Whatever It Takes Review
The title of this album reflects Magnus Rising’s struggles perfectly. Having lost a batch of equipment in a warehouse fire in the early days, then struggling with keeping a small local audience supportive, they packed up for BC to push their musical careers further. And it’s working.
Not only is the band sounding tighter than ever, but individually, the musicianship has gone through the roof. The addition of Nick James on drums and vocal harmonies makes the band sound thicker than ever.
Before I get started on this, I feel I should say a few things about my personal musical tastes to give some insight on why I like this album so much. My main problems with a lot of hard-rock/metal music are: -the scratching/screaming vocals(and that’s cool if you dig it, just not my thing) -drum lines that don’t suit a song. Basically long, droning beats that could be super-imposed over any metal song.
* and a disclaimer: When I do the Death Magnetic comparison, it should be noted that I really love that album.
Probably the most perfect opening song they could have chosen from the bunch. This song grabs you right away with its drumbeat and gets the energy pumping throughout the opening build. What really delivers in this song is the chorus; easily one of the catchiest choruses that has ever been written. Opening with this track shows longtime Magnus fans just how much their sound has grown. Trust me when I say, this is a song you’ll have a hard time getting out of your head.
Whatever it Takes
Exactly what a title track should be: an opening that grabs you quicker than an opening track, with dynamics from the whole album. Heavier parts, a slower epic breakdown, incredibly awesome Zakk Wylde-ish squeals, Roger’s patented groove of pull-off riffs, thundering bass and drums, and the longest note singer Aaron Hawkins holds on the whole album. The message in this song is clear: no matter how much you push Magnus, they’re always ready to push back. It’s this attitude that got them this far. Through the trials and tribulations, Magnus is a force that’s stronger than ever.
This track has an immediate Death Magnetic-era vibe from the purposefully dissonant, scratchy opening; splashing beat from the drums; to the guitar/bass sliding groove of the verse and the super catchy chorus. These are all common themes on Death Magnetic. In fact, if you stripped the vocal track, I’m sure you could pitch it to people as a cut song from the Death Magnetic sessions, and then they’d tell you it’s stronger than what Metallica put on the album.
This heavy metal waltz has it all: Piercing lyrics, another super catchy chorus, rich vocal harmony, super strong bass and a story that captivates.
From a vocal perspective, the evolution of frustration in the deliverance makes this song so effective.
Some of the earlier vocal passages start off with the singer portraying a certain disappointment and emptiness and building it into such a huge frustration while still peppering this sad, sombre feeling throughout. The lyrical content gels so well with the waltz timing and guitar riffs. It really demonstrates the tight writing relationship in the band. Taking a song about frustrated, lost love and putting it a waltz beat gives it almost a morbid good-bye. Overall, this song sounds so much like its lyrics.
The resolving to a major chord at the very end (a la Deep Purple’s “Soldier of Fortune”) is the icing on the
Dinner is Served
This song has a very fun vibe that I compare to one of those Led Zeppelin “Let’s do it in the bathtub” songs. A great example of how Magnus know how to just let loose and have fun with riffs and lyrics. Not as much to say here, this song is just a lot of fun.
Jaws of Life
The opening riff is a fantastic example of Roger Cranford’s incredible musicianship. His ability to combine solid and liquid time while jamming notes in that don’t feel forced is mind-blowing. The problem with so many guitarists attempting to do this kind of thing is the lack of musical content within; typically sounding incredibly forced and not really having any core melody. Roger really breaks the mold on this track and develops this idea into some incredibly catchy rhythmic sections and builds into an epic solo section all derived from the same ideas yet becoming their own major ideas. Well thought out passages like this demonstrate the new and old of Roger Cranford and show how much he’s grown as a guitarist. He hasn’t lost his ability to build a great, head-banging rhythm section, but here he does it with such maturity and a greater technical mastery. This seems to be the biggest theme throughout this album for me: The musical maturity that the individuals bring to the collective-beast that is Magnus Rising without losing the grooves they effortlessly lay down. Vocal content also shines again in this car crash scenario. You’ll really have to listen to get the whole feel for the song.
This song demonstrates how well a simple song can sound if you layer and build it properly. Starting with just the vocals and acoustic and alluding to an oncoming chorus but hitting another verse with the drums and a small guitar layer above really works. When the song really picks up in the chorus is when everything comes together. Vocal harmonies paired with an epic vocal phrase force enlightenment on the listener. Roger’s lead guitar lick really shows musical maturity yet again. The simple line accented with the slide halfway through demonstrates simple, emotional content. I’ve always been a firm believer that emotion trumps ability in all forms of music, and in this case, Magnus pull it off well.
A common theme in metal songs, writing about old-school horror characters is always a fun way to approach a song. The opening riff shows how aware the band is of this. Despite the zany kind of fun they give to a topic like this, the song gets pretty thick and adds a layer of emotion that wouldn’t be expected, but is warmly welcomed. As the song grows near the end, it’s one of the thickest sounds I’ve ever heard. The mixing is just fantastic.
Ahhh downtown St. John’s. “Eat, drink, be merry and turn up the party machine.” Probably my least favourite song which only speaks volumes to the quality of every song on this album. Like the rest, still incredibly catchy with lines you’ll sing to yourself over and over and over.
Maybe it’s because I’m such a huge Pink Floyd fan, but anytime I hear of something being on Trial, I reflect on The Wall. To me, this song is almost a quick, heavy version of some of the themes found on the Wall (losing control of oneself, feeling like others are actually in control, being figuratively on trial, the inability to face what one could have been). I hate to sound like a broken record, but again, this song is so fucking catchy! Hearing what Magnus have done on this album in comparison to their previous efforts is mind-blowing. To see such a solid band step it up on all fronts gives me a great hope for their musical future.
* Another disclaimer: I have been a long-time Magnus fan since I met the guys in 2005 and picked up their EP. As a fan, it was a great pleasure to hear such a solid album. As a general music fan, I’ve removed all bias from this article. Sometimes facts are facts and an album just rocks.