In case you’re wondering, I am going to go on hiatus on the album reviews for a while. I just realized that I have churned out quite a few in the last few weeks, and I plan to switch more to the academic side and write on critical theory.
So that said, here’s my take on Grand Magus’ newest LP “Iron Will.” Plainly, it solidly kicks ass, in an underrated and subtle way, albeit. They have moved from their stripped, slowed down doom sound on their eponymous 2001 debut release to begin moving, or maybe reverting, towards a more traditional heavy metal sound. When I first listened to the album I was a little dismayed because I was totally digging the band’s direction (gnarly drumming, tight riffs, heavy slow sections) on “Wolf’s Return.” But “Iron Will” is a different release altogether, as it only has a few twinges of doom in it and really wishes instead to be that easyily listenable, rockin’ at your favorite dive/biker bar, while still keeping a heavy metal/hard sound.
Groovey, this album definitely takes steps, not necessarily towards 80’s Manowar stylings, but towards the song structures and embodies the killer bass lines DeMaio of the same band used to churn out. “Fear is the Key” blasts off at a brisk clip and is reminiscent of muscle cars and Budweiser beer. It might be the quintessential beer brawl song. The bass heavy groove sound continues with the instrumental “Hövding.” This song segues into the title track, which has cheesy but still fairly cool lyrics (see “remind me to always remember…). But the coolest thing about “Iron Will” is its heavy groove, stylishly done meandering solo, and ever pounding, groovy bass line, while laying off of Manowar’s “Battle Hymns” cheesiness.
The hard rock feel continues with “Silver Into Steel,” which has a (gasp!) catchy chorus, easy to follow song structure, and an unusually heavy bass line (which could have been sussed out a little better with finer production). You could play this song on the radio. I know, for some fans this song would be the epitome of selling out, especially considering the lyrical content, but it still sounds pretty good, and this little disc is probably never going to get any playing time on the radio (we’ll see if I’m wrong or not), so all you who are complaining should just go pick up The Gates of Slumber‘s newest, Conqueror, and forget about it.
The next song, “The Shadow Knows,” even has a classic rock-ish vibe to it. Again, the lyrics don’t do much for me, but the song is fun. You could play it for non-metal loving people and you wouldn’t clear the room. Besides “Self Deceiver,” the album picks up a bit from here.
I feel that this album would be a failure if Grand Magus had looked backwards too much in their metal stylings. Instead they nod heavily to late 70’s Sabbath, and mid 80’s Manowar, combining modern metal, pinches of doom, and hard rock, to create a record that could just as easily be voxed by a death metaler as well as by Janne “JB” Christoffersson, who really, really sings like he means it from the pit of his fiery belly and the bottom of his filthy soul. And the album artwork is great! I want to get a large poster of it for my living room.
Many stalwart Magus lovers will probably buck after hearing this album. I have all of Magus’ CD’s but do not consider myself a Magus lover, merely a Magus listener, so for me good music is good music, and they have released a piece of good music here. I love filthy doom, and filthy doom this CD is not, but I don’t think it flirts with this distinction at all. It is what it is. Magus have the ability to write simple, heavy, and memorable songs.