"Iron Will"

(Rise Above/Candlelight)

01. Like the Oar Strikes the Water
02. Fear Is the Key
03. Höuding
04. Iron Will
05. Silver Into Steel
06. The Shadow Knows
07. Self Deceiver
08. Beyond Good and Evil
09. I Am The North

RATING: 9/10

Joining outstanding releases by THE GATES OF SLUMBER and PHARAOH ("Conqueror" and "Be Gone", respectively) is the new juggernaut from Sweden's GRAND MAGUS. The follow up to the stunning "Wolf's Return", "Iron Will" continues down the road paved by its predecessor by moving squarely into New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) territory with grand (pun intended) results.

Early on GRAND MAGUS hung its collective hat on the doom style, yet always made sure that songwriting was paramount. That trend continued across subsequent albums, peaking with this stellar release. Even on its most doomy tracks (e.g. "Self Deceiver") the emphasis on memorable song structure is of the utmost importance. The title track has some of that as well, one that features a plodding pace and a crunching riff, yet it is closer to something DEEP PURPLE or even early RAINBOW might have done. But it is on tracks like "Fear is the Key" that the album's NWOBHM style shines brightest. An up-tempo rocker and one of many that features excellent riff writing and solos played with passion (the kind where melody and feeling are far more important than technical prowess), the song showcases Janne "JB" Christoffersson's (also of SPIRITUAL BEGGARS) magnificent melody-drenched vocal approach. His patterns and style often remind of a young Ian Gillan, as well as a familiar blend of several NWOBHM vocal icons. When combined with the glorious arrangements his approach is irresistibly catchy. The melodies will remain etched in your brain and JB's voice just makes it that much more certain that you will never forget them. And yet those BLACK SABBATH tones always loom large, ensuring that the doom splendor is never lost in the shuffle.

"Iron Will" is an album that stands tall amidst the plethora of bands attempting, and often failing, to ape a style rooted in NWOBHM. It is a disc that works on so many levels. The riffs are gargantuan, the solos are heartfelt, and the songwriting is impeccable. "Iron Will" is GRAND MAGUS' masterpiece. You'd be a fool to overlook it.


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