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Trends are a funny thing, while they don't necessarily affect every single crevice of the metal world, it is often the case that they impact even lesser known players in the overall scene. Case and point, Bloodbound, a Swedish power metal outfit that has made a name for themselves primarily for being consistent in quality, though very much all over the place when it comes to stylistic direction. Some of this could be blamed on a revolving door of lead vocalists that has plagued much of their existence, but when this band is on point, it is very much a collective success by all persons in congress. In light of this, it is important to remember that a band like this is very capable of missing the mark, as their third studio offering Tabula Rasa does relative to their entire body of work, but their version of missing the mark is far from a terrible result and manifests more as a magnificent carpet with just a few too many Persian flaws.
Perhaps the writing on the wall for Bloodbound's radical shift in stylistic direction was first hinted at by their departure from Metal Heaven Records, a hotbed of melodic power metal with an old school tinge that includes outfits like Burning Point, Herman Frank and Vengeance. But regardless of any forewarning being seen in the band's switching of affiliations and embracing of a more futurist-tinged imagery, something musically resembling the debut was likely expected given the return of Urban Breed and bassist Johan Sohlberg to the fold, thus reforming the entire Nosferatu lineup. The musical results, however, are all but at the opposite end of the power metal spectrum relative to the stylistic conservatism displayed previously from this band, opting for something that can best be described as a power metal band trying to write a progressive metal album, placing a particular emphasis on grooving heaviness and aggression that mirrors the style heard out of Steel Attack on Carpe DiEnd and recent (at the time) outings by Nightmare and Cryonic Temple
The changes that come about here, while comparatively inferior to previous and future outings, are nevertheless a mix of strong and intricate elements presented in an overly mechanical and formulaic fashion. The older school galloping goodness, Helloween-infused melodic speed cliches and overall retro character of before has been completely jettisoned. In their place is a percussive, rhythmic approach that bears some resemblance to the aggressive punch of Outworld, and with it comes a ratcheted up technical display out of the lead guitar and a unified, semi-thrashing riff set and rhythm section. Urban Breed's vocals have taken on a slightly raspier character and largely sticks to a moderately high range, avoiding the signature screeches and wails of an old school metal vocalist. That is essentially the fatal flaw of this album, an over-emphasis on the guitars and a songwriting structure and vocal approach that falls short of being contrived, but at times sounds like it wants to be just that.
In spite of the "mature" (code word for scaled back) musical presentation and "deep" (code word for convoluted) lyrics, there are some fairly exceptional songs on here that manage to bridge the power progressive bridge rather nicely. The surprisingly speedy and technical cruiser "Take One" is the best of the pack, and comes the closest to listening like a power metal song with an infectious chorus hook and a riff set that, while groovy and chug-happy, avoids being overly mechanical. The opener "Sweet Dreams Of Madness" and "Plague Doctor" also make a pretty good run in the speed department while showcasing some wildly impressive guitar solo work out of Tomas Olsson. Things get a tad bit thrashing on "Twisted Kind Of Fate", adding to the album's otherwise flawed attempt at eclecticism, and the chorus line manages to score another memorable hook.
Ultimately, despite a fair amount of praise being heaped upon this mixed bag when it was first paraded out as the band's new potential direction, this proved to be a temporary fluke that didn't stick with the band, most likely because of the waning of interest in this approach to power metal. This sort of quasi-industrial/progressive modernism that began rearing its head in the mid 2000s hit its zenith with Heed's The Call, and otherwise didn't really move any mountains. The inherent problem is that an otherwise esoteric and elite style of metal is being forced into a bite size power metal package, resulting in something that lacks the necessary complexity that comes with power prog., while robbing its power metal root of its organic character. It might be good for an occasional spin, but those seeking "mature" metal would be better served by looking into Pagan's Mind and Anubis Gate.
