AUDO REVIEW: Muscle Bound for Glory, by Grailknights

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Rating: 4 out of 5.
  • The 3rd full-length album from Grailknights
  • Features collaborations with Feurschwanz and Angus McFife
  • 49 minutes and 2 seconds
  • Heavy metal with a sense of humour
  • Released in 2022

One of the allegations often thrown at metal music is that it takes itself too seriously. I admit, there is a basis for that. Sabaton have a sense of humour, but they also sing about some very serious topics. Then there’s Powerwolf, who take on the appearance of the world’s biggest edgelords every time they slather themselves in face paint and drag their organ onto the stage. With so much of the genre dominated by songs about death and battle, it’s no wonder people think it’s a bit too dour. But there are some bands who break those preconceptions. Groups that are quite clearly having a whale of a time. Grailknights are one of the more unique groups out there, and fun is very much their word of the day.

Muscle Bound for Glory is overall a much stronger album than predecessor Knightfall (2018). There are no bad songs to be found here. No filler. Just twelve great songs. And if nothing can quite touch the majesty of ‘Pumping iron Power,’ then the improved consistency is worth it. But consistent doesn’t mean all these songs are the same. Far from it. We’ve got fast songs and slow songs. Fist-pumping anthems and more sombre dirges. When you have songs that cover everything from pinball machines to Godzilla, you should expect variety.

The opening track from which the album takes its name marks a welcome return to cheesy metal for ex-Gloryhammer frontman Thomas Winkler, still performing under the pseudonym of Angus McFife. McFife brings the powerful vocals and over-the-top personality that fans have come to expect, and it really kicks the album off with a bang. There’s a second collaborative effort later on, this time with Ben Metzler of Fuerschwanz joining the vocals on ‘Turbo Boost’ – an ode to Knight Rider. Both of these collaborations rank among the strongest songs on the album, and it’s impressive how effortlessly the extra vocalists are incorporated by the band.

But there’s more to Muscle Bound for Glory than guest stars. ‘Pinball Death Machine’ is a classic tale of superheroes trapped inside a malevolent pinball machine, complete with sound effects and sinister voiceover. It takes the crown so far as my favourites are concerned, achieving it’s goal of awakening nostalgia for the simplicity of games of years’ past. This is followed by an equally bombastic ‘POWAH!!!’ which really is a mission statement from the band. They’re here to make noise and have fun doing it, and want us to do the same. in that, the album is a total success.

The unexpectedly downbeat numbers of ‘Legions of Heroes’ and ‘Lights’ add variety to the album. And even if they aren’t quite as catchy as the more anthemic numbers, they’re still strong songs in their own right. They also break up the fun with moments of seriousness, remining us that all heroes one day fall. But then there’s a song about a man with the ultimate ‘Skyward Thunder Punch’ and you’re smiling again before you realise.

Listeners who grew up with the cartoons and family SF of the eighties and nineties will probably spot more references than I caught. But even without the Easter Egg hunting, this is an incredibly fun album. It’s chaotic and frenetic, but never actually makes for quite easy listening. The vocals are strong, the instrumentals never outstay their welcome, and the sound effects add a dash of originality to the mix. Grailknights might be the only superhero metal band out there, but even if there were others, Grailknights would still be leading the field.

Published by Alex Hormann

I'm a writer, reader, and farmer, with an interest in all things speculative.

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