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It is the exception where a band can continually reinvent itself with each new studio album and avoid crashing and burning in the process, so by logical deduction, it can be ascertained that Bloodbound is an exception. More often than not, this ongoing series of fits and starts in their evolution has been the consequence of a revolving door of lead vocalists, but with the arrival of this band's first successive album while keeping both the same vocalist and the same recording label, that excuse has essentially vanished. Perhaps the Olsson brothers and company have just gotten so used to change that it has become second nature to them as they do their best to maintain some semblance of an identity all their own, but whatever the reason behind it all, the radical departure that is In The Name Of Metal is by all standards, a world away from where things were just a year prior with Unholy Cross, yet simultaneously it is easy to recognize who the band is and the same basic style at work withal the changing subject matter.
If there is a single term that could sum up what is going on with this album, it's self-parody. It's not the sort of awkward, cringe-worthy type of self-deprecation that can often rear its ugly head when a band decides to stop talking about darkness and evil and just decides to party hearty, but more of an amusingly competent sort of good time fun that doesn't really need to have a point to it. Stylistically, the album is arguably a tad too simple for its own good and takes a lot of songwriting cues from the less than stellar eras of Hammerfall and Dream Evil, namely Crimson Thunder and The Book Of Heavy Metal, albums that are known for being a tad oversimplified and lyrically less than profound. Things are generally relegated to either middle or upper-mid tempo and often exhibits about as much of a rock feel to it as a metallic one, not all that dissimilar from parts of Seven Witches during their brief stint with Wade Black, while at others tilted in more of a late 80s fluff sound due to the keyboard presence, despite the production feeling fairly heavy ended.
While the songwriting is extremely bare bones and predictable, not to mention the lyrics flirting with being outright ridiculous at times, there's definitely some solid songs to be enjoyed. On the catchy side of things is a handful of 80s infused, fist pumping anthems in "Bonebreaker", "Bounded By Blood" and "Son Of Babylon", each one oozing with a retro metal charm to them that rests somewhere between Accept's Metal Heart and Saxon's Innocence Is No Excuse. Things get a bit faster and more aggressive on "When Demons Collide" and "I'm Evil", reminding a bit more of the band's power metal side without quite moving back into the overt Helloween territory that was explored on the previous LP and the first couple prior to their progressive interlude. Things get a bit more hard rocking and modern in the cases of "Mr. Darkness" and "Black Devil", almost seeming as though the band started taking some ideas from the latter days of glam rock circa 1990-1991 and infusing them with a heavier aesthetic. But hands down, the strongest point of this album is also the most lyrically ridiculous, which is the title song "In The Name Of Metal". It definitely takes a few pages out of the Judas Priest playbook vocally, but it's otherwise an either intentional or unintentional parody of Manowar's later 80s material. It's the sort of song that you can't help but sing along with, but do so outside of the purview of any other human beings given how goofy the words of the verses sound.
This is an album that is not in any way, shape or form meant to be taken seriously, and anyone who does so turns out looking even more ridiculous than what they are complaining about, as impossible as that may sound. While it has most of the usual trappings that have typified the Bloodbound sound, namely ripping technical guitar solos, a massive drum production, an extremely heavy overall sound, exaggerated vocals and an endless supply of catchy hooks, this is unlike any album that this band has ever put together and will likely ever do so again. It's the type of album that should only be written once and then fondly remembered as that one instance where we were all free to not give a shit and avoided any frightful consequences in the process. This makes no secrets as to what it is, and if the bizarrely hilarious album cover/warning label doesn't immediately repel the prospective consumer, it is hereby safe to proceed.
Bloodbound’s been around for less than a decade, and started their career with an album with the exact same title as Helstar’s masterpiece from 1989. They have song titles like “Black Shadow”, “Night Touches You”, “Together We Fight” and “Bonded by Blood”, that last one right here on this very album, their fifth so far. So yeah, that this isn’t the most innovative metal band on the face of the Earth is not up for discussion. I had just listened to a handful of songs from their past records prior to experiencing this awfully titled In the Name of Metal, and I never thought they were something special. They’re content in playing and composing the music they love: classic heavy metal and euro power metal, and that’s no crime. What might raise some eyebrows is the fact that they’re trying to rob Manowar of their title of “Cheesiest metal band ever”. And I reckon they might succeed if they carry on like this.
In the case of the self-appointed Kings of Metal, even though serious flops such as Gods of War or the uninspiring The Lord of Steel exist, at least they have their amazing back catalogue of classic albums (filled with silly lyrics, yes, we know that) as an undisputable statement of their considerable influence on the metal world. For what I’ve listened to, Bloodbound’s past material is not impressive or significant by any means. They’ve been consistent, but what good is consistency when your musical output is mediocre at best? And to add insult to injury, their lyrical endeavors are just as bad. Actually, lyrics provide a nice laugh the first couple of times you reed and listen to them, but they shouldn’t be taken very seriously, even though the band might think otherwise:
C'mon join the fight
We bring them down
March into the night
M. E. T. A. L. for metal”
There’re dozens of examples of metallic clichés like that one in this album. It wouldn’t be so bad if the music was compelling or amusing in any way, but sadly that’s not the case, and while sonically there’s nothing overtly insulting here, none of this record’s tunes managed to leave a good impression on me. The band can play their instruments with more than sufficient proficiency; problem’s the total absence of imagination and ambition. The singer might be the least worse of em’ all. He has a very 80’s metal style, like a grittier, tougher version of Bon Jovi, though a couple of times he shows he can almost reach Halford-like highs. Though definitely not a guy that stands out from the cluster of similar frontmen out there, he honestly doesn’t suck, he just needs to sing different lines. The guitars come second place in quality as they sound clear, modern, punchy enough… but the riffs, solos and melodies are mostly commonplace and unimaginative. The bass and drums are just there, and that’s all I can really write about them. The production fits the music style, almost comparably in quality to Helloween’s 21st Century output, maybe a bit dryer.
As for the influences at play, I perceive a great deal of Teutonic heavy/power such as Accept, Rage, some Edguy, as well as the similar though overtly better approach of fellow countrymen HammerFall and Sabaton. A little Bon Jovi too, no kidding! And on “King of Fallen Grace”, one of the least bad songs, they even channel Stratovarius. In other words, Bloodbound sounds like a bad pastiche of bands that were influenced by others that came before them but added their own signatures. This Swedish sextet forgot to do the last part. You’ve heard these tunes zillions of times, decades old in some cases, better composed. The variety on the album doesn’t save it from stagnation, as we have the anthemic hard rockers such as the title-track, “Metalheads Unite” or “Son of Babylon” as well as the speedier, power metal numbers such as “Bonebreaker” or “When Demons Collide”, which I feel are marginally better. And oh, they re-recorded their song “Book of the Dead” as the Japanese bonus, but I’m guessing it doesn’t sounds that different from its first incarnation.
The final nail to the coffin is their Nosferatu mascot on the album cover, displayed in totally ludicrous fashion, perfectly matching the musical contents within, a complete lack of taste. Was this album meant to be taken seriously? I keep asking that to myself. Truth is I don’t hear real effort here, like on the last couple of Holy Grail’s albums. I don’t here any distinctive elements like in Lonewolf or in 3 Inches of Blood, nor the level of superb riffing of a Pharaoh or an Enforcer. Maybe Bloodbound has better records but I’m afraid this is utter suckage, and while I don’t like giving any album a below 50 rating, my list of bands to recommend before this one has Biblical proportions, and I'm thinking in hundreds of other metal albums vastly better than this one.
Bloodbound has gone through a dozen stylistic changes from the early days, starting off as a Maiden and Helloween mix with some diabolically hooky melodies and Satanic themes and transitioning through phases as an AOR-flavored band, a prog metal band on Tabula Rasa and now a Nocturnal Rites-esque Swedish sound with big anthemic choruses and stomping, pop-sensible rhythms. Their last album Unholy Cross was a big, epic and fun trip with a ton of class and pomp, but this new one, In the Name of Metal, seems to have been rushed out in a few weeks, as this is easily the worst album of their career.
