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Grumpy bastards - 59%

gasmask_colostomy, September 17th, 2017

Bands can emit many moods when you listen to their albums. Some are filled with energy, some with anger, some with joy, or regret, or nostalgia. However, I'm fairly sure this is the only album I've got when a band's grumpiness and stubbornness really came through on the recording. Grand Magus are not exactly a band I'd label as grumpy either, their later work being a mix of classic heavy metal, Viking themes, and retro grooves, all of which suggest having a fairly good time, though this album catches them at a less refined point in their existence. As the follow-up to rather a turd of a debut, Monument wisely decides to go heavier and more serious, that being achieved by slapping a concrete guitar tone down the middle of every song and playing in a style that - for once - fits the band's classification as doom metal.

Therefore, starting with the guitar is a good way for this review to go. It was a three-piece band that played and composed these seven songs, so JB doesn't do a great deal in the melodic vein with his six strings, mostly plying riffs that attach on one side to Sabotage-era Black Sabbath and on the other to fuzzier and muddier movers like Spiritual Beggars and High on Fire. This makes the general pace slow, almost crawling at times, and the mood dour and rainy, as if JB has been forced to walk up a rocky cunt of mountain (I don't know why, but this comes out in The Hound's voice from GoT) dragging not only his guitar but a guitar made of stone, while to make matters worse it's fucking drizzling, which is always worse than actual rain. If you thought that was grumpy enough, wait until I tell you about Fox's bass, because that's the real miserable prick, grunting and muttering pretty clearly all the way through the 44 minutes as if he wasn't happy with anything that happened this morning and wants to take it out on you. 'Baptised in Fire' is the grumpiest song of the lot in this sense, dragging its knuckles as the bass grunts and even pops into the listener's ears, making progress by virtue of sheer antagonism instead of anything resembling good will or effort.

That description probably doesn't cast a very favourable light on Monument, which would be an accurate summary of my first several listens to the album. It doesn't have much charm on any of the songs, barring the more melodic and rousing 'Summer Solstice', which anyway comes early enough in the running order to make the following gloom all the more evident. On the other hand, I've warmed to the songs gradually and that's down to the pure stubborn quality of the Swedes. When you are a three-piece doom band without any death metal influence, it's not really possible to fully explore all the melodic and majestic possibilities of the genre, so much of the legwork here is done by repetition and a kind of brute force, as the frontman smacks the same riff down time after time and attempts to use his strong vocals to stir some kind of momentum in the band. On 'Chooser of the Slain (Valfader)', that process is rather painful in the palm-muted chugging verses (painful like JB suddenly has no legs and we're watching him climbing that same cunt of a mountain), though when the main riff saunters out on a stately lick and Fox takes up the melody with a smile on his bass everything takes on a different aspect and I can consciously enjoy the music.

Some of this stubbornness sadly emanates from Trisse's drums, which he gives a good whack to yet can't make any impact, so turned down are they in the mix. Thus, the momentum and brooding nature of doom metal never really materialize, while I certainly couldn't enjoy this on pure heavy metal grounds since a lot of it is really very slow. When the unfathomably lengthy 'He Who Seeks...Shall Find' is battling on with its main riff, it honestly sounds as if Warning or Cathedral were making a bid for freedom from the early '90s, though the sections in between (even the bass solo) are merely filler interlude material, moving the song nowhere at all. On the other hand, the shorter songs 'Food of the Gods' and 'Summer Solstice' could be heavy metal anthems in their own right, the former packing in enough energetic soloing to seal the deal and the latter the only thing here that approaches territory bordering on catchy. Alright, maybe "anthems" is quite an extreme word to use, but they work as straight-up romps. The other songs fall somewhere in between, usually settling for one or two good riffs (opener 'Ulvaskall (Vargr)' probably has the best) and some impassioned vocals from JB, though nothing sets the world alight.

