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This is the first album to feature Yngwie on vocals and I sincerely hope that it will be the last, even though only three songs feature vocals I'd really wish he had chosen a lead singer. I am however thrilled that Tim Owens is not the vocalist any more as I do not really think he fits Yngwie's music and throughout the course of an album I get tired of his vocals. Even before I heard this album and it was announced that Yngwie was doing the vocals I got some ticks, since he has done vocals on some tracks in the past like 'Look At You Now' from 'Relentless'. When I heard that song among others I must say I really crossed my fingers for that he would never release an album with himself doing the vocal job. But he did and as mentioned the vocals are only featured on three tracks, but I really hope that Mr. Malmsteen will realize by listening to this album that he need to step it up. Big time. No doubt he like listening to himself play, and it is impressive, no doubt, but we got it already. You can play guitar pretty good, but it really becomes a drag to listen to ten instrumental tracks because 'Relentless' was also filled up with instrumentals and I really had hoped that Yngwie soon would return to writing some good album oriented music if I can put it like that. Build the music around the vocals with some good guitar work instead of leaving us for dead listening to countless solos.
The title track actually sounds catching with a really good opening riff and then instead of vocals which would have fitted this track perfect as long as it isn't Yngwie's and Tim Owens'... Then it would have been a striking track. In a way that goes for the whole album, there's potential but instead of taking advantage of that it has just been filled up to the brim with solos... solos and solos. I must admit when listening to this album the first time I turned it off when I came to track number ten, because it was such a drag, and would probably only be interesting for people who want to play guitar like Yngwie Malmsteen. Besides all that, Yngwie does yet again play bass, and since he took that and the production over the bass has been sounding really good. But since this album is so solo oriented you can't really enjoy it to the fullest and a good showcase for that is the track 'Requiem for the Lost' where the solos just kicks the bass performance out of the picture even though specially on that track it gives a kind of atmospheric feel. If you are into blues then you might want to check out tracks like 'Let's Sleeping Dog Lie' and 'Iron Blues' which really were to my surprise as I wasn't really expecting blues to appear on this album. It doesn't really increase my opinion for this album, neither does it decrease it.
What bothers me most about the vocals is that they seem to have some sort of filter applied, I don't know if it autotune or something, but it really doesn't sound good, and in some choruses the backing vocals just sounds like five Yngwies at once. If you liked his vocals on some previous songs like 'Magic City' from 'Perpetual Flame' then I am almost certain you are going to disappointed when listening to this album. A lot of fans have been wanting some old vocalists back in the band, and that is understandable. Though it would be nice with a new vocalist that could swoop our legs away, and to be honest the only vocalist I would like to come back is Michael Vescera. Not saying that all the other vocalists are bad, but he is my definite favourite. Something I want to mention briefly is the drums because when there's some double pedal hammering or some other fast drumming with the pedals then the snare kind of drowns and fades a little.
I must say the covers that Yngwie has chosen for his albums the recent years have been really sloppy even though 'Perpetual Flame' had an okay cover, 'Relentless' looked like something a fifteen year old kid could have done in Photoshop. But when looking at covers like 'Attack!!' and 'Unleash the Fury' then you're bound for a facepalm. Spellbound obviously doesn't look like it has been painted but unlike the predecessor it has been structured a lot better and ended up looking really good!
I don't even know how the hell to sum up this album because I'm so torn. Yngwie's music has earned a huge place in my life, and I look forward to each album he releases with excitement, and I probably will again despite the disappointment. Which it really is, there is not that much I want to point out and recommend besides the title track 'Spellbound', 'Nasca Lines' and 'God of War'. Though the last mentioned track is a little too long it got some really good potential.
At the time I think this album is unnecessary and maybe The Rising Force should have waited releasing this album until late 2013. This album needs a proper vocalist and it could have been a lot better and musically the focus has been aimed way too much at the solos. Which was something Yngwie kind of got away from at least when looking at the albums with Owens so it definitely is a step down. Hopefully Yngwie will use his brains some more the next time and advance were he left off with 'Relentless' and 'Perpetual Flame' which focused more on the music, vocals and good song making instead of only solos. Those albums just needed a better vocalist, maybe there's some hope in the future.