Although Grand Magus’s ninth full-length album could hardly be called a throwback affair, it seems to lean more on the Swedes’ doom roots than anything else they’ve done lately. There’s still plenty of the heavy/power metal influence that came to dominate Triumph and Power and Sword Songs, but things seem more grounded on Wolf God. The drums don’t hit quite as hard this time around, resulting in less forceful tempos that give the songs’ atmospherics more space to breathe.
Thankfully, everything that there is to love about Grand Magus’ signature brand of Viking doom is out in full force. The vocals still consist of a heady baritone with occasional layering, the guitar riffs are an enjoyable mix of melodic and dunderheaded, the bass makes for a consistently fuzzy underbelly, and the drums still boast plenty of their cavernous power. All things considered, it’s impressive how the band is still able to put such basic components toward a sound this epically massive twenty years after their formation.
Sadly, this sense of ease doesn’t bode as well for the songwriting. Whether it be due to blunted energy or less effective choruses, there aren’t as many staples on here as past albums. The title track is a masterful work of mid-tempo glory but tracks that follow in a similar suit like “A Hall Clad in Gold” and “Brother of the Storm” don’t quite hit with the same power. Fortunately, the dabbling variety on songs like the speedy “Spear Thrower” and the tacky glam tinge on “He Sent Them All to Hel” keeps things from getting dull.
Labeling Grand Magus’s recent trajectory as a downward slope is far too dramatic but I’m not sure what their ninth album has to offer that wasn’t done better on any of the ones before it. Fans will delight in the band’s signature elements being kept well in place and the material’s inherent enjoyability is enough to keep the band’s head above water, but it doesn’t have much substance beyond simple fun. It’s a good album if you’re in it with the right expectations but in the face of Wolf God, I will listen to Wolftooth instead.
“A Hall Clad in Gold”