Grand Magus – Wolf God (Nuclear Blast)

Folk-tinged instrumental opener Gold And Glory could comfortably introduce the final series of Game Of Thrones with its slow-build melody and thrusting finale: in little over two minutes Scandi masters Grand Magus have set the scene for another epic album.

What follows is hardly surprising – the Stockholm collective are kings of their songwriting craft – and yet Wolf God wraps a compelling narrative around unrelenting, unstoppable metal crafted through the ages. The title track is haunting and rousing in equal measure.

A Hall Clad In Gold ups the ante as frontman Janne ‘JB’ Christoffersson delights in leading his troops deeper into a world dominated by themes hewn from Norse mythology and the wild fantasy favoured by George RR Martin. The riff-laden finale feels like a blade through the heart.

Wolf God frequently presents a landscape that’s both bleak and unforgiving but around every corner there’s hope and optimism. Christoffersson’s vocal range is perfectly suited to charting the peaks and troughs of living life on the edge and it’s difficult to imagine an individual better suited to making this gloriously unpredictable metal journey seem so real.

Grand Magus’s influences are writ large across the band’s ninth studio opus with Dio-era Sabbath, classic Purple and the siege mentality of Manowar all shining through. But it would be wrong to suggest the heavy-hitting trio lean too heavily on their peers and inspirations – more than two decades in and Christoffersson and co. have shaped a sound that’s all their own.

The canny juxtaposition of To Live And Die In Solitude and Glory To The Brave is typical of Grand Magus’s mission to pair reflective lows with fist-pumping highs. This isn’t metal for the masses – it’s metal for those in the know. Worship the Wolf God and you won’t go wrong.