Grand Magus - Wolf's Return - Rise Above 2005
11 Songs
Running Time: 38:19

2004's Monument was the sound of a band in flux; very much more in tune with where they wanted to go, and the sound they wanted to get. Still, you could tell that (a damn fine album though it was) Sweden's Grand Magus wasn't sure where they wanted to take this newfound sense of direction.

'Kingslayer' blasts out of the speakers at a pace that approximates speed metal when compared to the slow, Down-like crawl found on most of Monument. Someone's been listening to more Volume 4 and less Black Sabbath, in my opinion, and to good result. The production on Wolf's Return is also a fair step above that of the previous two albums combined, leaving behind the bass-heavy realm and focusing more on the sound of the band in total, which gives the album a much more "live" feeling; almost as if the band had set up in the rehearsal room down the hall, gotten new equipment, and ripped the doors off their rusted hinges. Oh, worry not, my fellow depressed ones, the doom is still in abundance here. 'Nine' and 'Blodorn' both slide down the ear canals and into your weed-addled brains like so much hot tar, the band never content to stray too far from the groove. Grand Magus have never been a band for showmanship, and their blue-collar songwriting ethic is such that when they do pull a song over the five-minute-mark, they're doing it because the song demands it. 'Blodorn' bleeds seamlessly into the title track, which starts off at full power metal gallop, falls into an almost 'Brotherhood Of Sleep' lethargic doom, then picks itself back up by the scruff of the neck and finishes the song back where it started. This is a heavier, more aggressive Grand Magus, to be sure, and when the hammering riff of 'Blood Oath' slams into you, it would be easy to imagine this as a death metal song, were one to replace the Cornell/McCafferty howl of JB with a more guttural delivery. The pagan/folk side of the band returns for 'Jarnbord', an ancient and truly tribal-sounding number, complete with what sounds like war drums and gulls flying over the shoreline. If 'Blood Oath' was aggressive, then 'Repay In Kind' is positively rabid, and when the chorus of "I've been released/I've been unleashed" wrecking balls its way in, it's best to just tuck yourself into the fetal position and wait on the beating to end. The bass-driven 'Hamnd' is followed by 'Ashes', which is a mid-paced...I'm not sure what to call it, but it just doesn't "fit" with the rest of the material herein. Likely as not, it'll turn out to be my favourite song, but in the meantime, when compared to the rest of the album, it kind of falters. 'Light Hater' returns to form quickly enough, though, and flows into the album-ending instrumental coda of 'Wolf's Return Part II'.

Grand Magus have shown more than considerable growth since their beginnings as a primarily by-the-book stoner/doom outfit, and with such a solid album in Wolf's Return, they're primed to take the world of doom by the horns and give it a much-needed shake. I don't know who lit the fire under Grand Magus' ass this time, but here's to long-burning flames.

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