Bloodbound – Tales from the North Review

As recently as nine years ago, it was unclear what direction the Swedish power metal band wanted to take with their music, as their sound seemed to change from...

Released By: AFM Records

Release Date: July 7th, 2023

Genre: Power Metal

Links: https://www.facebook.com/bloodboundmetal/

 

Line Up:

Patrik J. Selleby – Vocals

Tomas Olsson – Guitars

Henrik Olsson – Guitars

Anders Broman – Bass

Fredrik Bergh – Keyboards

Daniel Hansfeldt – Drums

 

Tracklist:

1. Tales from the North

2. Drink with the Gods

3. Odin’s Prayer

4. The Raven’s Cry

5. Mimir’s Crystal Eye

6. Between the Enemy Lines

7. Land of Heroes

8. Sail Among the Dead

9. Stake My Claims

10. Sword and Axe

11. 1066

 

As recently as nine years ago, it was unclear what direction the Swedish power metal band wanted to take with their music, as their sound seemed to change from album to album, with the period from 2009-2012 especially seeing them change radically from album to album, leaving fans unsure of what to expect, aside from the fact that everything was high quality, regardless of the style. With their sixth release, Stormborn, in 2014, the band set the tone for the kind of epic, symphonic-infused, keyboard-driven power metal they have become known for since. Every album afterward has followed along the same lines, very subtly evolving their style, but generally sticking to what worked so well on that album and its immediate successor, War of Dragons. The band is now set to release their tenth full-length release, Tales from the North, and unsurprisingly, it delivers the kind of epic, melodic keyboard-driven power metal the band has played on their previous four albums, with very subtle hints of evolution, especially with the increased use of folk elements.

Fans of the previous few Bloodbound albums will largely be unsurprised by Tales from the North, as it very much picks up where the previous album, Creatures of the Dark Realm left off, continuing with the band’s super melodic, keyboard-driven sound while offering up more folk elements than any of their previous albums had, to add a bit of extra flavor. As usual, the core sound is very melodic, with a nice balance between guitars and keyboards. The guitars can be heavy in quick bursts, with some great riffs that add an extra dose of energy to some of the tracks, though there’s also a ton of super melodic guitar work throughout, even more so than on previous albums, I’d say. Keyboards are very prominent, often taking the lead on tracks, and while they aren’t as trance influenced as the keys heard on many other recent power metal albums, they do have a slight electronic feel to them at times. More than anything, though, they’re very melodic, as well as very energetic and upbeat, doing a great job of setting the overall mood for the music. Symphonic elements are used here and there, as on previous albums, but one big change is folk elements, which the band has never really been known for, aside from the previous album’s incredible closing track “The Wicked and the Weak”. This time around, they’re used on roughly half the songs, some much more than others, with the title track, “Drink with the Gods” and the closing track “1066” using them the most frequently. This does make sense, as the album is based around Norse Mythology and Viking history in general, which pairs well with folk music, and the band uses these elements quite effectively.

Aside from the folk elements, though, this is very much along the same lines as previous Bloodbound albums, with the vast majority of the tracks being fast-paced and hard-hitting, featuring some fantastic choruses and excellent vocals from Patrik J. Selleby, who’s in top form as always. Performances are excellent all around, with Fredrik Bergh in particular being a standout, along with Selleby, as his keys are often the driving force behind a lot of the tracks, and he does a fantastic job of setting the mood. Guitarists Tomas and Henrik Olsson are also both in fine form, being given plenty of moments to shine, and drummer Daniel Hansfeldt also does a great job, alternating between moments where he’s more intense, moments where he dials it back a bit, and even some times where he plays some marching drums, to help set the tone and pace for the music. Production is generally great, as always.
Songwriting is top-notch, as always. Bloodbound has always been consistently strong in that area, and Tales from the North is certainly no exception. Most tracks are super fast-paced, but there are a couple that changes up the pace a bit, as well as some, have stronger uses of folk and symphonic elements than others. For the most part, though, this album is exactly what fans of the band would expect, so while I will briefly go over every track, some of my descriptions may be shorter than normal, not because I don’t think they’re great tracks, but because there isn’t much to say about some of them, except that they’re exactly what the band excels at.

