Like a basket of kittens batting around a ball of yarn, metal’s taste-making, culture warriors have long been braying about which bands are worthy of the “true metal” title. The debate has been raging for years and will go on for as long as metal, in its various forms, is being made. In the modern age, the battle is waged in comments sections, internet forums, and social media. Previous to that, the topic was argued over on the “letters to the editor” pages of print publications, in show queues and while necking post-gig parking lot beers. Heck, if you listen carefully these days, you might even overhear a conversation between whichever patched-up denim warriors are able to unglue themselves from their phones for more than a minute before coming to verbal blows about which bands are properly carrying the flag for proper metal.
One band that everyone on all sides of this debate should agree upon as inarguable sultans of steel is Sweden’s Grand Magus. Since 1999, the power trio of vocalist/guitarist Janne “JB” Christoffersson, bassist Mats “Fox Skinner” Heden and drummer Ludwig Witt has defended the faith without question. Listening to any of their albums, including their ninth and latest, Wolf God (purchase here via Nuclear Blast Records) conjures up hearty images of riffs emerging from flying V’s with shiny, retina-burn finishes and drums pounding thunderously enough to shift internal organs to feral, fur-lined warriors eating raw meat off the bone and all stops in between. Christoffersson’s single axe attack offers robust power chord-based progressions, Heden’s sturdy rhythms warm the pot and Witt’s powerful backbeat powers make Grand Magus sound as if they are a distillation of heavy metal in its purest, rawest and basic form. So, imagine our surprise when JB makes mention that the big change during the creation of Wolf God was their getting back to a creative methodology we thought was par for the course for a band that writes the sort of songs Vikings would throw on to get pumped up for a spot of village pillage.
The latest single and music video from Wolf God is “Untamed.” Watch the official music video:
“Well, for the past four albums we’ve been doing it the way most people do it today where you record drums first, use a click track, put it onto a grid and put everything else down afterward piece by piece; basically, building a puzzle. And for a long time, I’ve been writing the music on my own with an iPad and a guitar. For this album I wanted to go back to how we used to do it in the old days; we used to jam a lot together. That was a relief because things were personally difficult for me at the time. It was also pure joy because it’s so much more fun to play together than to sit on your own.
“I also wanted to record the album’s basic tracks live,” he says about the recording philosophy Grand Magus carried into the studio. “We recorded it doing takes, the three of us together, playing the whole song through from start to finish. When we felt we had a good take, I’d put down the second guitar immediately and then go on to the next song. That meant we had to have decisions made before we went into the studio about what the songs were going to be like instead of doing it in post-production. We had to do a lot with the writing and rehearsing before we recorded. I also wanted to spend less time in the studio recording. I wanted the whole recording process to be a lot quicker, so basically, we frontloaded the whole thing.
“We did a little bit of this around the time of (2014’s) Triumph And Power, but (for the past four albums) mostly everyone would be on their own and we’d go into studios in different cities to record. This album was definitely a throwback to what we did with the (2010’s) Hammer Of The North days. The hardest part was actually getting together. We all live in different parts of Sweden, so we had to plan and spend money to get to where Ludwig lives, which is quite a trek for me from Stockholm. But, it was so much more fun. It made it more creative and it benefits our type of music to do it this way instead of the more mechanized way of going about it. We’re a live band and there’s no reason for us to do it any other way than this and when I listen to the album now, I can certainly feel that it’s more live and dynamic than our last three albums.”
Grand Magus’ ninth album, Wolf God, was released on April 19th via Nuclear Blast Records. Check out the artwork:
JB’s report that once the trio got back in the rehearsal room the ideas, riffs, and creativity poured out with ease shouldn’t come as a surprise. He says it himself, Grand Magus is a live band and, as such, has never scrimped on regular tours following the release of an album, though the band’s upcoming slot in support of Amon Amarth, At the Gates and Arch Enemy will be their first time on North American soil in seven years. As well, their lineup has been rock-solid since 2012 when Witt became a full-time member. With this new-old methodology in place, Wolf God still took a year longer to issue than any of the band’s previous five albums which saw them adhering to a “full-length every two years” schedule. Oddly enough, the new album’s delay came not because of the change in procedure, but because of the change in procedure. JB explains.
