It’s funny how when you listen back to older albums by a particular band, you notice the subtle changes in their sound a little more than when you listen to their albums in order. Listening to Grand Magus’ re-issued 2005 album “Wolf’s Return” after listening to their latest release “The Hunt” really highlights how the band have evolved during the last few years. Even listening to this album after playing through their 2008 album “Iron Will” brings about a feeling of change, even though on the surface they’re pretty similar.
The opening chug of ‘Kingslayer’ sees all of the Grand Magus trademarks turned up to eleven, the rumbling bass and guitar locked together in perfect synch with the double-bass drums, all topped off with JB’s lung-stretching bellow delivering a hook-laden chorus that’ll no doubt be popping up in your brain without you even knowing it. To be fair, Grand Magus could probably churn out an album’s worth of those types of songs and it would be great, but it’s the songs such as ‘Blood Oath’ that start out like Megadeth-style speed metal before the chorus breaks itself down that stick out a mile here.
‘Repay in Kind’ has a Slayer vibe that piles on the aggression, including a throatier vocal from JB, and the epic title track veers from galloping heavy metal to low-end Candlemass rumble effortlessly. They even throw some folk into the mix with the heavy ‘Ashes’ that has a nicely-picked acoustic solo amongst the cast-iron riffing. The production is a little thinner than on “Iron Will,“ the drums not quite so upfront in the mix and the guitars are set to stun rather than slay.
A little darker than their later material, this is probably the moment where the band changed from all out doom into something a little more traditional in terms of their sound. It is a little less consistent than “Iron Will” but is still a more-than-worthy addition to a pretty high quality discography.