Artist: Grand Magus
Album: Sword Songs
Release Date: May 13th, 2016
Label: Nuclear Blast
Direct, to the point metal has become somewhat of a rarity in recent years; this is one of the problems with music industry, one of many. Everyone seems to have decided to move on to the next “innovative” idea and consume it to the point of boredom and then they wonder why everything sounds bland. Very few bands try and keep their original sound intact. Having said that the question is, how does Sword Songs fare in all this “market frenzy”?
Average. That is the answer and it is the simple truth. Now, playing heavy metal when everyone is crazy about creating “technical-something” metal requires balls. But if you believe that point is overstated then let’s just say that it DOES require passion to play classical heavy metal. For that reason, Grand Magus deserves a toast. Well, they are not a new band but, cheers! *sips from his beer*
Now that the celebrations are over, we have to focus on that average feeling. I am not sure if it is because of the album’s sound or if it is because it lacks passion in its performance, not the general passion of playing heavy metal, but the energy given to this particular album. In light of that statement, Sword Songs hits that generic metal threshold wall. What does that mean? It means it lacks that spark that urges you to replay an album or return to it, say, a week or so later for another spin. Actually, I will stop writing here and will listen to this album in two days one more time… *journalist really gives two days break here*
Alright, back. I am asking myself the same question for a while now because everything needed to be a good heavy metal album is here. After a two day break from the album, I am back to writing this review and “meditating” over the disc. Good chorus parts, groovy rhythms, beer-frenzy vocal partitions, occasional acoustic guitar “breaks”… That makes me re-think my take on the passion thing. Now, when I listen to review copies, I take my time. Some days, I simply feel I am not up for it and I postpone my listening session. I listen to an album a few times, no matter how good or bad it is to get an objective feeling. The album still sounds mediocre to my ears and the sole reason for that is the sound quality. Over-boosted bass, a somewhat unbalanced drum sound and pushed back guitars appear to be the preferred choice on Sword Songs but it hurts more than it pleases. I am using a pair of Genelec 8030a’s, a standard home stereo set, and Sennheiser 598se headphones to review albums. All three have different feelings and they help me to get a general grasp of the sound. Sometimes, a disc may sound bad on one but good on the other two. And sometimes it sounds great on all three like Amorphis – Under the Red Cloud. However, Sword Songs sounds weird on all three as if it was pushed too much to the limits, bass and snare sounds peaking. This sound only works well on the closing track, Every Day There’s a Battle to Fight as it is a groovy, mid-tempo anthem piece in the sense of old Manowar songs (Heart of Steel, for example). It is the only track I copied to my mp3 list after my review session is over. Sad, but true.
Now, that may be too much technical stuff for you but it truly hurts the energy. The album is good music-wise and there are several tunes you might like to hear at your local metal bar. Freja’s Choice is one such song with energy flowing through its veins. A solid heavy metal piece. The tunes offer nothing new and that is not neccessarily a bad thing. If you are a heavy metal head who likes the 80s metal (and early 90s), you will feel at home. I am looking for the fun and joy factor more than originality in albums to be sincere as very, VERY few bands really try something original and most add “things” just for the sake of adding them. Why bother adding something unnecessary? That said, Grand Magus falls into the pitfall of repeating the same things over and over on the album and after a while you could lose interest. This would have been bearable if that snare drum wasn’t constantly banging in my eardrums.
We are living in the digital age and it is possible to preview albums before buying them. I suggest you give the album a go before reaching a decision of your own. Freja’s Choice, Every Day There’s a Battle to Fight and Frost and Fire are good songs to judge the positive sides of the album. Hugr is also a nice break from the album’s sound as an acoustic instrumental. On the other hand Last One to Fall is a good track that demonstrates why the overall sound does not work. If you are new to Grand Magus, you may want to check 2010’s Hammer of the North and 2008’s Iron Will first as those are the examples of where the band really shines.
Janne “JB” Christoffersson – lead vocals, guitar
Mats “Fox” Skinner – bass, backing vocals
Ludwig “Ludde” Witt – drums