When I reviewed Grand Magus' previous album, “The Hunt”, I remarked how unusual it was to experience a metal album that was actually fun to listen to. In the time since then, I have come to realize that “The Hunt” was not as well-received with most fans as it was with me, and metal being fun is a trend that has yet to catch on. For whatever reason, metal bands continue to work under the assumption that everything has to be angry, in a minor key, and put you in a terrible mood. Anything less, they think, shows weakness. It's ridiculous, of course, but so much of the bravado and theater of metal is. We simply don't spend much time thinking about our own absurdity.
Thankfully, Grand Magus doesn't spend much time pondering these things either, instead plodding along without giving much credence to the people who complain about everything they do. What has characterized Grand Magus' sound throughout their career is an ongoing shift away from their doom roots, to a more classic metal sound. “The Hunt” was a big step in that direction, and “Triumph And Power” continued down that road, showing Grand Magus to be one of the best pure metal bands on the scene.
“On Hooves Of Gold” takes a little while to get going, as album openers tend to, but the build-up is worth every second. The riff is baked in a dirty distortion that recalls the old days, and the chorus comes in and soars above the maelstrom, with JB's vocals showing why he was picked to be a centerpiece of last year's Ayreon album. Few singers match the power and melody he does, and the fact that he's able to write some great songs is icing on the cake. It's a rollicking start to the album, and among the best old-school metal I've heard in a long, long time.
“Steel Versus Steel” is in the same vein, with heavy but simple riffing that gives rise to a rousing chorus that makes you want to throw up the horns and sing along. It's good-time, fun metal, the kind that we don't get to hear very often. The guitar work may be simple, but that is a key quality to why it works so well. These riffs can be grasped by people who don't know anything about music other than what sounds good, and they can more easily bury their way into your mind. Grand Magus builds great songs from simple parts, whereas so many others get lost in trying to make each part shine on its own, missing the entire point.
The band is more effective working in the mid-tempo. The faster-paced “Fight” isn't as sharp as the better material, while the slower songs have more room for the hooks to thrive. The riffs sound heavier when they relax the pace, and JB's vocals smooth out the melodies, making them irresistible. I can see a large portion of the metal fan-base hating every second of this, but given the kind of music that garners broad acclaim from them, Grand Magus should wear that scorn as a badge of honor.
While I thought “The Hunt” was a very good album, “Triumph And Power” is even better. Grand Magus takes the best elements of the past, gives them an update, and writes some of the catchiest songs of any old-school minded metal band. If you enjoy classic metal, and want to have a good time listening to your music, you're not going to find much better than this album. “Triumph And Power” is the best Grand Magus album yet. Don't let anyone tell you different.