There was once a time when a new Grand Magus record spelled excitement and anticipation, when they’d drop almighty singles guaranteed to leave ravenous fans salivating for more of that, ahem, triumph and power their moniker represented. Their songs would gallop to a fresh yet wise heartbeat with each re-spin, their odes to the old gods and ways of their ancestors would inspire many a denim-clad denizen no matter their age, race, or creed. Over the last few years this allure has sadly begun to dry up, fizzling away under a tide of endless repetition and uninspired clichés. Their ninth album, Wolf God, continues further down this path while our attentions struggle to remain.
Long revered by many to proudly wave the flag of the truest of heavy metal this side of Valhalla, Grand Magus’s music has always retained its power. It’s a power forged by an unholy fire, by legends past. Even as they began retreading over and over again that power has remained, and it still does on Wolf God, imbued with the gifts the gods bestowed upon them many moons ago. Songs like ‘A Hall Clad in Gold’ and ‘Brother of the Storm’ feel justifiably epic, the roar of JB Christoffersson still injects courage into the hearts of men and women alike, and the force behind Fox Skinner’s rumble and Ludwig Witt are somewhat more powerful as of late. But there is something missing. The hunger, the excitement just isn’t there. A step up from their previous couple of records for sure, but this ninth outing just does not seem glorious. Riffs in ‘Dawn of Fire’ and ‘Glory to the Brave’ sound all too familiar from their own back catalogue; each song grabs you by the throat from the beginning but before they tear it straight out it’s as if they have a change of heart.
Now, bands who continuously repeat themselves isn’t a bad thing – if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Motörhead seldom changed for forty years and we loved them for it – but when that carnal bloodlust begins to drain the glory of albums past just cannot sustain themselves. It’s not all terrible though; this is a Grand Magus record after all, and when they get it right by golly do they take you for a ride. The title track, which follows an acoustic lure in to their neck of the woods, packs a mighty punch whilst ‘Spearthrower’ and closer ‘Untamed’ howl like nothing else. There are flourishes of majesty throughout the record, you just have to wait for them to ride high on stallions of steel above the thunderclouds. Speaking of thunder it is the might coming from Witt’s kit which ultimately pushes this record further than Sword Songs and The Hunt; it rattles you to the core!
Far from being a perfect record Wolf God has it’s fair share of moments. It is a shame it doesn’t feel as inspired as the records birthed in their first decade despite “borrowing” heavily from them. It’s one thing to wield that power but another thing to use said power to inspire as well as to make their droves of fans bang their heads and sing to their hearts content. The album certainly achieves the latter in doses but in the end it just feels slightly underwhelming and, sadly, just not inspiring.