When the first thing you see of an album is something so nonsensically brilliant as a sword wielding eagle, you know you’re in for a good time. I mean, first of all, where’d he get that thing? What kind of person decides that nature’s answer to the cruise missile isn’t murdery enough, but 30 inches of tempered steel will help? And what does he need it for? He can’t cut properly bearing it in both talons, so surely he’d have to land first and use it in one.
Is that what it’s for? Is this eagle following his dreams and becoming a duellist? That’s so gracefully ridiculous that I’m surprised he isn’t in the D’n’D monster manual.
Musically, Grand Magus lives up to the standards of their avian mascot. Straight out of the gate, Sword Songs is full of the energy of the greats, with squealing guitar reminiscent of classic metal that settles into a heavy, regular beat with the drive and intensity of Sabbath or Priest. “Freja’s Choice” is the song in question, a heavy, grunting masterpiece, breaking in the guitars, the drums and the listener’s ears with the same irresistible firmness you’d break in a stallion. Roars follow, rough, gritty vocals and a beating rhythm that encourages headbanging before breaking into a solo that seems designed to break the spines of those brave enough to continue.
The first song on the album, “Forged in iron”, has a gentler beginning, an almost peaceful instrumental that serves as the quiet before the storm. Classic Metal comes out to play again, bringing the band’s strengths to the fore with more of that classic beating and some truly fantastic vocal work. “Viking Metal” comes the battle cry, a fantastically memorable track that serves as a showcase for the growling, howling and screaming of Christofferson’s vocal range. It’s not spectacularly serious, calling forth the “sword of power” is more He-Man than Ragnar Lothbrok, but the passion he can inject into such overzealous cheesiness is as infectious as it is incurable. You might not know why he so needs Odin to grant him gold and glory, but you’ll care regardless.
The rest is Viking metal in the same vein, sometimes slower and more sombre, often faster and more energetic but always keeping hold of that same electric power metal that drives its enthusiasm into your heart with the iron clawed ferocity of a swordbird’s blade.
Score: 8/9 Hammers
GRAND MAGUS | Album: Sword Songs | Released: May 13th, 2016