Striding forward with their own breed of doom-filled heavy metal, Grand Magus have proven that they are still dedicated disciples of the riff with the release of Triumph and Power. These guys are some of the hardest-working metal musicians of the 21st century, having released an album every two years since 1999. This most recent offering from the trio of hard-rocking Swedes shows a surprising level of focus and maturity in their sound, and shows just how much this band has grown in the last 15 years.
“When we started out, everything was a lot more hit and miss. You didn’t really know why certain things worked or didn’t,” says JB Christoffersson, the band’s guitarist and lead vocalist. He feels that, over time, the band has learned better ways to translate their ideas into coherent songs. “If we want to do something, a certain type of song or feel, we know how to do it,” he says, clearly proud of the progress they have made on the new album.
Yet, even two years ago with the release of The Hunt, his outlook was very different. “The Hunt was a confusing album for me in a way,” he says. “We’d lost our drummer, got a new one, changed labels and still managed to put out an album without losing any time.” Despite the challenges they faced as a band, Christoffersson still feels proud of the end result, calling it “a really special album” that still captured the high-powered essence of Grand Magus.
When the time came to write material for Triumph and Power, however, Christoffersson took the lessons he learned from The Hunt to heart. “This time, I wanted to be more in control of the music,” he says, “I had a clear vision of what type of songs would be on this one: heavy, majestic and really powerful stuff.” This focus on the fundamentals took Triumph and Power to new heights, soaring with memorable choruses and diamond-sharp riffs, and showing a deeply intentional approach to the Grand Magus sound.
Part of the emphasis on the basics comes from outside the band itself. This album marks the band’s third full-length in collaboration with producer Nico Elgstrand of Entombed. “He’s great and has high demands and a very keen ear,” says Christoffersson. “He never lets you fluff it—it has to be as good as it can be, both playing-wise and writing-wise.” Getting an extra push from the producer can really impact the quality of an album, and Elgstrand’s effort definitely shows on Triumph and Power. Christoffersson says, “I’ve learned so much from working with him. He really understands the band and what we are after. I’d say he has a big part in the end result.”
Another thing fans will notice is that Triumph and Power features a much deeper exploration of the band’s folk roots. “Both Fox [Skinner] and me have quite a strong folk music influence from where we grew up in Dalarna in the middle of Sweden,” says Christoffersson. “We’ve always written albums, rather than just songs here and there, and I prefer albums that have dynamics rather than just being 10 songs that sound more or less the same.” He explains that more acoustic songs like “Arv” and “Ymir” serve to provide contrast for the album’s pounding heaviness, and that they hearken back to a more primal, natural sound. “[Our] main inspiration is the power and beauty of nature,” he says. “I spend a lot of time in the forest and by the sea where I live, and that’s probably the single biggest source of inspiration for me.”
Other sources of inspiration also rise to the surface on this album. The second song, “Steel Versus Steel,” follows Michael Moorcock’s fantasy anti-hero, Elric of Melniboné. While Grand Magus have generally avoided any specific references to fantasy fiction in their previous songs, Christoffersson says that this song called for a departure from that trend. “When we started on the music for that song, it just came to me. I read those novels when I was quite young, and for some reason, it just felt right this time,” he says. “I think the Elric character is really interesting, and those novels have been an important part of my imagination.”
For now, Grand Magus is setting up European tour dates in support of Triumph and Power. Though they haven’t been able to make the trip in the past, Christoffersson has expressed an interest in touring the United States in the near future. “We’ve never really had any realistic offers to tour the US,” he explains, but he remains hopeful that Grand Magus can support a more established band if they decide to tour in the States.
Until that day comes, let Triumph and Power fill your stereo with hymns of victory and glorious battle!
Here’s the album trailer from Nuclear Blast Records: