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Prior to the turn of the decade, the ever-shifting musical direction of Swedish power metal newcomers (with some old comers along for the ride) Bloodbound could have been chalked up to a combination of timing and uncontrolled lineup changes. Urban Breed's self-imposed career of vocal mercenary led him on a Trail Of Murder of sorts (pun intended), leaving the Olsson brothers and company to pick up the pieces yet again, which thankfully resulted in turning back the clock a couple years and jettisoning the current yet derivative and mechanically progressive character that made Tabula Rasa an inferior product. The entry of vocalist Patrik Johansson of the younger outfit Dawn Of Silence has allowed a revisiting of territory somewhat along similar lines to that of Book Of The Dead, though their new helmsman's pipes are not quite as gravely as Bormann's and tend just a tiny bit closer to Breed's, though dubbing him a combination of both former vocalists of this outfit would be a good way to describe his well rounded presentation.
Thus is presented Unholy Cross, a powerful return to form that can be categorized as both stylistically safe yet also qualitatively exhilarating. With the throwing off of the futurist trappings of the recent past, the fire has been rekindled and with it a streamlined, right for the jugular approach to metal pours over every second of this entire album. In more of an old school nod that is somewhat similar to the band's debut, Bloodbound opts to go for a middle paced bludgeoning to kick things off, culminating in three powerhouse sing-along anthems in "Moria", "Drop The Bomb" and the somewhat slower but still killer "The Ones We Left Behind". While largely simple in presentation and leaning towards a celebratory mood similar to Hammerfall's Renegade and Primal Fear's Devil's Ground, there is plenty of heavy-ended goodness and fancy lead guitar detailing to rival the previous album while keeping things in a more traditional light.
Once the highly memorable yet mid-paced exposition of this album concludes, the picture becomes a bit more frenzied and moves in the direction of sounding more like this band's own second LP, or the dark and speedy Edguy magnum opus Mandrake for a more visible comparison. It's not difficult to see the parallels right when things land in speed heaven on "Reflections Of Evil", which follows the same sort of triumphant and high octane chorus formula with a darker character that typified turn of the millennium Edguy and Helloween, and the formula continues to hold true on a number of similar songs such as more technically oriented mix of rhythmic chugging and keyboard/guitar noodling "The Dark Side Of Life" and the older Hammerfall sounding speeder "Message From Hell". Truth be told, apart from the band's token ballad "Brothers Of War", which sees this band leaning a bit into the realm of soft, keyboard tinged Axel Rudi Pell territory, this entire album could easily be mistaken for a number of better efforts out of Gus G during his early runs with Firewind and Dream Evil, with perhaps the latter's Dragonslayer being the best overall comparison.
While Bloodbound may end up being tagged as the most stylistically inconsistent/confused power metal act to ever come out of Sweden, they have this uncanny ability of bouncing back in spite of constant lineup shifts among the most substantial parts of their respective whole, to speak nothing for the fairly frequent shifts in record label loyalties. Unholy Cross could be likewise pegged as a return to form of sorts for a band that still seems to be struggling with what exactly that form happens to be. Nevertheless, the musical results are a solid, substantial collection of fun and catchy songs that manage to be over-the-top technical and hard hitting without degenerating into mindless showboating or sounding like a bunch of math problems being put to a melody. This is the sort of organic stuff that doesn't require a trip to Whole Foods in order to enjoy, and has an old fashioned charm to it without needing to keep your elbows off the table.
Back in 2006, Swedish melodic power metal band Bloodbound turned a few heads when they released their excellent debut album entitled ‘Nosferatu’. While the CD wasn’t anything relatively new at the time, it was however catchy, well written, crafted and delivered. The album gave Bloodbound a firm foothold on the metal ladder, climbing a few rungs from the debut and also acquiring some respect in the process.
Five years and a few line-up changes later and Bloodbound have returned to deliver their 4th full-length release entitled ‘Unholy Cross’. Due to the revolving door issue at the lead vocal position, which resulted in original vocalist Urban Breed leaving after the debut and then returning for the 3rd album ‘Tabula Rasa’ and finally leaving yet again, may have slowed Bloodbound’s progress to become one of the 1st tier melodic power metal bands. In total, the band has used 4 singers in 6 years, including (aside from Urban Breed) Kristian Andren, who never actually sung on a Bloodbound album, Michael Bormann (‘Book of the Dead’) and the current vocalist Patrik Johansson. There’s one other line up change to speak of (between albums 3 and 4) and that is bassist Johan Sohlberg leaving the band and replaced by Anders Broman.
