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To give the devil his due, his literature makes for an interesting read, particularly when his satyr alter-ego graces the cover. Such is a common practice with the release of Swedish power hitters Bloodbound, a band that brings back that classic eighties version of his soundtrack, or at least that has tended to be the case. After hitting the ground running with an impressive nod the old school power metal with a heavy dose of Iron Maiden trappings, some changes were in the works, though they would prove to be a bit more subtle on their sophomore effort Book Of The Dead, relative to what was coming down the road. The most overt contrast comes in the absence of original vocalist Urban Breed, whose soaring smoothness is replaced with something on the opposite end of the melodic power metal spectrum, though there are other slight departures that shift this album toward something that is equally accessible, but definitely in a different vain.
Where Nosferatu came off more as a young band trying to replicate a much older sound, this album finds itself sounding like an older band trying to capture a sound that is more recent in character. A big part of this is manifest in vocalist Michael Bormann, who has a far more gravely and rough edged shouting character to his vocals that is reminiscent of Axel Rudi Pell's current shouter Johnny Gioeli, and at times like a lower version of Udo Dirkschneider. Combined with a more power metal oriented approach in the style of a number of prominent German bands that follow the model of Helloween, namely early Edguy and Gamma Ray, as well as a production that is a bit more modernized and heavy, and a greater amount of keyboard detailing, this album manages to sound like a completely different band despite being comprised mostly of the same people and still being within the power metal revival paradigm.
Consistency has always been this band's strong suit, and it reveals itself here in a collection of songs that are very easy to sing along with, though they are definitely a bit more up-tempo relative to this band's debut. Galloping riffs and fancy guitar solos are still very prominent, but in the particular cases of "Into Eternity", "Turn To Stone", "Lord Of Battle" and "Bless The Unholy", there is also a heartier helping of speedy numbers with raging double bass kick work that is a bit more reminiscent of Edguy's Mandrake than the mid eighties conservatism of Noseratu. Even on numbers such as "Sign Of The Devil" and "Flames Of Purgatory" where the character ships back to a Dio/Iron Maiden mode, the melodic guitar work still tends towards that busier, dueling harmonies that is more indicative of Helloween's Keepers albums. Arguably the only true throwbacks to a pure eighties heavy metal sound is the slow grooving title song "Book Of The Dead", which definitely reaches for more of a Manowar feel of fist-pumping goodness, and the album's token ballad "Black Heart", which sounds like it was lifted off an Axel Rudi Pell ballad compilation.
It isn't impossible to completely love Nosferatu and simultaneously be either lukewarm or hostile to this album given that it is a bit different, but most that were taken in by said debut and not totally married to Urban Breed being the front man will find a near equally powerful album here. At times, not the least of which being the riveting traditional Maiden homage "Black Shadows" (the best song of the album), it isn't hard to see the same winning formula at play, even though the exterior isn't the same. It ups the ante slightly in terms of the technical elements at play in the debut, further exploiting the shredding talents of Tomas Olsson and also bringing in a slightly greater role for keyboardist and co-founder Fredrik Bergh, who also ended up handling bass duties on this album. Expect a bit less conservatism, but definitely expect a stellar piece of celebratory power metal at a time when things were definitely shifting in an AOR direction.
After Nosferatu, here comes another one. Bloodbound look like an unstoppable heavy metal force, and they continue Nosferatu tradition with another strong studio album, which doesn't have any very good, nor good or mediocre song. All of these songs are perfectly well made, and I really enjoy this release. There is a difference in line-up, but most notable is the vocalist change. Urban Breed, guy who did an outstanding job on Nosferatu album is gone. But who cares, they got excellent replacement called Michael Bormann. I think that Tomas Olsson said they had so much line-up changes, because some band members did that just for money. If that is the reason, I salute that. Anyone who does heavy metal music just for money is a poser, and there is no room for him, specially not in a bands like Bloodbound. But that is not good thing with constant line-up changes, at least not for a new band.
This studio album is massive. Songs are slightly different than songs on Nosferatu, because of Michel's vocals. Hard rock-type singer meets power metal band. That is truly a killer combination, as devastating as nuclear bomb. But this bomb is more awesome, and much more mind-blowing. Influences on Nosferatu were obvious, but here you can't tell easily who inspired Bloodbound. This is not even much similar to Accept, no. This album is really original, and as far as I know, there is nothing that can be compared with Book Of The Dead. Ok, maybe lead guitars and drum galloping give Iron Maiden feel, but not so much. Although hate-boys just wait to compare this band to any other, and to say how unoriginal this band is. I never said Bloodbound is the most original, nor anything like that, but this album and Tabula Rasa are their much more original work.
The most catchiest songs from this album are: The Tempter, Book Of The Dead, Bless The Unholy, Lord Of Battle, Flames Of Purgatory, Into Eternity, Black Shadows, Black Heart and Seven Angels. That's because these songs have unbelievable and memorable refrains, excellent lead guitar work, amazing drum rhythms, which have deadly combination with these orgasmic lead guitars. That combination of leads and drums takes these songs into a whole new level. All of this would not be enough without these amazing riffs, specially in a song Book Of The Dead, which sounds like a heavy metal anthem. Flames Of Purgatory, Seven Angels, The Tempter and Into Eternity are excellent examples of amazing bass drum pounds, and tricks and lead guitars. Every song has excellent structure, so, every song has tempo which really fits these melodies, guitar solos, singing parts and riffs. They are all great sing-along songs, and every metalhead should have great time while listening to this album.