Nosferatu and Book Of The Dead were the absolute classic masterpiece power metal albums done by this amazing band. Band members are gifted, talented, skilled and creative individuals. As a team, they work even better. That's why they made such perfect two albums. Then came this... I don't know what went wrong with them, but this album is not standard Bloodbound album. This album is definitely their most original if we talk about the sound, but if we talk about quality of this album things are a bit different. Nosferatu was obviously influenced by bands like Helloween and Iron Maiden, with dose of their own sound. Book Of The Dead was even more original, you just can't compare Book Of The Dead sound with any other band. Tabula Rasa is as I already said their most unique, and most weird record. It is not power metal album, but progressive metal. I just don't know why they decided to do such a huge sound change. It's impossible to predict that after Book Of The Dead this band would make any significant sound change, specially not huge like here.
Sometimes sound change is logical. For example first 4 studio albums done by Sonata Arctica have something that connects those albums. They are different, but have the same feel. And then came Unia which is different. Then, it was natural that they will continue making albums with totally different sound. This is not a case here, this change came out of nowhere. Urban Breed is back in the band, but he doesn't have the same vocal style here. Nosferatu was full of his soaring, powerful, sky-high and high-pitched vocals, but not here. He tends to sing more cleaner and softer. He sounds totally lazy, and sometimes his voice annoys me. That happens in some parts of few songs, where he sounds like crappy Chester from crappy Linkin Park. Can you imagine that? No, Urban doesn't scream here, but sometimes his vocal melody reminds me of that guy, and that's not good at all. That happened in refrains of Night Touches You, Dominion 5 and All Rights Reserved. The rest of his singing part is ok, but not outstanding. He did better job on Nosferatu album, where he impressed me a lot. Because of that album I think he is one of the best vocalists in the world.
This album has very commercial approach, that's why it makes more people being interested in Bloodbound. It has that horrible alternative feel, and even the smallest dose of alternative music makes me angry. Songs are not that bad, but alternative feel kills their quality. I think that they tuned down their guitars, because they sound totally modern. Songs Tabula Rasa, Plague Doctor and Master Of My Dreams contain some metalcore riffs, and this amount of alternative feel. Domonion 5 for example contains mix of a bit alternative riffs, while the song is driven by heavy riffs, so that part actually saves that song. In fact, most of the songs have similar riffs structure, combination of trendy modern and traditional heavy riffs. When I say heavy riffs, I mean riffs in Black Sabbath vein, the founders of heavy metal music and its sub-genres classic heavy metal and doom metal. However heavy riffs are dominant, and they prevent this album to be labeled as pure catastrophic mallcore record.
There are not many amazing and memorable solos like on Nosferatu and Book Of The Dead albums. Solos are pretty mediocre and not well inspired, even though some of them are technical and fast. But there are some exceptions. Twisted Kind Of Fate and Tabula Rasa have memorable solos, which are fast, technical and creative. Maybe I sound too harsh, I know how to praise if bands do great things, and also how to be complain about their weaker efforts. But this album is not horrible like you may think while reading first part of the review. I simply can't get used to huge change like this one, and specially not this modern, trendy and commercial approach. Now some positive facts of this album. Every song has great harmony of heavy riffs and melodic leads. These melodies following the riffs are godlike. It is good way to use that space for guitars, rather than using keyboards. Those melodic leads add so much amazing flavor to these songs.
Riffs follow the drum bass rhythms in most of the songs, and during the greater part of the song's duration. That gives the songs a special vibe, and that is standard progressive metal work. This album is not progressive metal because of tempo changes and complex song structures, but more because of its experimental sound, combination of traditional heavy metal sound and unfortunately this modern alternative influence. That is a mistake, but they rule even when they do it in a wrong way. That's because of band member's huge talent overdose. Progressive metal fans, and non-heavy metal fans enjoy this album more than I do, but that's not how Bloodbound supposed to sound like. Songs are not horrible, or big garbage. On the contrary, they could have been excellent, but most of them are poisoned with the trendy influence, and that's the main reason why these songs are not excellent. Most of these songs are very good (4/5), and I repeat, they could be (5/5) if they were 100% heavy metal. Also lyrics here are mostly non-sense. maybe I don't get them, but they are just bunch of nothing. These lyrics are not about dark themes, religion, madness, good and evil, fantasy like they used to write before. All Rights Reserved and Night Touches You are exceptions. These are incredible lyrics.
