Released by: AFM Records
Release Date: March 22nd, 2019
Genre: Power Metal
Patrik J. Selleby – Vocals
Tomas Olsson – Guitars
Henrik Olsson – Guitars
Anders Broman – Bass
Fredrik Bergh – Keyboards
- Rise of the Dragon Empire
- Slayer of Kings
- Skyriders and Stormbringers
- Magical Eye
- Blackwater Bay
- Giants of Heaven
- The Warlock’s Trail
- A Blessing in Sorcery
- Breaking the Beast
- Reign of Fire
It’s very common for bands within similar genres to influence one another. In fact, many bands are often influenced by those from within completely different genres. Bands borrowing ideas from another is quite common and can work quite well, as long as the band in question is willing to put their own unique touches on the music, to make it stand out. However, there’s always a tight line one must walk in such a case, so as not to fall into outright impersonation, or worse, plagiarism.
One band who has been clearly wearing their influences on their sleeves in recent years is Swedish power metal band Bloodbound. They initially started out with their own sound, being one of the heavier power metal bands around, but they’ve evolved a lot over the years, with their sixth album, Stormborn, in particular marking the beginning of their current brand of symphonic infused power metal, clearly influenced by Sabaton. Where that album and its successor, War of Dragons, showed clear influences of the aforementioned band on many tracks, however, their upcoming eighth full length release, Rise of the Dragon Empire, comes dangerously close to total impersonation at times, with some tracks feeling unmistakably familiar. However, the band has managed to work their magic, and put in enough of their own unique qualities, as well as continued with their usual excellent songwriting, in order to craft yet another excellent album, even if it does feel like a slight step down from their last couple.
Stylistically, Rise of the Dragon Empire is very similar to War of Dragons, with the band softening their sound even further, giving way to a largely keyboard dominant sound, with a continued emphasis on huge vocal melodies and epic choruses. The biggest change to the sound is the inclusion of some minor folk elements, which appear here and there on some tracks, though they’re most noticeable on “The Warlock’s Trail” and the closing ballad “Reign of Fire”. Aside from the slight issues of musical plagiarism, which I’ll get into in a bit, the songwriting is consistently excellent once again, with a continued focus on fun, catchy and very melodic power metal, with some symphonic influences, just as one would expect from a follow up to the band’s most successful album to date. Performances are strong across the board, with dual guitarists Henrik and Tomas Olsson, keyboardist Fredrik Bergh and vocalist Patrik J. Selleby all being in top form, as always, with the latter occasionally sounding a bit softer than usual, to fit the tone of the music, though he can still carry an epic chorus just as well as ever.
I usually do my song by song breakdowns in order, but for this album I’ll start with the slightly problematic tracks and slowly work my way up to the highlights, to end the review on a more positive note. First up, while the track is excellent in its own right, being a very melodic, somewhat upbeat track with some slight folk influence in the guitars, it doesn’t have the energy or speed one would expect from an opening track by this band. It does have an amazing chorus, though, except that Patrik sounds slightly quieter than normal, and doesn’t seem fully engaged. Two tracks later is “Skyriders and Stormbringers”, where right from the start of my first listen, my plagiarism detector went off, with the opening bars of the chorus being oddly familiar, and then once the opening verse starts, the main drum beat kicks in and it feels so similar to “Carolus Rex” by Sabaton, it’s just really hard to shake it off and fully enjoy the track. However, the chorus itself is absolutely spectacular once it kicks in, and over time, once I was able to get over the obvious impersonation, the song has managed to grow on me a lot, with the highlight being an incredible sped up passage in the middle, and that’s by far the freshest sounding section on the track.