What would this album be without great technical, fast, creative and unique guitar solos? That's right, each song has amazing guitar solo, and each one is so memorable. Specially guitar solo in the song Black Heart. That one is really excellent ballad, full of clean guitar arpeggios, power chords, dark themed, but "romantic" lyrics. That one is so special song, with calm tempo, excellent drums, guitars and powerful vocals. Lyrics are standard like on Nosferatu album. Topics like Purgatory, Heaven and Hell, good and evil, beware of Satan, and stuff like that. Well, that really fits heavy metal music, and these topics are present since the early heavy metal years, which started with Black Sabbath. After some time, and more careful listens Sign Of The Devil and Turn To Stone will grow on listener, and that completes the image of this amazing studio album.
Good sides of this release:
Strong, blazing, powerful, creative and catchy riffs, memorable, technical, orgasmic and creative guitar solos, amazing lead guitar work. Creative drum work which gives special pleasant feel in each of these songs, and it has really killer combination with these lead guitars. Mix of rough and melodic vocals, catchy refrains. Keyboards which do not appear as a lead instrument, but in some parts of the songs, and they fit in well. Interesting, well-written, sick and dark lyrics. This album is a serial killer. Each song is really dangerous. This album is a must have for all metalheads, or for people who want to get into heavy metal music. Also, Bloodbound is one of few power metal bands, and really amazing one.
Bad sides of this release:
As much as I know how to appreciate band's effort, and give positive opinion and compliments, as much as that I know how to be harsh, and tell the bitter truth if one of my favorite bands screws up something. This is not the case here. This studio album is not solid, nor fair enough, nor good. This album is perfect, so there's nothing bad about it.
Every song. When I say it, I mean it.
Bloodbound’s debut carried the Iron Maiden worshipping sound so often found in the traditionally oriented power metal niche they fit into quite nicely. Because of this, one would be forgiven for writing them off as a cheap, unoriginal band. Unfortunately, Book of the Dead would do little to distill this notion.
What we have here is a slab of pleasing, if somewhat bland, heavy metal. It’s metal in the purest form, with obvious nods to all the greats – Maiden, Priest, etc. There’s no doubting Bloodbound’s credentials, then. Rather than advancing what these bands popularized so long ago, the band seems content to stay in a mire of nostalgic thrills. Musically, all the pieces are there. The guitarist is extremely good, throwing out catchy riffs and sprinkling in some solos here and there, while the bass and drums provide a solid, if reserved, backbone for the songs. The vocals are interesting – singer Michael Bormann replaces Urban Breed who has developed something of a revolving door policy towards Bloodbound. He has a distinctive, gravelly voice that works well in tandem with the rest of the music. The lyrics are nothing to write home about – big cheesy anthems, with a focus on choruses and the stereotypical ‘darkness’ present in metal’s birth. What you should expect, given the title and cover art really.
But there’s something not there that should be there. Their debut Nosferatu had more interesting parts than this, and their subsequent albums solidified them as being a high quality act, so why does this album feel uninspired? It has all the pieces of the puzzle in its hands – decent musicians, strong anthemic songs (the title track in particular, but a nod must be made towards the likes of ‘Sign of the Devil’), slower, more 'epic' sounding songs (the comparatively gargantuan ‘Seven Angels’ and the ballad ‘Black Heart’) all of which, if you can overlook the almost laughable lyrics, are actually decent songs. So why is it so bland? Few of the songs here will stick with you, and none will make any impact on your life. None really have the qualities or catchiness to effectively stick in your head.
Maybe I’m bitter. This is, after all, Bloodbound’s only weak release, as far as I’m concerned. Maybe the grandeur of its brethren have made me cynical towards it. In the end though, it is what it is – an enjoyable if somewhat disappointing, unmemorable slice of metal.
Ah, Bloodbound, one of the most unoriginal-sounding, Maiden-worshipping power metal bands to form in the past 10 years. They are notable for proving that being generic won’t necessarily hold you back if you have good songwriting, an amazing lead guitarist and a world class singer in Urban Breed. Yes, their debut Nosferatu was a pretty damn good album for what it was and proved to the world that this band can indeed play with the big boys of the Swedish power metal scene such as Hammerfall and Nocturnal Rites.
On their second album, Book of the Dead, things have changed as Urban Breed has left the band and been replaced by Michael Bormann. To lose a quality vocalist like Urban Breed sounds devastating on paper for a band in such an early stage of development so naturally it come like a total surprise that Michael Bormann proves to be a worthy replacement. His voice has a nice, rough edge to it, and a style more aggressive than Breed’s. It’s funny though how he sometimes sounds like a hard rock singer who’s had to toughen up a bit to fit in. Imagine a whiskey-abusing version of the guy in Axel Rudi Pell and you have as good a comparison as I could think of.