‘Unholy Cross’ sound-wise is somewhat different to what I heard on their debut album ‘Nosferatu’. Whereas the first CD gave the impression of new life being breathed into the saturated melodic power metal genre, which in turn made the release so satisfying; the new disc however does not have that polish surrounding it anymore and now Bloodbound sounds just like all the other hundreds of melodic power metal bands out there. Bloodbound’s sound is quite similar to that of Edguy, Primal Fear, Firewind, Dream Evil, early Mystic Prophecy, early Cryonic Temple and early Hammerfall. I could keep going with that list, but I’m sure you have a pretty good idea now.
Even though ‘Unholy Cross’ is nothing new or fresh and is something you’ve heard many times before, funny enough despite its cheesy lyrics and song titles (take “Drop The Bomb” for example), Bloodbound have still managed to create and deliver an entertaining and catchy disc. In short, it just works and the band has done enough to keep the listener interested even though it’s quite predictable. The reason I would put it to would be the excellent guitar work of brothers Tomas and Henrik Olsson, with creative power chords, riffs, licks, shreds and solos driving each track on the CD. The impressive and raspy vocals of Patrik Johansson adds another tick to the scoresheet as his voice is quite flexible with a passionate delivery and a broad range.
Cheesy lyrics accompany the opening track “Moria”, (“bang your head to hell and back” is pretty cheesy is anyone’s language) and while the song is quite melodic and has some decent guitar riffs and a nice galloping beat; it’s fairly weak for an opening track. Things do improve, however, with the next track “Drop the Bomb”. The song title might make you cringe, but the introductory Primal Fear/Dream Evil-esque guitar riffs get your head nodding in approval. The chorus is cheese all the way, but it’s also very catchy and that driving heavy guitar/beat combination is just too good to ignore. “The Ones We Left Behind” is a bold metal hymn that would have a huge impact when performed live. A slower track, but quicker than a typical ballad, has Dream Evil and early Hammerfall written all over it, with big choirs during the chorus and an uplifting feel throughout.
While “In for the Kill” and “Together We Fight” are strong both tracks despite being very predictable, I would look to the final three tracks of the CD for the absolute killers, “Message From Hell”, “In the Dead of Night” and the title track “Unholy Cross”. “Message from Hell” is the fastest track on the album, with furious guitar riffs and mesmerizing drum beats. The shredding solo in the middle is one of the best on the CD too, as Patrik Johansson belts out a winning performance. This is followed up by the pummelling “In the Dead of Night”, another speedy track with heavy riffs and a catchy yet cheesy chorus. The trinity of kickass concludes with “Unholy Cross”, IMO the best song on the album. With an awesome sounding low end (almost thrash-like) guitar riff to open the track and get your head banging, the song continues to impress with its bombastic nature, excellent vocals and catchiness throughout. What a superb way to finish the album, but odd to have (arguably) their best three tracks at the end of the release.
In the end ‘Unholy Cross’ definitely isn’t new, groundbreaking or unpredictable; however Bloodbound has released a typical sounding melodic power metal album that is of a high quality. With hard and aggressive guitar riffs and catchy melodies and hooks, the album just finds a way to be infectious and entertaining to fans of the band and genre. It’s an album you can put on and just crank up and rock out to, playing your favourite tracks until you’ve had your fill. Luckily this band has the knack of writing quality tracks that you can still enjoy immensely even though it’s been done hundreds of times before; otherwise this release would have been one big yawner.
Originally written for www.themetalforge.com
Listening to "Unholy Cross", Bloodbound's new work, makes me feel awkward. The band that debuted with a splendid power metal album, "Nosferatu", has been somewhat strange ever since, and since I enjoyed their prog approach in "Tabula Rasa", I'm stunned with their more traditional and straight forward approach in "Unholy Cross".
Stunned and conquered.
From the very start with "Moria", the album shows an impressive melodic vein with memorable and epic choirs that invite immediate headbanging and sing-alongs. "Drop The Bomb" follows and it's simply phenomenal with a certain hint of Hammerfall. That chorus is simply overwhelming. By the time we reach "The Ones We Left Behind", we're ready for anything, but not for the epic tone of this great anthem with moderate speed and assertive riffing to give it a certain grandeur.