The album opens up with the title track, and right off the bat it introduces folk elements, in an extended soft section, first with a long instrumental buildup, and then some brief vocals. This sequence very much feels similar to what Iron Maiden has been known to do a lot, especially on recent albums, and it’s done very well. Following this intro, the guitars, keys, and symphonic elements kick in, and the pace immediately picks up, turning into the kind of fast-paced, hard-hitting yet melodic power metal the band is known for. Verses are a bit laid back, but still upbeat, and then the chorus is super fast, epic, melodic, and very catchy, with some fantastic vocals as expected. It’s an excellent opening track overall, and one of my favorites on the album.
Next is the fourth single, “Drink with the Gods”, and it’s probably the biggest oddball track of the album. It has a very strong folk feel, with a nice use of flutes, and it moves at a slow pace throughout, opening up with a nice instrumental sequence, before slowing down for an opening verse that removes all instruments aside from the drums, and lets Selleby and the choirs lead the way for a bit before the guitars and keyboards kick in partway through. The verses are fantastic and do a great job of building up hype for the chorus, but unfortunately, I find the chorus itself to be a bit lackluster. It starts strong, with some nice melodies, but the ending is a touch repetitive for my tastes. Likewise, there’s a bridge section where one line is repeated several times over, and while I do like the folk music in the background, the repetitive lyrics get to be a bit much. Overall, this is my least favorite track on the album, though instrumentally it is quite nice, and the verses are very good, so mileage may vary on this one.

Thankfully, that track is followed up by lead single “Odin’s Prayer”, and it’s the kind of up-tempo, high energy, melodic power metal the band always pull off wonderfully, and this is no exception. It strikes a nice balance between guitars and keyboards, as well as heaviness and melody, with the chorus and guitar solo being especially strong, and it’s one of the highlights of the album. The second single “The Raven’s Cry” is next”. It opens up with a nice melodic instrumental section, featuring some nice folk melodies in the guitar work, and once the track gets going it’s another upbeat track, with fantastic melodies, largely driven by keyboards and vocals, though when the guitars do kick in they’re excellent, especially during the solo in the second half. The pace picks up further with “Mimir’s Crystal Eye”, one of the more frantic tracks on the album, moving at a rapid pace throughout, with nice rhythm guitars accompanied by some very energetic electronic keys, which are very much the driving force behind the track. Verses are fun and breezy, while the chorus is very epic, melodic, and super catchy, as expected.

During their current era, the band has often been known to draw influence from the likes of Sabaton, and while that’s true for many tracks on this album, it’s especially noticeable on “Behind the Enemy Lines”, an upbeat, very melodic track where the keys very much lead the way throughout, especially during the opening sequence and the verses, which sound similar to the likes of “Ghost Division” and “82nd All the Way”, from the aforementioned band. The chorus has a distinct feel of its own, though, and is quite excellent, as expected. Next is a pair of high energy, super speedy tracks in “Land of Heroes” and “Sail Among the Dead”, both of which are fast and furious throughout, with the former having strong folk elements, while the latter is more keyboard-driven, with the chorus, in particular, having a bouncy, slightly pop infused feel to it, though it still very much stays in power metal territory throughout. Both tracks are excellent, and exactly what fans of the band would expect.

Following those two tracks is “Stake My Claims”, the second of two slower tracks on the album. It moves at a slightly more steady pace than “Drink with the Gods”, but is still fairly slow and laidback by Bloodbound standards. It’s another very melodic track, with a nice use of folk melodies, fun verses, and a fantastic, super catchy chorus, which ranks as one of my favorites on the album. There isn’t much to say about the next track, “Sword and Axe”, except that it’s yet another great, speedy power metal track, not quite as fast as some of the others here, but still very fun, upbeat, and very epic, with another strong chorus. Closing out the album is “1066”, which very much follows along with “The Wicked and the Weak” in closing things out with an epic, fun, and upbeat folk-infused power metal track, where the folk elements are more noticeable and more prominent than on most other tracks on the album, while the track still moves along at a fast pace and has another fantastic chorus, with some fantastic vocals, as well as some more epic marching drums in the lead into the chorus. It’s an excellent track overall and closes out the album in style.

At this point in their career, Bloodbound seems to know exactly what they want to do, and they’re very good at it. Tales from the North adds in a bit of extra folk influence, but otherwise, it’s very much the same kind of upbeat, melodic, epic, and super catchy keyboard-driven power metal the band has delivered since Stormborn. Fans of the previous few albums should be very pleased, while anyone looking for some excellent melodic power metal would also be highly recommended to give the album a shot, along with the likes of War of Dragons and Creatures of the Night. For a band that was fairly unpredictable in their earlier years, they have become one of the most consistent and reliable bands in their genre, at this point!

 

Ratings: 9/10

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.

 

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