“It took a bit longer to write the songs because we wanted to have it spread out so we could give room to new ideas. If we rehearsed for a month straight, I’m pretty sure we could come up with an album, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it would be a great album. We wanted to rehearse for a weekend, be away from it for a couple of weeks, then meet up on another weekend and during that time in-between, think about things, come up with new ideas and so on. That’s the reason it took three years and is an honest representation of where we are in time as a band and as people.”
Check out the ferocious “Wolf God,” with the lyric video to the album’s title track:
Decoding and Dissecting The Wolf:
“What does it mean to you?” is what JB throws back at us after we ask about who or what the Wolf God is. As someone who had nothing to do with the creation of the album, your humble narrator is failing to see what bearing his thoughts and opinions might have. But apparently, JB believes otherwise and is insistent on knowing your intrepid scribe’s beliefs about the Wolf God. So, we deliver a meandering explanation that amorphously points out that any interpretation of the status of the Wolf God will be determined by extenuating circumstance and surrounding environment. For instance, after a morning spent watching CNN, BBC News or another such television news network, an explanation will likely be more rooted in politics and current events than it would be after driving in rush hour traffic or spending an afternoon at a shopping mall after which interpretation would revolve around how everyone is a fucking idiot who needs to be disemboweled by the Wolf God.
“What you’re saying is definitely part of the answer,” he deadpans after a low hum. “What we do is art in the sense that you can’t really explain it. A lot of the stuff in there is in the eye of the beholder and you bring into it what you as a person, an individual and human being experience to interpret the feeling you get from it. The same goes for me as the creator; it’s something personal because it’s a product of all the stuff I’ve been interested in, a part of, read about, subjected to and done in my life. It’s also about fantasy, emotion and all that. For me, it’s a feeling more than anything else and difficult to explain. If I wanted to be specific, I’d say that for me, the Wolf God is a personification of the power of nature, but if it’s something else to you after you’ve been in a shopping mall all day, then it’s that too.”
Grand Magus present the “Brother Of The Storm” and its raging!:
Upcoming Tour Dates:
08/09 - Derby (Bloodstock Open Air), GB
08/17 - Dinkelsbühl (Summer Breeze), DE, Order
09/26 - Seattle, WA (Showbox SoDo)
09/27 - Portland, OR (Roseland Theater)
09/28 - Vancouver, BC (PNE Forum)
09/30 - Edmonton, AB (Convention Centre)
10/01 - Calgary, AB (Grey Eagle Resort)
10/03 - Salt Lake City, UT (The Complex)
10/04 - Denver, CO (Fillmore Auditorium)
10/06 - Minneapolis, MN (Skyway Theatre)
10/07 - Chicago, IL (Riviera Theatre)
10/09 - Toronto, ON (Rebel)
10/10 - Montréal, QC (Mtelus)
10/12 - New York, NY (Hammerstein Ballroom)
10/13 - Silver Spring, MD (The Fillmore)
10/15 - Charlotte, NC (The Fillmore)
10/16 - Atlanta, GA (Tabernacle)
10/18 - New Orleans, LA (House of Blues)
10/19 - Houston, TX (House of Blues)
10/20 - San Antonio, TX (The Van Buren)
10/22 - Phoenix, AZ (The Van Buren)
10/23 - Las Vegas, NV (House of Blues)
10/25 - San Francisco, CA (The Warfield Theatre)
10/26 - Los Angeles, CA (Hollywood Palladium)
11/09 - Weissenhäusser Strand/Ostsee (Metal Hammer Paradise)
03/17 - Paris (Petit Bain)
03/19 - Utrecht (De Helling)
03/20 - Köln (Essigfabrik)
03/21 - Aschaffenburg (Colos-Saal)
03/22 - München (Backstage (Halle))
03/24 - Stuttgart (Im Wizemann (Club)
03/25 - Berlin (Lido)
03/26 - Hamburg (Logo)
05/16 - Wien (Vienna Metal Meeting)