Really, is there anyone better out there doing this kind of thing at the moment? Can anyone do trad metal with quite as much blood, (heavy metal) thunder, style and panache as Grand Magus? When you are being swept away by the majestic likes of Valhalla Rising or Storm King it really is hard to come up with any other names to put up against JB and company. As purveyors of primal, stripped back, head banging brilliance they really do have no rivals at this point.
The Hunt is perhaps Grand Magus’ most to-the-point release yet. Largely unemcumbered by pretension, every song is built on a rock solid melodic framework (being a three piece, there’s no fat on this band whatsoever, which is something of a breath of fresh air in these days of ever more florid orchestration), to which is added simple (though by no means basic), effective riffage and – perhaps most importantly – heaps and heaps of melody. Put simply, Grand Magus create metal as it was made at the start of the eighties, when bands like Saxon and Dio were fully cognizant that, for all their heaviness, their tunes still needed to be something you’d hear the milkman whistling as he delivered your daily pinta.
Melody, as Adam Ant so nearly said once, is nothing to be scared of, and the ‘Magus deploy it at every opportunity. This is only possible because JB has a voice capable of carrying a tune under even the most severe pressure exerted on his pipes by the thunderous racket going on around him. In a three piece the voice becomes a valuable fourth instrument, and JB lets no-one down with his vocal contributions to this album. He’s no slouch with the axe either, his melodic flourishes working beautifully in counterpoint to the tempestuous rhythmic partnership of bassist Fox and drummer Ludwig Witt.
There are still occasional hints of the Bathoryesque vision that littered GM’s early work – eerie soundscapes with muted words spoken under icy acoustic guitars still have a place here, you’ll be pleased to hear, but overall the straight-up, no-nonsense heaviness of soon-to-be classics like Iron Hand proliferates, with every track packed with moments you’ll keep wanting to return to. This truly is a heavy metal record the band can be proud of.
Brutal, anthemic, stirring. Do we really, at the end of the day, need our heavy metal heroes to be anything else? I don’t think so, and consequently The Hunt is just about as good as heavy metal gets in 2012.