Released by: Inner Wound Recordings
Release Date: November 18th, 2016
Genre: Melodic Metal
Lee Hunter – Vocals
Marvin Flowberg – Guitars
Swede – Bass
Mike Cameron Force – Drums
2. Give Me Light
4. Get Ready For
5. Feel My Flame
7. Holy Grail
9. They Don’t Really Know
10. Make You So Unreal
Metal and pop aren’t supposed to go together, for obvious reasons, yet many modern bands have managed to blend the two together in effective ways, and have found success in doing so. The latest band to attempt something similar is Swedish melodic metal band Enbound, whose debut, And She Says Gold, was solid enough, though it never left much of an impression on me. Now, five years later the band has returned with their sophomore effort, The Blackened Heart, and I’m much more impressed this time around. The power metal foundation of their sound has been left intact, but this time the band has experimented with different elements, and yes some tracks definitely do have pop sensibilities, much more so than I would have expected.
Enbound was formed by drummer Mike Cameron Force, who I had previous heard with the long disbanded power metal group Zonata, and so I knew to expect some excellent drumming on this album, and he has delivered as always. Musically there is a pretty wide variety of the songs here, with some tracks expectedly having a more traditional power metal sound, with a focus on speed, riffs and vocal melodies, while other tracks have a much more modern sound to them, with some occasional very minor influences from modern alternative metal acts in the guitar sound, while some tracks are softer and more keyboard drove, with slight hard rock elements, and there’re a couple tracks here that blend modern metal and classic power metal together in effective ways. Oh, the whole, though, this album is very much driven by its melodies, so if those don’t work for you, chances are you won’t find much to like. Luckily, I happen to love the melodies on display, and vocalist Lee Hunter does an excellent job, at times sounding a bit pop-ish in his delivery, while at other times using the kind of soaring vocals you’d expect from a power metal album. The band also uses symphonic elements on and off, something I noticed on their debut as well, though this time around these elements seems much more prominent, and even dominate at times.
Folks scared off by my initial mention of pop elements may want to skip opening track “Falling”, as the track opens with keyboards and some of the most pop-like vocals I’ve ever heard on a metal album, though the rest of the band does kick in soon afterward, and for the remainder of the track it turns into a mid-tempo melodic metal song with some nice riffs and some nice supporting vocals from guest Linnéa Wikström. Some may hate that opening section, but personally I think Lee does an excellent job and he definitely gives the album an extra level of accessibility. Also on the lighter side of things, “Get Ready For” starts off with piano and symphonic elements, initially feeling like a pop ballad, though once the drums and guitars kick in it turns into more of a classic hard rock style track, with some bouncy vocal sections and a fun chorus. Another nice softer track is “Twelve”, a mid-tempo track where the symphonic elements are in full force and combine with the guitars to make for an excellent take on modern symphonic metal, complete with a great chorus. There’s one ballad on the album, “They Don’t Really Know”, and while the majority of the track is a bit sleepy with not much happening and nothing to really grab onto, Lee manages to save it during the 45 seconds with an incredible vocal section that shows how emotional and powerful he can be in his delivery.
Fans looking for some great power metal should find quite a bit to like on this album, starting with “Give Me Light”. This track features some of those modern guitar riffs I mentioned, and it alternates nicely between mid-tempo and somewhat fast paced sections during its verses, before going full speed during its epic chorus. It still sounds very light compared to most power metal, but the guitars sound great on it, and it’s an excellent track overall. Immediately following that track is “Crossroad”, one of the more traditional power metal tracks on the album, with the verses dominated by keys while the chorus is, of course, speedy and features some excellent vocal work. There’s also a really nice extended guitar solo in the second half. Two more similar songs are “Feel My Flame” and closing track “Make You So Unreal”, both of which are faster tracks with nice guitar work. The former has a really nice extended instrumental section towards the end, while the latter has by far the catchiest chorus on the album and is probably my favorite track overall, as well as probably the most classic power metal sounding of the bunch. Another favorite is “Holy Grail”, a consistently fast paced track which has a nice melodic chorus, while the verses remind me a bit of modern In Flames, mostly in how the guitar tone sounds. Lastly, “HIO” is an interesting track that constantly switches between light, bouncy sections where Lee uses his more pop like vocals, and faster sections, with the second verse, in particular, doing an excellent job of blending the two together in a way that somehow works. It’s a bit of an oddball track to be sure, but the band pulled it off wonderfully.
Overall, The Blackened Heart is an excellent and very fun melodic metal album that fans of lighter power metal should be able to enjoy. Some folks may be scared off by the pop elements I mentioned, but really those are more in the vocals than anything else, and musically this is still largely a metal album. Enbound may not have blown me away with their debut, but this time around they have left a much stronger impression, and I can’t wait to hear more from them in the future.
Reviewer: Travis Green