Regrettably, it sounds like the songwriting has taken a backseat to the bands’ aspiration of finding a worthy replacement for Breed, as this has to one of the most watered down power metal releases I’ve heard this year. The album starts in a strong fashion with two of the best songs on the album: ‘Sign of the Devil’ and ‘The Tempter’. The lead guitar work on these two is essentially what sets Bloodbound a part from other bands as the melodies are simply amazing. Hell, it’s good enough to earn Tomas Olsson a spot in Iron Maiden’s reserve list. These are two outstanding songs, impossible to ignore, which makes the rest of the album an even greater disappointment, since the other songs range from being only merely OK to downright awful.
‘Book of the Dead’ and ‘Bless of the Unholy’ and perhaps ‘Black Shadows’ near the end would some of these OK songs. ‘Book of the Dead’ is actually more of an anthemic piece of metal more suited for big arenas. Not my cup of tea exactly but yea, it’s pretty good for what it is. The fast and furious ‘Bless of the Unholy’ stands proud as the last song before everything turns to shit. The guitars are still good here and the vocal melodies still have some manliness to them.
And now, for some inexplicit reason the band decides to drop the guitars out of the mix and focus more on vocal melodies like some pop band. Mind you, the guitars are still there, but the riffs and melodies are far too unexciting (and Maiden-worshipping) to warrant any attention and completely overshadowed by the vocal melodies. This is similar to what Nocturnal Rites and Freedom Call as well as a few other bands have done on their new albums – an attempt to become more radio friendly and sell some more records for sure (read: become a whore). Great fucking idea as “radio friendly” and “good music” is nearly never interchangeable. It’s a surefire way to destroy any credibility you have left as a metal band and kill what’s left of the album which is exactly what has happened here.
Should I bother to get into the bad songs? Let me mention the worst song of them all, the ballad ‘Black Heart’. This piece of shit song is an insult to me with its sentimental sugar-coated singing about “holding my spirit high” and “reaching my hand up to the sky”. There are more examples, but I should stop here before I get too excited.
Bloodbound have the potential to become big players in the genre, maybe even release a modern power metal masterpiece, but for that to happen they need to understand two very fundamental things about metal: killer riffs and melodies = good. Lame vocal melodies and radio friendly bullshit = bad.
Bloodbound was apparently a project started by ex-Tad Morose frontman Urban Breed, and they play dark-themed heavy/power metal that's not exactly renovating the genre, but it's really fucking cool all the same. Anyway, Urban Breed isn't a member of this band anymore, and he's been replaced at the helm by Michael Bormann, who sounds exactly like Johnny Gioeli from Axel Rudi Pell, but he does a remarkable job here. The music is pretty aggressive for power metal, reminding me of the heavier sides of Nocturnal Rites, Cryonic Temple, and Hammerfall (all Swedish as well) combined with a darker heavy metallish edge. But this is better than the three aforementioned bands by far, trust me.
There are some really killer cuts here, from the awesomely satanic "Sign of the Devil" to the anthemic and heavy title track, the speed metal assault of "Bless the Unholy", and the aggressive and powerful "Black Shadows." While "Turn to Stone" is more happy and uplifting, the chorus rules, and it's a good song all the same. "Black Heart" shows that the band can do ballads pretty well, as this song has some great guitarwork and a cool chorus too. The closer "Seven Angels" is the longest one here, and it's got this cool, galloping Maidenish riff that runs through the whole song. Very well done. This band does their choruses extremely well, with several tracks having these monstrous anthemic choruses that sound pretty dark and evil for power metal, too. And their riffs and solos are all clear and very well executed, the band has a great set of axemen!
There are a few filler-ish cuts here, but they're still delightful slices of the same dark power metal that the band perfected on the other tracks here. Not every band can make an album of stellar cuts anyway. The other problem with this band is that when they speed up their music, they become more generic ala Nocturnal Rites and Cryonic Temple, yet when they slow things down and get really evil and badass, they have their own unique sound. I wish they'd do it more often than on just two songs. "Into Eternity" and "Turn to Stone" are great songs, yet I can't help but get a feeling of deja-heard from them, with the speedy riffs and uplifting choruses. The production is nearly identical to Cryonic Temple's "Blood, Guts, and Glory" and many of the choruses remind me of Nocturnal Rites' "Grand Illusion." So a lot of the time, this isn't exactly original. But then we have songs on another level like the title track and "Sign of the Devil", which sound nothing like the aforementioned bands, and are completely awesome.
While Bloodbound aren't renovating the power metal genre (hell, their name seems to have been ripped from the Hammerfall track of the same title), this album is better than most of the generic crap being thrown around these days. It's not original, but there are a few tracks that really shine, and if the band improves a little more and expands upon their own sound, then they could very well be catapulted right to the front of the line along with Dream Evil and Lost Horizon in Sweden's scene. It's not on the same level of quality as, say, Lost Horizon, but it's a respectable sophomore effort, and I like it. This isn't your average flower metal; this is the good kind of power metal. So I can safely recommend this album to all fans of good, crunchy heavy/power metal, as this is a fine release by a promising band.