And that's how you get three lessons on how to raise your fist, three songs very well-composed and structured, and each with a mandatory climax. The tunes that follow, "Reflections Of Evil", "In For The Kill", and all the way to the end with the darker "Unholy Cross", including the ballad "Brothers Of War" and the hyper-melodic "The Dark Side Of Life", always show a band capable of composing memorable songs with enough variation so they won't fall into the dark pit of the speed cliche, creating a perfect mix of power and melodic metal. There simply won't be a single song that won't stick in your head right away on this whole album where Bloodbound kick you in the balls and say they can play whatever they damn well want to.
Behind the microphone, Patrik Johansson (Dawn Of Silence) suits to perfection the band's return to the past with a tone higher than Urban Breed's and enormous melodic potential that's a bit gritty as well. He reminds me somewhat of Tobias Sammet and listening to "Unholy Cross", I get the feeling that power metal didn't have these kinds of infectious choruses since "Vain Glory Opera" or the first Avantasia. Edguy or Gamma Ray are indeed some of the notable influences on this album that aren't particularly innovative, but are solid as steel, very well-composed, better performed, and completely addictive.
If you're one of those who missed the band from "Nosferatu", "Unholy Cross" is undoubtedly the album you want. For all other power metal fans, "Unholy Cross" is the best album in the genre I've heard this year so far and is a mandatory acquisition. How they can top this, I don't know, but I'm almost certain they will.
This review was written for: http://www.rockheavyloud.com
After weaker progressive metal album Tabula Rasa, Bloodbound realized they should return to their power metal sound, and they did it. When they said Urban Breed left band again I was disappointed. I thought they will hardly find fitting replacement this time, but I was wrong. When I heard songs from Patrik Johansson's band Dawn Of Silence, I thought he will sound girlish like he sounded there, but I was wrong again. He sounds manly enough, although there are some moments where his voice is unnecessarily over-soaring. This release is 10 steps forward comparing to Tabula Rasa, but 2 steps back comparing to Book Of The Dead. Book Of The Dead is their most original power metal studio album, besides Tabula Rasa of course (but Tabula Rasa is progressive metal), that's why I made this comparison. These steps back are related to bigger similarity with their influences. This is not one of those bands who lack riffs, and use electric guitars to make even more melodies combined with girly, pop-like vocals and rely on keyboards.
These guys make power metal like it should have been - intense, powerful, creative, massive, technical, etc., although this release has over-soaring vocals abuse. When you look at Bloodbound's lineup you will notice that they have keyboardist Fredrik Bergh. Keyboards were present on past Bloodbound albums, but in few songs, and in few parts of the songs only. They were more notable on Tabula Rasa. here, they appear only during Patrick's singing in some songs as a backing instrument, they are not part of the solos, and they last few seconds only. It is also difficult to choose the best track. Song Moria will occupy listener's attention after the very first listen. It's like a sudden impact - it enters your ear, and stays in your mind... forever.
How can one forget those head-crushing riffs and epic chorus at the beginning, and the rest of the song as well. It is great representative song for this release, that's why it appeared first on YouTube. It's bombastic, epic, intense and mind-blowing. Drop The Bomb is as devastating as those atomic bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, made of faster tempo, strong and massive riffs and refrains. The Ones We Left Behind has power ballad-like feel, but it's not. It has slower tempo, calm vocals, clean guitar intro... so, everything gives power ballad feel, but sky-high vocals in refrains, fierce drums and riffs give huge amount of power. That prevents it from being power ballad. Sharp riffs, lesser progressions, exciting sung parts and wicked guitar solo are trademarks of In For The Kill.
Brothers Of War is the only pure power ballad. Passionate electric guitar work, acoustic guitar intro mixed with clean guitar tunes, slow tempo, and lyrics which lead us into soldier's mind after the war is over. Unholy Cross belongs to this group of much unique and more blasting songs. Again blazing riffs, well-written lyrics, enjoyable tempo, rhythm and vocals, and brilliant guitar solo, probably the best from this studio album. All of their solos are perfect (except Tabula Rasa), which is a rare thing. Not many other guitar duos have the amount of talent and creativity like Olsson brothers. Both Tomas and Henrik are underrated guitarists, and they deserve more recognition, just like Bloodbound in general. Not only Patrik, Tomas and Henrik are great members. The drummer Pelle Åkerlind did impressive job again, while bassist Anders Broman remains unnoticed. That's what happens in bands like Bloodbound, HammerFall or Sabaton where other band members do bloody amazing work.