My summary of Monument would therefore be that it tries something different from the debut, doesn't really succeed, but gets through the experience by those obstinate qualities I mentioned above. I'm sure there will be some fans of retro metal, doom, or even sludge who might love this, but for me it all sounds a bit half-baked and flat, owing partly to the instrumental settings and the lack of pace, while the absence of really killer ideas is naturally the last thing that any band would want. This isn't really like Grand Magus's other albums but closer to classic doom, so just check out The Hunt or Sword Songs if you want to find out what they are really capable of.

A Boulder of an album - 90%

orionmetalhead, March 8th, 2006

Grand Magus have been a band that has pleasurably surprised me last year with the release of Wolf's Return. Being my first foray into the music of this Swedish trio, after one listen I was hooked. The power they produce as well as the shear un-pretetiousness of their attack is a welcome change to mass of bands that are trying to use Albert Einstein -like equations to write riffs that are then compressed into a dizzying blur of four hundred notes in the span of four seconds. Thats a note every hundreth of a second. Though I enjoy thoroughly bands such as Decapitated and Necrophagist and all their ilk, its a blessing to hear the other end of spectrum. Wolf's Return, with brilliant songs like the title track, Blood Oath and Nine along with the opener Kingslayer and second to last track Light Hater makes that album not only an enjoyable listening experience, but as far as Im concerned, an album that blows away mostly everything else that was put out last year (2005).

The album that Grand Magus released previously is, much like its follow-up a brilliant boulder of doom that, when unleashed from its position, rumbles onward crushing anything in its path.

To start, the tone of this album is beautiful. Every instrument is mixed perfectly. Fox's bass can be harkened to Mozart.... playing a piano which creates earthquakes. Janne's guitar rips through the air like lightning spreading charged riffs all over the place with Trisse's drums pulling the entire package together. Janne's vocals are, without a doubt, some of the best in metal. Band's would be hard pressed to find someone with as much versatility as he has in range and effect. In some ways, he reminds me of a more metalized Chris Cornell. What I really like about his vocals are that words are easily distinquishable but still heavy as a beached whale. The mixing of all these elements is spectacular, nothing overwhelms anything else with the bass and guitar sounding almost like one instrument. Though I would have liked to see some of the solos a little higher in the mix, this doesnt impede on anything and they still stand out memorably.

To the songs now. With seven songs clocking in at forty three minutes, the album is neither too long nor too short though this band could write an album that starts in April and ends July and I dont think I would turn it off except when I sleep and only so I can press play when I wake up without missing anything. The first song, is Ulvaskull which, though I dont speak Swedish, I would guess means "First of Seven Blocks Of Ridiculously Heavy Doom Metal." Song two, Summer Solstice is a mid-tempo rocker worthy of much headbanging and boozing. Brotherhood Of Sleep and Baptised In Fire continue in this style continuing to employ the wizardy of the mid-tempo-groove-masters. Chooser of the Slain, with its sick intro and bridge riff, iron-like verse and archaic atmosphere is mid-album masterpeice. The fastest track - though still barely topping a residential speed limit - Food Of The Gods mercfully leaves us unscathed however struck in a "wow, that was faster" sort of way, after an album of slower doomsterpeieces. The last track is the album "epic." Clocking in at ten and a half minutes, He Who Seeks... Shall Find erupts like Hawiai's constantly-slow flowing yet unfaltering volcanoes after a minute of drone. Half-way this drone picks up again, alone with a well placed bass solo from Fox. Though a hell of a track, a faster track may have been a more suitable closing track however, this track better represents the band's style and, though by far a mid paced album at most, selective sections of speed burst forth at places to up the tempo and also hint at the band's next, faster, album.

In all, this is a great album for any doom lover and even for those are have yet to take a dive into the subgenre. Though I'm not going to go into depth about their lyrics, I will say that lyrically, this band also exceeds the vast majority of bands. Lyrically, they destroy whole swaths of the metal-genre. For me, this album, more-so entire band, are making me yet another doom-aholic. Their blend of doom, groove, and tone is a trully powerful sound, unconquerable and beautiful.