Good sides of this release:
Killer combination of modern and traditional riffs, lead guitars, song rhythms and melodic vocals.
Bad sides of this release:
This is Bloodbound's least heavy metal release, because of modern and commercial approach. I would not recommend this album to people who want to get into Bloodbound's music, specially if they like true heavy metal music. Older Bloodbound fans should think before they get this one, or just not to expect much from this release. Most of these songs are very good, and could have been excellent if they were not poisoned with alternative sound. Most of them are (4/5), That's why there won't be many highlights here.
Tabula Rasa is an interesting move, all things considered. After the relative disappointment of Book of the Dead, Bloodbound reunited with Urban Breed to bring out an album with a new aesthetic and theme. As opposed to its predecessors, which had been firmly rooted in the cheesy horror and dark fantasy that permeates so much of metal, this album looks onto the new frontier of science fiction. It also comes with a new sound for the band – gone is the blatant Maiden worship of before. It’s been replaced by something significantly more unique.
And thank God for that.
For the most part, this is still fairly standard power metal with a more ‘traditional’ edge. The album opens with an… interesting ‘tinkling’ keyboard sound with guitars swelling in the background, slowly getting louder and louder. And then it blows your mind. The album grabs you and proceeds to rush through a number of beautiful songs, only slowing down for the brilliantly slow-burning ‘Night Touches You,’ situated halfway between the two title tracks.
It’s hard to pick out highlights, because every song has an undeniable charm to it. ‘Dominion 5,’ for instance, is a fantastic way to build up the energy at the start of the album, the title tracks make for a gorgeous pairing (and work fantastically well alone as well), and ‘All Rights Reserved’ is one of the best farewells to an album I’ve heard in recent times. Yet, the gilded crown of “Best Song” has to be placed on the be-masked head of ‘Plague Doctor.’ All the songs here have fantastic intros, usually helped along by some awesome riffing, and most have insanely catchy choruses, but ‘Plague Doctor’ rises above even this. The chorus is the kind to get stuck inside your head, and stick with you for the rest of your week.
As you may infer from the praise I have thus far heaped on guitarist Tomas Olsson’s handiwork, there is something special to be found in the band’s musical ability. Urban Breed’s singing prowess goes without saying – and he is at the top of his game here – and the rest of the band really step their game up. The bass works really well to drive the song along – it genuinely adds a new energy to the songs – and the keyboards add a new sprinkling on the top of what is a delicious power metal cake, to give it that unique taste, but it’s the drummer, Pelle Åkerlind, who is most surprising. His playing was relatively reserved and straightforward on previous Bloodbound albums, honestly, but here it is simply amazing, with an equal mix of speed and power to drive the songs on. The lyrics are an improvement as well – gone are the cheesy clichés of old. What we have instead is a refreshingly original modern/sci-fi album loosely tied to the eponymous concept of starting over.
The album does really live up to its name, in a sense. This is the turning over of a new leaf, the painting anew on a blank canvas. Throw out the misguided conceptions that previous efforts may have seeded in your mind about the band – Bloodbound have hit the ground running.
Wow, talk about a complete turn around. The first album I heard from Bloodbound was actually Book of the Dead, which sounded good at first but did not age too well at all. So I kind of wrote these guys off for a while, which was, of course, a mistake: their debut full length Nosferatu was simply a bastion of fun and enjoyable hooks for anyone's consumption, and their newest, Tabula Rasa is just first-rate on all fronts.