In the Name of Metal is obviously a “fun” sort of album from the guys, but fun doesn’t excuse everything, and although there are some hooky songs, most of the album is largely disposable. This literally doesn’t even feel like a finished album, as the songs are rough and unpolished sounding with a rawer-sounding production than last time out, and the songwriting is largely one dimensional and faceless. Only the vocals of Patrik Johansson carries these songs above completely menial levels – Patrik is clearly the star of the album with his distinct, gritty tone and spot-on metal wailing. He’s not Urban Breed, but he’s within an inch of being as good, and on songs like the title track and “Son of Babylon” he shows off some serious chops. He even makes the re-recording of “Book of the Dead” his own, and will have those fans who remember the original going ‘Michael Bormann who?’ upon hearing it.
But a lot of the album is just bland. Go back and listen to killers off the last album like “Message From Hell” or “Moria” and then come back to this one and you will see the difference. There’s just not a lot of power or flow to these songs. Most of them just sort of groove along into nowhere, sounding like a bunch of Dream Evil fillers from 2005 or something. Particular lowlights include the plodding “Mr. Darkness” and the awful “Monstermind.” The lyrics are all terrible, too, and when you hear the title track you’ll just be embarrassed.
You say I’m evil you say I suck
My hair’s too long I don’t give a fuck
I’m doing nothing out of control
My music’s wrong I don’t care at all
You say I’m ditry I smell like shit
All dressed in black and my clothes don’t fit
I’m a sinner excuse me m’am
You take your moral I don’t give a damn
So yeah, In the Name of Metal just isn’t that good, with maybe a few tracks that show off the old Bloodbound charm, but most of the songs don’t feel like completed tracks and the album as a whole is largely rushed and uninspired. From the band that gave us classics like “Behind the Moon” or “Nosferatu,” these kinds of lazy hard rock anthems just won’t cut it. Try spending more than a few months on your new album next time, guys.
Now, I'm fairly new to Bloodbound. I was introduced to them last year via Unholy Cross because I was told they were superior to Powerwolf (which turned out to be a preposterous lie), and frankly the album just never struck me. It wasn't bad, but mid paced, hard rockish power metal doesn't usually do much for me. Arthemis is okay I guess but give me late era Edguy and watch me change the music to a far better band in record time. I'll admit that "Moria" is a cool, catchy song, but after the next track or two I just always lost interest. Unholy Cross did absolutely nothing for me, and so I had intended to just add Bloodbound to the list of okay bands that just aren't for me.
And then I saw the album art for In the Name of Metal. Jesus Chrystler Town & Country, that is a sight to behold. Just look at that scene. Zombie vampire creature (apparently Nosferatu if you're to believe the graffiti behind him) with a spiked mohawk made out of what appear to be baby narwhal horns, giant hoop earrings, studded denim jacket, bullet belt, a shirt with his own face on it and a gigantic, steel plated ghetto blaster. That is just... too much. It's so perfectly bad, I can barely put to words how brilliantly fucking stupid the whole thing is. It hits that sweet spot in the bell curve where it's so unabashedly silly and dumb where it becomes something awesome. It's like Army of Darkness, or The Room if you're super drunk. I mean, just look at the graffiti on the wall behind our mascot. "Show me the horns!" "Metalheads!" It's so retarded and full of itself that I just can't help but smile at it and embrace the silliness of the whole thing. If Unholy Cross was decent but uninteresting, then the worst case scenario for In the Name of Metal was that it would at the very least be an interesting train wreck.