The Sabaton soundalike marathon continues on “Blackwater Bay”, a slow, largely keyboard driven track, which has some very epic choral vocal during the verses, as well as a very fun and catchy chorus, It’s a slower paced track, very much in line with what the aforementioned band has been doing a lot lately, though it does have enough memorable moments to help make it stand out, so it doesn’t suffer as much from the comparison as “Skyriders and Stormbringers”. The last song that feels extremely familiar is “Giants of Heaven”, a speedier track where the opening riff really feels like it could have been taken from the likes of “Solider of 3 Armies”, “Poltava” or “Counterstrike”, among others, though there are some strong, epic symphonic elements to help distinguish it a bit, and the verses are explosive, while the chorus is every bit as epic and catchy as always, so it still ends up being an amazing track. Honestly, all four of these tracks are excellent in their own right, but I felt I had to mention how familiar they feel, as fans of the band in question may be taken a bit off guard, and think they accidentally put on the wrong album, or something.
Moving into more positive territory, “Breaking the Beast” is a fun, hard hitting heavy metal infused track, with some surprisingly heavy riffs during the opening, as well as during the excellent chorus, while the verses are melodic, but keep the momentum going nicely. It’s not quite amazing, like many of the other tracks here, but it’s still a very satisfying track, overall. Closing ballad “Reign of Fire”, is one of two more folk infused tracks here, with folk melodies dominating the music throughout, and it’s a very beautiful track, with calm, slow building verses giving way to an epic chorus, where Patrik goes out and sounds amazing, especially near the end of the track.
And now, it’s time to mention the true killers, starting with lead single “Slayer of Kings”, a fast paced track, which starts off with a calm, melodic intro section, before the band quickly speeds things up and keeps the momentum going with some blistering riffs, thundering drums and epic vocals during the verses, before giving a way to a slow, but super melodic and unbelievably fun and catchy chorus. This is the kind of track the band excels at, and they really knocked it out of the park on this one. Two tracks later, “Magical Eye” is a more symphonic influenced, but still fast paced track, which is a bit lighter, but still has some great riffs, as well as an incredibly addictive chorus, fun verses, and an excellent guitar solo in the second half.
The most folk infused track here is “The Warlock’s Trail”, a mid paced stomper of a track, which uses its folk melodies very nicely during the chorus, while having some epic, fun verses. The chorus in particular is one of the best here, though, with a very cheery tone, epic vocals and a strong folk influence, to help make it absolutely wonderful, with the last run through being especially amazing. Near the end of the album is “Balerion”, another very speedy, highly symphonic track, with a slight neoclassical feel in the guitar work. It’s one of the fastest tracks here, while still having some great keys, and the chorus is again outstanding, while the verses are fast, furious and a ton of fun, and the guitar solo near the end is very epic and well played. The highlight of the track is an amazing stop/start section right near the end, and the ensuing final run through the chorus is awe inspiring.
My favourite track on the album, though, is “A Blessing in Sorcery”, another very speedy track, which definitely has some of that Sabaton influence in the keys, but unlike the other tracks I mentioned earlier, it doesn’t remind me of any particular tracks, instead using those influences in a more subtle way to craft something even more epic and unbelievably addictive and catchy, with the chorus in particular being one of the best sing along choruses I’ve come across in quite some time, while the rest of the song moves at a great pace, and is very melodic and epic, as well, with the choral section in the middle being particularly unforgettable. It’s simply the band at their absolute best, and is definitely an early 2019 highlight, as well as one of my favourite Bloodbound songs to date.
I was initially a bit disappointed with Rise of the Dragon Empire, due to some of the tracks feeling dangerously familiar, but once I got over that and started digger a bit deeper into those tracks, as well as focusing more on the album’s highlights, it ended up growing on me, and has proven itself to be yet another excellent album from Bloodbound. It doesn’t quite match Stormborn or War of Dragons, but it’s still a highly addictive, very melodic album, with some amazing choruses, as well as being the band’s most varied album in quite a while, continuing with the symphonic elements of its predecessor, while adding in some subtle folk elements. Fans of the band should love it, and fans of the more melodic, keyboard driven side of the genre are highly recommended to check this album out, as Bloodbound continue to be one of the best in the business, even if their influences are starting to become a bit too obvious, at times.
Written by: Travis Green
My Global Mind – Staff Writer
Travis Green is a Canadian based writer for My Global Mind, with a particular passion for power metal, as well as an interest metal in all its forms.