“For the triumph and the power/Spoils of war/For the hunger and desire/A blood red throne/I ascend to the sky/By the dawn’s early light/Fight for glory until death (HAIL!) Victory!”

That is some Manowar-level battle cheese right there, and it is beautiful.

The last flirtation I had with Grand Magus was around the time they released their fourth album, Iron Will. Back then I found them promising, but a little bland (I was in a teenage-haze of “THRASH F***ING METAL” insanity at the time, so that may be part of it as well). I’m not sure if I’ve matured since then, or if it’s the band but, either way, Triumph and Power is one powerful slab of viking steel, a triumph of passion, songwriting, and escapist fantasy.

While there have been quite a few bands in the scene over the past decade who channel viking themes and esthetics in their songs, stage personae, etc., this album blows them all out of the water and does so without the use of violins, accordions or war paint. The only tool that Grand Magus needed was pure, raw heavy metal: the warrior soul of early Manowar meets the medieval doom of Angel Witch. It’s a potent mixture that has created some songs that will certainly become classic material.

The title track is easily the jewel in the album’s crown. It’s sword and shield fury coupled with fantastic lyrics (like the ones quoted at the top) that come together to create the best song I’ve heard so far this year. Still, it’s far from being the only star here; take “Steel Versus Steel”, for example, a mid-paced stomper that will undoubtedly inspire legions of fans to strap-on their air guitars and give it all they’ve got (truly a song made for festival stages); or listen to “Dominator”, an inspiring tune in which vocalist JB reveals a villain trying to enslave the human race, and who is then epically struck down by the band’s heavy metal thunder, and in which every backing vocal from bass guitarist Fox Skinner adds not only to the song as a whole, but also to the lyrics themselves. Rarely will you hear backing vocals acting as such a crucial addition to a song’s story, versus being written as simple crowd chants.

I could go on all day about how fantastic this album is. Even the interlude tracks populated by acoustic instruments, Gregorian-style chants, and subtle, understated drumming (courtesy of Ludwig Witt, the band’s newest member) add to the atmosphere of the album in the most effective of ways.

The harshest criticism I could level here would be the lack of a speed metal track, something that I believe could have made the album a little more rounded. But that’s it, there’s nothing else I can think of. Grand Magus have created my first contender for album of the year: a bludgeoning, classic, true metal masterpiece. I can’t praise this record enough, and I hope that these guys get everything they deserve because of it.

… and I once thought these guys were bland.

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