You noticed that these songs have very similar formula: killer riffs, technical guitar solos, soaring vocals, fast and mid tempo. Well, the rest of the songs have very similar structure, but they will grow on listener after few plays. Bloodbound's members use that formula because they can, and they do it great. I decided to describe these six songs, 'cause that's what made me interested in the rest of the album after progressive metal release Tabula Rasa. Tabula Rasa is not bad, it's much more original than Book Of The Dead, but it's a huge sound change. I can't get used to that modern approach, and that's why I don't like that release much. I hope they will continue their way in order to find their own sound they had on Book Of The Dead, before line-up and sound changes.
Good sides of this release:
It's perfect release, every song is excellent. Some of them have to grow on listener, and that will keep you glued to this release. From power ballad, slower and faster songs, to extremely face-melting blazing songs. This studio album is full of surprises. I recommend it for every metalhead.
Bad sides of this release:
A bit lame lyrical parts of very few songs, and some over-soaring vocal moments. But that doesn't affect this release much, 'cause other things are perfect.
Every single song.
Here's an album that doesn't screw around. The Swedish machine that is Bloodbound trims all the fat and goes straight for the core throughout this mammoth display of rocking power metal, that shears the Earth's crust with fist-crushing heaviness and has more hooks than a tribe of wild fishermen. "Unholy Cross" makes strong nods toward the bobbing postulate of a band like Hammerfall, but Bloodbound is really in a league of their own. This is unchained, nationalistic, mincing power metal which shakes the roots of Valhalla and the fiery chambers of Hell. Trickery or gimmicks can not hide from the impending crusade of pure, untainted metal which drips from “Unholy Cross."
Bloodbound had the odds against them here, though. Longtime vocalist Urban Breed left Bloodbound in the dust (again) after the group's seminal "Tabula Rasa," but have no fear; his replacement Patrik Johansson does not disappoint. In fact, his inspiring register nails notes of all elevations, yet at the same time he keeps the darkened theme alive and certainly at its strongest. Consider yourself inept if you aren't impressed by the superior control he expresses throughout killer cuts like "Moria." Still, this band's approach to throbbing power metal in the vein of Hammerfall is beyond awesome. There are eleven tracks throughout "Unholy Cross," and each one makes the adrenaline flow with punch after punch of stellar musicianship.
And that's exactly why this album rules: it's a total display of muscle and voltage. Again coming back to "Moria," there's clearly no protracted guitar solo or unnecessary sections, just riffs and verses that lash and a chorus that grabs you by the shoulders and makes you bang your head, whether you like it or not. And that's generally what to expect from each track: riffs that don't over-complicate the power metal theme and choruses catchier than the common cold. A lot of the lead work here is dazzling too, and the production brings the whole picture to life with a meaty, crunchy, crispy sound which growls between every note and pound.
So overall, everything that could have gone right during "Unholy Cross" did. The sound it has, representing a band at their finest, is impeccable, and Johansson fills Breed’s shoes as if the pressure which followed was just a dream. I find stuff like this hard to get into occasionally, but "Unholy Cross" gets the job done, quicker and more effectively than what most would expect. I wouldn’t waste any time purging into this rocking chunk of brawn power metal if you enjoy bands like Hammerfall, but you still won’t regret checking this record out even if it doesn’t sound like something you’d enjoy. You’ll hear the opening hooks of “Moria” and forget any doubts, my word.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com
When I heard Urban Breed left Bloodbound AGAIN, I was like, shit, man, what are they ever going to do now? Being that Tabula Rasa was their pinnacle thus far and an absolute highlight of 2009, I was skeptical as to whether or not they could best that one, even with a talented singer like Patrik Johansson from Dawn of Silence (a very promising young band!). So what was Bloodbound’s response to my skepticism? Why, make the second best fucking album they’ve ever made, of course!
