Released By: AFM Records
Release Date: December 2, 2014
Genre: Power Metal
Patrik Johansson – Vocals
Tomas Olsson – Guitars
Henrik Olsson – Guitars
Anders Broman – Bass
Fredrik Bergh – Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Pelle Åkerlind – Drums, Percussion
2. Satanic Panic
3. Iron Throne
4. Nightmares From the Grave
6. We Raise the Dead
7. Made of Steel
8. Blood of My Blood
9. When the Kingdom Will Fall
10. Seven Hells
11. When All Lights Fail
Swedish power metal band Bloodbound can certainly be unpredictable, from their early years of constant lineup changes (in particular they went through three singers over their first four albums, with Urban Breed actually joining and leaving the band twice, appearing on their debut and third album,) to the constant style shifts they’ve gone through, starting with their third album Tabula Rasa. One thing that’s always been true, is that all of their albums to date have delivered some entertaining and epic metal songs. Their last album, In the Name of Metal, was particularly surprising to me, as their fourth album Unholy Cross seemed to mark a return to the speedier power metal sound of their first two albums, except with shorter, simpler songs, so seeing that their lineup had finally stabilized, with Patrik Johansson being their first singer to appear on two consecutive albums, I was expecting them to continue in that direction. Instead, they put out almost a whole album of plodding but often fun heavy metal anthems, which sounded like a completely different band most of the time. Suffice to say, I had no idea what to expect going into their sixth and latest album Stormborn, except that it would most likely be another great album. After several listens, it is possibly my favorite Bloodbound album to date, and with one minor exception, it is exactly what I was hoping it would be.
Newer fans who have only heard In the Name of Metal may be in for a bit of a shock, while anyone familiar with their earlier albums and hoping for a return to that sound should have a lot to be excited about. The heavier sound of their previous album is still in tact on a few songs, and one track feels like it could have come straight from that album, but on the whole this is a much faster paced, much more melodic and epic album along the lines of their first two albums and Unholy Cross, except now the songs are even catchier and more immediately satisfying than ever before. In a couple spots the band has added folk elements for some added flavor, and it’s clear they were at least somewhat influenced by Sabaton while working on this album, especially with how the keyboards sound on a few songs. Like all great power metal bands, they excel on the faster songs, but they do a good job of mixing in 3 slower songs as well, and the songwriting is basically flawless, on all but one track, which I’ll get to in a bit.
I mentioned their past struggles with singers, but Stormborn marks their third straight album with Patrik Johansson, meaning they have finally solved that problem. I’ve always liked Patrik, right from the first time I heard the Dawn of Silence album Wicked Saint or Righteous Sinner, and he seems to be getting better with each album. He gets to do some classic heavy metal wails this time, especially on “Satanic Panic”, but he remains as good as ever when it comes to delivering epic choruses, which this album is full of.
Following the intro track “Bloodtale”, a first among their discography, the band immediately goes into full throttle with “Satanic Panic”, which is by far the heaviest song on the album, featuring the speed of their earlier works during the verses, and the more aggressive, mid tempo style of In the Name of Metal during the chorus, resulting in a pretty awesome combination of both older and newer Bloodbound. This doesn’t last long, though, as “Iron Throne” is pure speedy power metal at its absolute best, with epic melodies and an instantly memorable chorus, further enhanced by lyrics based on George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (or HBO’s Game of Thrones for non book readers.) The first surprise of the album is the folk infused “Nightmares From the Grave”, a song that starts out fast, but slows down to give way for some epic folk melodies, and an another great chorus, eventually leading to an excellent use of a children’s choir towards the end. Next is the title track, which is the first slower song on the album (and also features lyrics based on ASoIaF/GoT,) but the Sabaton inspired keyboards and epic vocal melodies help make it another instant highlight.
From that point on fans should know what to expect from most of the second half, with speedier songs like “We Raise the Dead”, “Blood of My Blood”, “Seven Hells” and closing track “When All Lights Fail” all being absolutely fantastic and among the band’s best work. One more big highlight is “When the Kingdom Will Fall”, another slower song with some nice folk melodies. The Sabaton influence is especially strong on this one, and not even just the keyboards: The rhythm of the song is quite similar, as is the overall feel.
My one disappointment I alluded to earlier is “Made of Steel”. It’s not a bad song, or even a mediocre song. In fact, if this was my first Bloodbound album I would probably think it’s awesome. The problem is that the main riff sounds like it was taken straight from the title track of Book of the Dead, and perhaps because that’s long been one of my favorite songs by the band, hearing a rehashed, slightly lesser version of it doesn’t really do much for me, especially considering they already did an awesome re-recording of it on their last album.
Moving on from that one disappointment, though, Stormborn is exactly the kind of epic power metal I was hoping for, and it both brings back their earlier sound I love so much, while at times retaining the feel of their newer albums. Obviously, any Bloodbound fan will have to hear this, especially those who prefer their speedier material and found their last album disappointing, while anyone looking for some fun and extremely epic power metal is also highly recommended to check this out, because it’s one of the best releases of 2014.
Written by Travis