'Iron Hand' and 'Storm King' are the only tracks here that could be described as pacy and they both rank among the strongest on the album, while the title track also impresses with its primal seek and destroy riffs. Basically, a good Grand Magus song occurs every time our man JB decides he's angry or confident or defiant. His voice has plenty of power to it when he needs it, plus his lyrics are a major strength with their call to arms nature, so there's a great flow of positive energy whenever he becomes excited and lets rip on his vocals. Ditto solos, which are outstanding on a song like 'Iron Hand' or 'Sword of the Ocean', because they have a lot of drive behind them and the band are feeling courageous; ditto riffs, which grow about thirty more balls after 'Storm King' strikes. The only exception to this rule (and, as with all good exceptions, sort of proves it) is with the gorgeously wistful 'Son of the Last Breath', which begins with ethereal, delicate nocturnal crooning and builds into a rousing anthem of recovery that just about steals the spot of album highlight.
There's something else wrong with this album, although it's actually one I don't mind so much. The drums are produced badly, particularly the deeper sounds from the kit, which get swallowed up in the bottom of the sound. There's a kick that generally thumps away solidly and the cymbals all sound good, but there's another part of the kit that sounds like a newspaper hitting a wall, which some people might be dissatisfied with. The bass is audible, except you won't be listening to it a great deal (the guitar is front and centre) apart from the soft introductions to several songs, which largely feel superfluous and usually are of little merit. Lead tone gets the best deal, definitely better than the vocals, but it isn't overused.
So we have an album that is disappointing in places, with a few lacklustre songs, though several excellent songs as well. For their apparently strong stance, Grand Magus end up somewhere in between a few different things: not pagan enough to be Vikings, not heavy enough to be doom, not fuzzed enough to be retro. In fact, they end up in a niche of their own, as evidenced by their similar artist rating on this site - they sound intensely familiar, yet like no one else particular. That in itself is an achievement, and with a few more of the killer songs, they would be outstanding.
Early this century… in the year 2001… Grand Magus served up a debut album so thick and frothy that gods licked their lips upon hearing it. Ten years after it was released… I heard it. And my EARS licked their lips! As I was listening to the the clear deep voice punch its way through meaty riffs and blazing solos, one of my ears shouted to the other: THIS IS ROCK N ROLL! To which the other replied: Yeah man.
The Hunt is their sixth LP. Gradually, throughout the course of those 11 years, Grand Magus seem to have shifted away from rockn bluesy licks to favour a more “epic” sound. Of all their albums, I hold their first in the highest regard. That being said, I put forward that “The Hunt” is an improvement over their previous album, “Hammer of the North” (2010).
Compared to Hammer of the North, the songs on The Hunt have more of a presence (to my ears at least). ‘Valhalla Rising’ is as catchy as colds are. Both ‘Silver Moon’ and the title track are solid as stone. The last track ‘Draksådd’ is a good example of bluesy and epic sounds coming together. And let’s not forget the epic two-part ‘Son of the Last Breath’ with its acoustic guitar/cello build-up to a climax featuring guest death metal vox from J. Hedlund (Unleashed). Epic ambience, varying dynamics, powerful melodies. Great stuff. Grand Magus always do well with the less-is-more approach: simple, memorable songs with a huge sound executed by a modest three-man unit. But Son of the Last Breath is not a product of less-is-more. It’s all in. And I like it. It leads nicely into the next song, Iron Hand, which is a more straightforward affair.
Overall the album holds together nicely. The Hunt has some grand-sounding songs, perhaps less bluesy than some of their past works, but still dancing between bluesy riffs and epic melodies. My mind keeps looking for criticisms but my ears offer only approval (and it’s them I have to listen to). Rock on Grand Magus!
written for http://thrillofmetal.wordpress.com/
I first discovered the mighty Magus in 2003 when I heard the Spiritual Beggars On Fire album. I later found out that JB was the main songwriter for a trio called Grand Magus. His vocals on the album On Fire were tremendous and I thought that if he has these kind of pipes in Spiritual Beggars, then Grand Magus must be his shining glory. He has that grizzly bear timbre in his voice with tons of bad-ass projection. These guys sound like a mixture of Motorhead, and a heavier Deep Purple, but more Epic. Doom metal seems to be the name of the game for Magus although they have a couple faster numbers on The Hunt. GM recruited a new member in Ludwig Witt a veteran drummer, who rocks hard straight from Spiritual Beggars. Starlight Slaughter was the song that stuck with me first on here, the vocals are very memorable. Norse Mythology seems to come up in some of the lyrics, and their Bathory worship is evident. The production and quality of the songs are only a slight step back from their 2010 release "Hammer of the North" (mixed by Jens Bogren) which is my option was album of the year.
The tones are more dry sounding and not much tweaking was done in the EQ's. Every song on The Hunt is very good, and no songs sound alike which is something most bands cannot accomplish. I especially like their approach to writing in an old school fashion, along with the very natural tones. JB's voice is the absolute focal point of this band along with his riffs that he conjures up. I didn't think Grand Magus could write a song like Valhalla Rising, that tracks has an almost Arena rock flavor to it. Silver Moon is by far my favorite track on the record, the chorus is one of the best in metal. Not many releases excite me these days, but every time Grand Magus is about to release a new record, I can't resist. In this modern age of technology ruling the music industry, with Pro Tools and enhanced triggers, these guys instead embrace the analogue days of the past. Now backed with a pretty fresh Roadrunner deal in Europe they may finally get the attention that they deserve. Their discography is pure quality as well and I also recommend Iron Will, Wolf's Lair, and Monument. You can sense some of the Sabbath influence with this band in the way they write material with strong backbone. Telling a story is JB's forte with his well pronounced vocals.
The Hunt is constantly on my player, I've probably spun it 20-25 times by now and it still is not getting boring or labored. Albums that have lasting value and stand the test of time are always the best albums. This happens to be one of them. Compared to Hammer of the North this is very close in quality but a different direction. JB's voice has matured from the self titled album till now and the song writing has changed to compensate. The Hunt is a quality album from front to back and the demo tracks sound almost as good as the actual record. Do yourself a favor a pick this one up.