Unholy Cross is just a fine, fine album of traditional Swedish power metal in the Nocturnal Rites and HammerFall mode, except twice as catchy and twice as heavy. In other words, it’s a juggernaut of melodic, smoothly rocking power metal, and it is absolutely wonderful. The songs pound out of your speakers with big, heavy riffs, intricate leadwork that wraps around them like silky Christmas ribbons and marching, militaristic tempos, sometimes stodgy and rhythmic like the marches of loyal soldiers, other times rapid and unruly like the fire of a machine gun. That’s really the reason why this is so good: the compositions flow and surge like warfare units, ready for battle. I can wholly dig this album’s hungry, stoic and warlike atmosphere. Every chorus soars like an angry patriotic hymn to battle, each riff and lead hammers out like the first warning blaze to signal the coming of some enemy to slaughter and kill.
Patrik Johansson is the new singer, straight out of Dawn of Silence, and he really outdoes himself here. I was expecting a competent replacement at best, but he really powers the fuck out here, really giving his all. It’s way more than I expected from him, and I’ll be intrigued to see what he does next. He really comes close to sounding like Urban Breed himself at a lot of points on here, and the similarity between vocalists helped lessen the blow of Breed's departure. An easy transition. I think Bloodbound are just naturals at writing great vocal melodies, as each one is dramatic and engaging, automatically memorable.
Songs like the opening twins of “Moria” and “Drop the Bomb,” which are as fine a pair of power metal songs that anybody ever wrote, really show Bloodbound’s refinement of the genre they’ve been plugging out since their inception. That’s what this album is about – refinement. It takes what the band did before and improves upon it, tightening the hooks, upping the heaviness and making the songs flow better. Other standout tracks include the pounding anthem “The Ones We Left Behind,” the screaming “Message from Hell” and the explosive “In the Dead of Night.” Some of the songs in the middle are a little more generic and bland, with more phoned-in sounding choruses, but even those aren’t bad so much as just, not as good as the really awesome ones. They’re still very competently written and played songs.
One thing I really like that this band does is that they let their riffs really cook and play out, hitting the listener with the hardest attack they can muster. Both of the Olsson brothers are just fantastic players, and can apparently wing out killer riffs and leads like they were born to do it. Awesome shit. Everything on here sounds great; production-wise this is superb, with a lot of clarity and heaviness and no sacrifice at all of its booming punch. And the hooks, too! They’re absolutely infectious, and after a few listens I could recall every single song’s major one in a second. Like I said before: refinement. Bloodbound have worked hard with this, forging their influences, past and present, with a giant metal hammer into a near-perfect synthesis of what they are about and, by extension, what power metal is all about.
So yeah, Unholy Cross slays. The compositions are simple, but the songs all work with them anyway, and the experience is one of undoubtable bliss. Bloodbound are on their ways up. Watch these guys – if they can stick with just one singer, I think this will be the start of this lineup’s golden age. Highly recommended.
Ah, good old Bloodbound. I've always enjoyed this band, and thought 2009's Tabula Rasa was a superb album, their finest to date and one of my highlights of the year. Between 2009 and 2011 things changed in the Bloodbound camp. Urban breed was out of the picture (again) and it seems they decided to take a step back to the sounds of Nosferatu and Book of the Dead. On first impressions I was sorely disappointed, largely because I had no idea Urban breed had left (I'll admit it, I'm a fanboy). However I'll also be the first to admit that I was premature in my condemnation of the album, because really this is quite good.
Unholy Cross is an undoubtedly solid album, packed full of power metal anthems all of a similarly great quality. Every song boasts a massive chorus, which can easily send your fist into the air and have you singing aloud. I still feel it's a shame they regressed, however once I let the notion go I found myself having more and more fun with each spin. That is what I feel is the strongest point of Unholy Cross; this is straight ahead no bullshit power metal which fans of bands such as Nocturnal Rites, Iron Fire or Hammerfall are going to have a great time with. Their new vocalist Patrick Johansson (Dawn of Silence) has a good powerful voice, and he fits the songs well although I can't help feeling they should have called Michael Bormann back in for the job.
With quality tracks such as "Moria", "Together We Fight", "Message From Hell" or the awesome "Drop the Bomb" you really can't argue. Unholy Cross won't change the world but it's an album fans of the genre should pick up without hesitation, particularly if you're a fan of the more mid-paced power metal anthems the Swedes seem to do so well. Recommended.
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com