In the 21st century, metal is full of bands that favor brutality for the sake of brutality -- bands that live for sensory assault and believe that bombast is its own reward. Such bands (which can be found in anything from death metal/black metal to metalcore to alternative metal) have their limitations, but they can be exhilarating if one has a taste for the extreme. Nonetheless, there's still something to be said for more melodic metal bands, and melody is a high priority on Grand Magus' second full-length album, Wolf's Return. This is the type of metal that values musicality, craftsmanship, and nuance as well as forcefulness; if the Swedes were deprived of their amps and forced to record a totally acoustic version of Wolf's Return, the material would still hold up. Of course, the fact that Grand Magus combine their melodic/harmonic sense with a lot of loud, amplified, balls-to-the-wall aggression is what makes them both headbangers and craftsmen -- and this time, they do it in a way that links doom metal/stoner rock with power metal. Grand Magus' first full-length album, Monument, and their self-titled debut EP of 2002 earned them a reputation for being a doom/stoner band; the doom/stoner element and the influence of Black Sabbath definitely remain, but Wolf's Return owes a little more to power metal than the Nordic combo's previous releases. Judas Priest is a definite influence, as is Ronnie James Dio. And while Magus still has plenty of plodding Sabbath-minded riffs, faster items like "Repay in Kind" and "Blood Oath" wouldn't be out of place on a Priest or Iron Maiden album. Some doom/stoner purists might complain because Wolf's Return isn't a carbon copy of Monument, but the bottom line is that this CD is a rewarding example of melodic metal.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson