Grand Magus, the Swedish heavy metal three-piece, are back with Sword Songs. The band’s inspirations are clear: Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Rainbow to name just a few. Sword Songs takes the best of these aforementioned bands whilst adding a distinctive Viking flavour to proceedings. Sword Songs is heavy, catchy and effortlessly enjoyable.
We start with Freja’s Choice, which opens the album in spectacular fashion. It’s riff-heavy, oozing with style. It doesn’t sound like there are only three members here, but that’s a testament to the musicianship on display. The flow is impressive. It really sounds like Iron Maiden. I’m sure Steve Harris is on the bass, not Mats “Fox” Skinner. Indeed, Sword Songs throughout sounds, to my ears, like a Viking version of Iron Maiden – and that is a very good thing.
“We are warriors. Defenders of Steel”, Janne “JB” Christoffersson tells us in Varangian, another catchy, heavier version of Iron Maiden. The melodies are strong, the musicianship is excellent and the vocals are out of this world. Christoffersson’s range is at times unbelievable. His slightly gravelly delivery gives the band a more rocky sound than Iron Maiden, Rainbow and even Black Sabbath, whose vocals are higher and more operatic than what’s heard here.
The classic metal sound is definitely something Grand Magus excel at however. Sword Songs sounds like a record from the 1970s, recorded today. It’s great fun. It’s heavier than the albums from where it draws its inspirations, but I appreciate that. It’s the mixture of both old and new that Sword Songs gets spot-on. At once it sounds timeless and contemporary. Despite what The Mighty Boosh may have told us, combining elements of the past and future can make something that sounds as good as, if not better, than either.
Where Sword Songs succeeds more than older Grand Magus records is in creating a sound that works incredibly well live. These are songs where crowd participation is encouraged. You can sing along, play air guitar and even get caught up in a mosh pit or two to any number of the tracks on this record. This is a fun record, at home, or seen live. It gives a good time whenever you need one. I can’t recommend Sword Songs strongly enough.
Sword Songs is such a fun record. It’s combination of the classic metal sound and a more contemporary heavy sound is effortless. The best of 2016? It very well could be.