Album Ranking: Grand Magus

Album Ranking: Grand Magus

Swedish pagan metal titans Grand Magus have been around for over two decades with the Swedish trio notching 9 albums and countless tours to a passionate, dedicated core of fans. Never quite reaching the dizzying heights of Amon Amarth, Grand Magus have nonetheless forged a terrific, respectable career underscored by album after album of genre-bending songs that straddle folk, doom and stoner metal with a hard rock edge that makes them accessible to more sedate listeners.

The powerful vocals of vocalist/guitarist Janne ‘JB’ Christoffersson, smooth basslines from Mats ‘Fox’ Skinner and current drummer Ludwig ‘Ludde’ Witt (who has been with the band for the last 11 years completing the line up) combine to create gorgeous riffs, catchy hooks and some songs that can stay with you long after you leave the gig as a sweaty mess.

I first heard them about 12 years ago when the epic bass of 'Hammer of the North' struck me between the earholes, reverberating through my skull like musical notes from Valhalla. I’ve been a fan ever since and here I have given myself the unenviable task of popping them into order.

9 - Grand Magus (2001)

More rock focused, a noble opening but without a clear lead song to hang it’s hat on, the album founders a little with the raw elements of what could be, as happens with so many new bands. Early days.

8 - Monument (2002)

The riffs were more developed than the previous album and they were all very consistent in style and quality, if not memorable. Many of the songs would sound better live with the energetic, high quality performances that the band always deliver.

7 - Wolf’s Return (2005)

The signature sound was nearly there, the strong 'Kingslayer' leading the way and the feeling that a breakthrough was not far away as their style, songwriting and cohesion grew stronger than ever before. Close but not quite there yet, though enjoyable.

6 - Sword Songs (2016)

A more recent offering which had some decent moments but fell well short of what came before and afterwards. As is typical with Grand Magus, it isn’t so much a bad album as a ‘meh’ album, a middle of the road. A pie from a pub, does the job but won’t be busting down your door to demand you listen to it anytime soon. 'Every Day There’s a Battle to Fight' and 'Freja’s Choice' are personal highlights with 'Frost and Fire' a wee bit close behind.

5 - The Hunt (2012)

Simply put, The Hunt is a good album. Strong, like a good coffee (where are these food and drink comparisons coming from? Must be dinner time) but not as good as it could be, like an average coffee. 'Valhalla Rising' has a belter of a riff along with the title track but for me the real star is the excellent ‘Son of the Last Breath’ which begins as one thing then changes into something else entirely. A beautiful song, showcasing once again JB’s beautiful vocals that always stay away from the screaming that can ruin many a good band. Not hatin’ on screaming, just like when there is a clean option now and then and few are better than Grand Magus.

4 - Iron Will (2008)

The opening track grabs you by the eyebrows and yanks them off, setting the tone for an album which was streets ahead of the others until now. Fan favourite 'Iron Will' is so fist-pumpingly fun that you cant help but smile and chant along with the band. While it loses momentum a little in the second half of the album it nonetheless finishes with the outstanding 'I am the North' which showcases JB’s wondrous vocals.

3 - Triumph and Power (2014)

One of two Grand Magus songs about gold opens proceedings with the excellent ‘On Hooves of Gold’, a slower and more deliberate song which evokes real feeling. Triumph and Power slows the pace from other albums and enjoys itself, spreading it’s wings in songs like the title track and the 'Hammer Will Bite.' 'The Naked and the Dead' speed things up for a while with a cracking riff and catchy chorus which always impresses me as it shows JB’s ability to both riff away and sing a totally different song whenever he feels like it. I would call him a git for being so talented but the truth is he has never been anything other than respectful, a little quiet and sincere in interviews and when this reviewer met him.

2 - Wolf God (2019)

The most recent album on this list and what an album it is! Wolf God opens the show and throws a forceful energy to the listener before the slower, anthemic ‘A Hall Clad in Gold’ follows, treating your ears to some Norse lore in Grand Magus style. ‘Dawn of Fire’ moves between chorus and guitar sections and melodious singing to great avail and grew on me tremendously. ‘He Sent Them All to Hel’ is a song I personally find similar to ‘The Naked and the Dead’ from 2014’s Triumph and Power due to it’s riff and speed which makes it awesome with a capital A. Consistency is key once more as other songs on the album are above average but don’t threaten to steal the limelight from the other stronger songs on the album.

1 - Hammer of the North (2010)

Maybe it’s bias as it was the first album I listened to but I challenge you to find a more sublime bass than the one in the title track, it’s just incredible and with the guitars kicking in it gets even better. If you haven’t seen Grand Magus live, this is one I urge you to witness for yourself, the aforementioned passionate crowd enhance this song, often continuing to sing the bassline after the band have left the stage.

But this album 'aint a one trick pony, the quality of the songs throughout never drops and favourites can constantly shift. ‘The Lord of Lies’ is a stunning song that has never been played live and continues to be a constant tune on my most played lists, charting Loki and his malicious nature (Marvel movies be damned). A beautiful merging of riffs, hooks, bass, drums and feeling with more than a dash of northern mystique and myth, Hammer of the North is an album that shows some of the best of Grand Magus in one place, and with their back catalogue that certainly says something.

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