"Sword Songs"

(Nuclear Blast)

01. Freja's Choice
02. Varangian
03. Forged in Iron – Crowned in Steel
04. Born for Battle (Black Dog of Broceliande)
05. Master of the Land
06. Last One to Fall
07. Frost and Fire
08. Hugr
09. Every Day There's a Battle to Fight

RATING: 8/10

Anyone who has idled time lounging in their rooms with power metal and barbarian pulp novels cracked open will consider it time hanging with GRAND MAGUS well spent. Particularly if you're underage, the appeal of it all is amped by sneaking beers behind your folks' backs with the sound of whumping fantasy metal yarns covering your callow slurping. A rite of passage that used to be for teen boys, nowadays this ritual is inclusive of both sexes.

Keeping its traditional album-every-other-year schedule, GRAND MAGUS, Swedish power metal revivalists, return with "Sword Songs", the band's eighth release. The exception to this schedule was a three-year lag between "Wolf's Return" and "Iron Will". "Sword Songs" states its case in title and you don't even have to be too familiar with GRAND MAGUS to know what you're getting.

Power metal vets will delight in the marching pump of "Freja's Choice", opening "Sword Songs" with a poised swagger. Riffs pile upon each other even with the song's simplistic if strutting groove, lending a figurative vamp's prance to the Norse and Germanic goddess of sex, fertility, war and death, Freyja.

If MANOWAR came to play with maybe a quarter of their amp stacks and a more grizzled voice at the helm, it would ring like "Varangian", as it would on "Forged in Iron – Crowned in Steel". The latter being one of the faster songs in GRAND MAGUS's arsenal (along with the bruising "Last One to Fall"), they ravage its charming acoustic intro with a battle-mad clobber, tolling "Viking metal!" like a batty war mantra. It's silly as all hell, but so is most of MANOWAR's entire catalog—and who's going to call them out? What works works, and "Forged in Iron – Crowned in Steel" is a pleasing jaunt because of GRAND MAGUS's purism and dynamics plugged into an otherwise goofy combat ode.

"Born for Battle (Black Dog of Broceliande)" is no less ludicrous, but it kicks ass with rock-driven riffing and a chest-puffing groove. "Master of the Land" surrounds its core SABBATH triads with random beat flurries and chord progressions, shrewdly giving this conventional doom track some flair. The DIO-esque lumber of the metaphoric "Every Day There's a Battle to Fight" is one of the heaviest numbers on "Sword Songs", the finest moment of the entire album coming fromJanne "JB" Christoffersson's melancholic choruses, countered by his sparkling guitar solo.

So grab your favorite ale, thumb to the nearest decapitation scene in your paperback (or drag the toolbar of your Kindle if you're of Generation Tech) and let GRAND MAGUS's "Sword Songs" fill your ears with blade-clanging verve.


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