Thankfully, the music follows the spirit of the cover art perfectly. I'll be the first to admit that I haven't heard a single track off of Tabula Rasa, but from what I've read and been able to gather, I can say with utmost certainty that In the Name of Metal is the exact opposite of what that album contained. Nothing here took more than a few minutes of forethought, it's a collection big and stupid chest beating anthems. The trad metal equivalent to Jungle Rot, if you will. The songs here fall under one of two lyrical themes, either corny old horror movie monsters or puffing out your peacock feathers and holding your head up high with your metal brothers. The flip flopping between Lordi and Manowar is fairly seamless, as the songs themselves all follow a pretty traditional flow of simple, head banging, fist pumping heavy/power metal singalongs with huge choruses. Imagine a dorky mix of Hammerfall, Firewind, Dream Evil, Powerwolf, Lordi, and Edguy, that's the level of silliness and pomp you'll be dealing with, and there's no denying that it's a fucking bargeful of fun.
Now with all of that said, In the Name of Metal is far from perfect. The second half of the album really tends to blur together with their midpaced singalongs all sounding fairly similar to one another. "Bounded by Blood" is pretty much the only song after the fifth or sixth track that's managed to stick in my mind, but despite how similar all of the songs are to one another they do still manage to be fun while they're on. That's the real problem with this album, it lacks that intangible that Powerwolf holds so firmly, that swagger that makes me want to return frequently. I could probably fart the melodies to "Phantom of the Funeral" or "St. Satan's Day" at this point, so it's pretty safe to say that they're the standards to which I'll be holding most bands of the style for a while. But even though Bloodbound here isn't quite as huge and doesn't pack quite as much heat in their trousers as their German counterparts, they still carry all of the same qualities apart from the indescribable intangibles, just not as strongly. The drum production is particularly beefy, and the fact that they rarely pick up to double bass speeds keeps them steadily thick and powerful without being overdone. Don't get me wrong, the guy is by default better than Phil Rudd or Lars Ulrich or something, but he tends to keep it on basic hard rock beats and basic power metal beats, just never very high speed. Think of Hammerfall.
I'm honestly being a bit facetious in constantly comparing Bloodbound to Powerwolf, when in reality this album has a lot more in common with the works of their Scandinavian neighbors in Lordi. Lordi for the most part writes boring, cliche, and not particularly interesting songs. But one thing the band does fucking magnificently is craft choruses. Man if you can seriously resist singing along to "Blood Red Sandman" or "Bringing Back the Balls to Rock" or "Hard Rock Hallelujah" or pretty much any single the band has ever released, you are officially dead inside. That is also where Bloodbound succeeds the strongest, these choruses, even on the more boring songs like "Mr. Darkness" or "King of Fallen Grace" are at the top of their class. The choicest cuts are probably the title track, the rerecording of "Book of the Dead", or "Metalheads Unite" ("SAY M-E-T-A-L FOOOOR ME-TAAAAAL"). The title track holds the distinction of being the song with some of the most juvenile lyrics I've heard in ages ("We'll kick your ass like a pussy bitch!"), and I absolutely have to point out that "Son of Babylon" has the exact fucking same chorus as "You Give Love a Bad Name" by Bon Jovi. This amazingly makes it more awesome somehow, because it helped it stand out the first time I listened to the album, which kept me coming back for more and eventually led to me eventually really enjoying this album, when at first I had found it as faceless as its predecessor.
And really, that's what makes In the Name of Metal a flawed gem. On the whole, there are maybe four songs I can see myself coming back to frequently ("In the Name of Metal", "Metalheads Unite", "Son of Babylon", and "Bounded by Blood"), but whenever I put it on I find myself enjoying the full album. It's silly and overblown and stupid but that's what makes it fun, despite the technical flaws. Definitely a fun album, much closer to my beloved Powerwolf than Unholy Cross was, and mix that with equal parts Lordi and Hammerfall and you've got a pretty good idea of what you're getting yourself into. I can gather that this is a lot less serious and thought out than some of the band's previous works, so established fans may want to be wary, but if you like dumb, heavy metal/hard rock anthems with a power metal bent, then get on this.
Originally written for http://lairofthebastard.blogspot.com/