First off, let's talk about the front-man. Urban Breed is, and always will be, a first rate singer and songwriter. It's obvious that this band wasn't nearly as good without him at the helm. His voice is clear, powerful and muscular, and he has a huge range of styles that can lend themselves to different music with ease - just compare Tad Morose's groovy, traditional style with Breed's hard rock animation found on Nosferatu, and then to the more futuristic, controlled voice he exhibits on this album. His ear for melody is superb, always spot-on and always catchy as hell. Just listen to some of the songs on here, pick any one at random, and you're guaranteed to find a good hook to sink your ears into.
And the songwriting, too! I don't know who wrote what on here, but the band has undergone a major stylistic shift here from worshiping the past of 80s rock and metal to embracing the future. Gone are the massive, creamy, rocking hooks of the old days, replaced with an influx of stodgy, dark riffs and a cool, crispy sense of coherence and control to every note. This is a very polished album, with a lot of charm and pomp to it beside the metallic edginess that makes this stuff so good. Every song jettisons along with a kicking tempo and a killer sense of melodic intricacy. The guitars are snappy, the bass is thumping and crackling away, the drums are powerful and everything just sounds first rate. There is a Gothenburg tendency to the riffs, but I think the clean, melodic vocals they support give them a fresh edge here, and Bloodbound's songs are just written well enough for them to sound completely awesome, anyway.
Right from the opening synths of "Sweet Dreams of Madness," the band captivates, as the song quickly swirls into an enigma of stomping guitar acrobatics and a massive chorus that you'll be singing all afternoon. "Dominion 5" careens out of the speakers with a massive hook and a truly captivating melody, and the staccato riffing on "Take One" is an instant ear-catcher in itself. "Night Touches You" is the first genuine surprise; an emotional ballad with bleak chords exploding into ultra-melodic clean guitar lines that might genuinely touch you. It's really quite a superlative song, and one of the standouts in an album of standouts.
The double-part title track is just addictive as hell, and then "Plague Doctor" rocks out with a killer groove and the biggest chorus on the album. "Master of My Dreams" is a darker number with some interesting vocal effects on the chorus, and "Twisted Kind of Fate" is an old school Power Metal romp in the traditional Tad Morose style - I'd wager Breed definitely wrote this one! "All Rights Reserved" closes the album with a triumphant hook and a menacing, defiant groove to the rhythm section that will leave you wanting to play this one again. It's just impossible not to listen to this and be amazed; there's just too much good material on it. If you like Power Metal or just metal, or even just rock in general, it will be hard to pass up Tabula Rasa. One of the year's finest.
It's hard to believe this is the same band who recorded the marvelous Maiden-tinged Nosferatu, or the good yet riddled with filler Book of the Dead. With the return of the legendary Urban Breed to the microphone, Sweden's Bloodbound seem to have ushered in a new sound. Long gone is the almost 80's rock-like sound of its predecessor. Tabula Rasa is a much darker affair blending Gothenburg-like riffage with power metal leads, brilliant song structures and haunting hooks. Urban Breed really delivers here – what did you expect though? He's the fucking man. There's nothing more heart-warming than to see a band you'd nigh on written off to defy all expectations and record the album of their career. Heavy in all the right places but never sacrificing the melodies that had made their debut album such a charming ordeal, it seems Bloodbound have finally found their place in the metal world.
Guitarists Tomas and Henrik Olsson have really stepped up their game on Tabula Rosa, raging throughout the album with Goliath chugging, punishing their fret-boards with highly melodic leads and tearing the whole place up with smoldering shredding. Pelle Åkerlind drum battery really keeps the band in check, performing a wild flurry of furious double bass and pounding rhythms with bassist Johan Sohlberg deftly following the blueprint laid down via Åkerlind. A special mention of course goes to the subtle use of keyboards courtesy of Fredrik Bergh, never becoming over-powering or ridiculously cheesy. Obviously Urban Breed needs no introduction, having torn things up on their debut album, he returns for round two, delivering a performance we haven't seen the likes of since his days in Tad Morose. Tracks such as the incredible "Take One", both parts of the title track and personal highlight "Twisted Kind of Fate" just show how far Bloodbound have come along; the pace rarely lets up. The sole ballad on offer "Night Touches You" is actually pretty damn good, opened with a stunning guitar solo and some Melodic Riffage, Urban Breed really puts on a great show; proving his worth as a first class singer.
