May 2021 Feature Release – The Guardians Edition
So just like that we find that a new month is upon us which of course means that we’ll be nominating a brand new monthly feature release for each clan. This essentially means that we’re asking you to rate, review & discuss our chosen features for no other reason than because we enjoy the process & banter. We’re really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on our chosen releases so don’t be shy.
This month’s feature release for The Guardians has been nominated by Vinny. It's the 2010 fifth album from Swedish heavy metal outfit Grand Magus entitled "Hammer of the North".
Yes, nice one Vinny!! One of my favourite albums. Grand Magus are one of the great underrated trad metal bands. Will definitely have to summon up a review for this one.
To probably no one's surprise, I really enjoyed this one. Can't believe I haven't heard of Grand Magus before this, going to check out some of their other, earlier releases before typing up something about Hammer of the North to have a bit more perspective. Early opinion of this one is really high right now, though.
I did my review, here's its summary:
Grand Magus are really great and had a consistent winning streak going on with most of their albums. It feels a little strange how amazing these Swedes can be at getting their material right for our excitement with barely any plaguing problems. They really nail their songs! I think it's their unique mix of classic heavy metal and doom metal. Many of their songs are either one of those genres, and while this might cause confusion to some listeners, it establishes the overall stylistic path they're going for; mostly slow heavy metal with powerful vocals, a nice break from the driving extreme aggression that can get the heavier metalheads beyond excited. The slow songs are counterbalanced with faster ones that can plunge the listener headfirst into a moshpit where you have to raise your fist while running with the current if you don't wanna get stampeded, and I actually think the fast heavy metal songs are better than the slow doom songs which, in this album, don't have as much impact as in their previous material. Either way, Hammer of the North is really enjoyable. Sure this band doesn't plan on reinventing their metal wheel, but it's often what people (including myself) like about this album, though there are a few of those doom clichés. Nothing too serious to expect, but I'm positive that this oldie-sounding metal sound is worth it....
So, in terms of context for why I chose this as my featured release for this month, back when I was a consultant working the length and breadth of the British Isles I found myself working for a number of weeks in a place called Milton Keynes which is a short train ride out of London (for the uninitiated). Given hotel prices in London, I opted to stay the other side of Milton Keynes in a place called Northampton in a hotel near the train station. Each day on my commute to Milton Keynes on the train I would be making that soulless journey to the tune of Hammer of the North, raising my spirits with the rousing metal of one of Sweden's finest exports.
As such, this album holds a particular nostalgic place in my heart for accompanying me through a time when I was far away from home and encouraged to imagine places even further away thanks to the amazing imagery conjured by the fantastical lyrics of JB Christoffersson. As a side note I was bitterly disappointed during my research for this review to find that the digital copy I owned (?) has disappeared from my music stream and also other popular streaming services. As much as I am a fan of the physical formats of albums, my overarching experience of this album was on digital format and it is a little disappointing to see it absent from immediate access outlets due to whatever bullshit politics goes on between streaming services and record labels.
Anyway, the main thing I like about this record is that (in the main) it encapsulates everything I got into metal for in the first place. Memorable songs, hooks that bury themselves so deep into your flesh they pierce internal organs, an aggressive and gruff style that make the music seem inaccessible despite it being one of the more immediate releases I owned (shakes fist at the internet), melodic yet never flashy leads and song writing so catchy it is fucking criminal. At the same time you will notice a less than five star rating because I honestly can see the limitations of the record despite all that I love about it. It is an album that tries to be nothing other than what it is; a record made by genuine fans of heavy metal that may be more than a little guilty of flogging the same ideas more than once, yet it does this so well it is near impossible to resist it's charms.
If you read my reviews with any regularity on here you will pick up that I note the quality levels of a record by how well I can recite the tracks in my head without having to listen to the album itself. Needless to say I can do at least seven of the ten tracks here from start to finish in my head - despite all the other shit that is in there at any given time that occupies valuable brain space. The album just rewards you after one listen, balancing melody and rampant rhythms perfectly as the simplicity of tracks such as the title track, Black Sails, Mountains Be My Throne, The Lord of Lies and Ravens Guide Our Way layer themselves in your memory banks, track after track.
As I go off to buy a physical copy of the album, I leave you with the notion that if all artists recorded albums like this (you know what I mean; throw caution to the wind, fuck what's cool today and lets just do what we like mentality) then the world would be a much better place. I have increased my rating by a half star during this review, just because I can.
Well, you're not wrong Vinny. Milton Keynes is one of the most soulless places in the UK!