Grand Magus - Hammer of the North
Grand Magus have been upholding a very distinguished lineage of heavy metal that runs through the likes of Judas Priest and Dio, one that is instantly recognisable but to which each band brings their own unique touch. And whilst Grand Magus do not (yet) reside with those behemoths of yore up on high, Hammer Of The North is an album that elevates them far above many of their peers.
For the best part of a decade this Swedish trio have been refining and perfecting their special brew of old school heavy metal and doom with its Scandinavian twist, and now they've landed in the Roadrunner stable it appears now is their time. 'I, The Jury' could not be a better opening gambit with its heavyweight and melodic riffs immediately bringing a huge smile to this particular face, whilst JB proves that there are still very talented traditional singers in metal these days ala Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson. And they just keep coming, monstrous riff after monstrous riff coupled with a canny knack to write a great melody without losing any sense of the heaviness or brooding evil so expertly crafted herein.
Too often these days bands fall into the old trap of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" and fill albums with essentially the same song repeat ten times; but not here. Every song is instantly memorable for its idiosyncrasies, favourites forming immediately much like in the olden days; even on my first listen tracks such as 'Black Sails' and album zenith 'Ravens Guide Our Way' leapt out as winners. Long live the new kings.