With next to nothing to complain about, this should be added straight to your wish-list, fantastic performances all around and really strong tracks is the name of the game. All killer and zilch in the way of filler marks a first for Bloodbound. These guys seem to have found their stride and their place in the metal world, sounding both equally confident and proud. You'd be a fool to deny this release. 2009 is just proving better and better as the months go by. Highly Recommended
Originally written for www.metalcrypt.com
Bloodbound first came to attention in the metal community because it was fronted by vocalist Urban Breed, who had recently departed from Tad Morose. Their debut, "Nosferatu," was pure power metal worship, which confused some people since many band photos featured them in corpsepaint. After their debut, Breed left the band and Bloodbound released another album, which was more in the vein of hard rock. For “Tabula Rasa”, however, Breed is back, splitting time between Bloodbound and Pyramaze.
The first thing that one will notice when listening to “Tabula Rasa” is the metamorphosis that Bloodbound has undergone. On their previous two releases, the band wore their influences on their sleeves, resulting in much of the material sounding derivative. Now the guitar riffs are more prominent and the songs in general are heavier. This is definitely a benefit because it adds an extra dimension to the band’s sound.
Breed’s vocals are different here than what they have sounded like in the past. Gone are the over-the-top wails from the past that sounded out of place and instead we have a much more mature vocal approach that is less self-indulgent and benefits the songs as a whole far more. There are plenty of guitar solos to keep the shredding fans happy, and the rhythm section provides a competent, if not spectacular, backing.
Bloodbound are definitely showing promise. I wonder whether this band or Pyramaze will be Breed’s full-time band, because I would be happy to see either of these bands in concert. Regardless of what the answer is, “Tabla Rasa” is essential for fans not only of power metal, but heavy metal in general.
(Originally published at www.metal-temple.com)
The new Bloodbound album is puzzling, since none of their three albums bear much of a similarity. "Nosferatu" was a lush piece of traditional power metal worship, with Urban Breed delivering the songs in his smooth yet powerful voice. "Book of the Dead" was a slightly more rock oriented album, with Michael Bormann's ragged voice taking the sound in a different direction. With Urban back in the band, any thoughts that they would return to the sound of "Nosferatu" are put to rest in the first few seconds of the album.
"Sweet Dreams of Madness" kicks off with an angular riff, and for the rest of the ten tracks, we are given a new Bloodbound to consider. If "Nosferatu" was their traditional power metal album, and "Book of the Dead" was their more modern power metal album, "Tabula Rasa" is something that defies labels. The guitars cut through the mix with a more biting tone, playing chunky riffs more concerned with heaviness than melody. The galloping that carried much of the first two records is all but gone, replaced with playing that resembles the new wave of melodic death metal.
But anything the guitars may do to change the sound has done nothing to Urban or his melodies. He elevates the songs, giving the band the power that they were lacking in his absence. His vocals are still tremendous, but lack some of the clarity of his previous outings both with Bloodbound as well as Tad Morose.
Songs like "Sweet Dreams of Madness" and "Dominion 5" ride on hooks as good as anything the band has put out before, and "Plague Doctor" is a slight change of pace that dials back the aggression for a stirring chorus, but the majority of the album is content to flex its muscle rather than weave twin-guitar melodies as they had done before.
"Tabula Rasa" is a different beast that its predecessors, but it still retains enough of the band's core to be Bloodbound. The shift towards agression over melody is interesting, and if the band loosens up the songs a bit next time, they could very well be on their way to finding a sound that they can ride for years to come.