When I first popped Triumph and Power, the 7th album from Swedish trio Grand Magus I was taken aback. It had been a long time since I’d listened to them and their style has changed significantly in the last decade. Back in the early ’00s all I listened to (pretty much) was considered “stoner rock/metal.” Man’s Ruin, Tee Pee and Rise Above (Grand Magus’s former label) were my drugs of choice. Back then, on Grand Magus and Monument they fell pretty well into that stoner category. In hindsight the hints of how Grand Magus are presented now were there in their latent states. Going back over their career one can readily hear the progression into the direction of straight up heavy metal as early as 2005’s Wolf’s Return. That album had a little more pep to it. Like someone finally kicked their steed in the ass, thrusting into the fevered heat of battle. Fast forward to 2014 and the first thing that comes to mind upon hearing Triumph and Power is simply: THIS is heavy metal.
JB (guitars, lead vocals), “Fox” Skinner (bass, backing vocals) and Ludwig Witt (drums) are playing the type of metal that just screams of the genre’s epic roots. There’s nothing straining towards extremity, nothing trying to be “more” than anything else. Except maybe more blood, sweat and beers. It’s all about being as loud as possible while maintaining memorable songs, powerful riffs and clean vocals with reverent, fantastic lyrical themes. And Grand Magus pull off that trifecta in spades.
Opener “On Hooves of Gold” takes a bit of time to get up to speed with a forlorn guitar line and chanted vocals backed by the sound of rain. But once they hit their stride with an easy galloping riff, it’s on. As is characterized throughout the album, the chorus soars on the winds of JB’s powerful vocal chords. There’s a commanding presence, and even for someone who doesn’t listen to much metal in this classic vein (me), it’s impossible not to belt out those anthemic choruses right along with them.
“Steel Vs Steel” follows that up with an even catchier main riff and epic chorus. This track too may sound like the truest throwback to the heyday of heavy metal even if it’s more a case of Grand Magus playing the type of music they grew up on than intentionally trying to sound vintage. It makes me think of Judas Priest and Accept even if the comparisons aren’t parallel. The themes of battle and war dominate Triumph and Power. There’s no doubting their connection to their Viking roots runs deep. The passion shows as the conviction that seeps from every chord, drum strike and vocal hook is undeniable.
Highlights include the title track and its stellar chorus, the massive power chords and JB’s sky-cracking vocals on “Dominator” and closer “The Hammer Will Bite.” It’s the longest track and wraps together Grand Magus’s best elements. It’s loaded with giant, powerful riffs, great flow and, as always, a swelling chorus sure to puff out the chest beneath the leather vest.
Grand Magus have done an excellent job of bringing the spirit and sound of traditional heavy metal to the present day. Every note hits like Thor’s hammer, every chorus explodes with Odin’s might, every solo bears meaning and it’s all wrapped up into plain old good songs. And hey, if it can make this doom/sludge/black/death metal “kid” anxious to dig back into the genre’s roots, Grand Magus have to being doing something right.