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Bloodbound - War Of Dragons - 48%

Silicon Messiah, February 24th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, AFM Records

When Bloodbound released Unholy Cross in 2011 it felt a lot like a comeback, even though Tabula Rasa was released only two years prior. Recruitment of vocalist Patrik Selleby (then known as Johansson) as replacement for Urban breed (Serious Black, Project Arcadia, ex- Tad Morose) proved to be a perfect match to go alongside brothers Tomas and Henrik Olssons NWOBHM inspired power metal centered around powerful riffs, and the entire constellation just felt revitalized.

War Of Dragons is the fourth album since then, and the seventh in total for these boys from Bollnäs - and nothing is the same. An astonishing amount of songs, including singles ‘Battle In The Sky’ and ‘Stand And Fight’ are opened with mediocre tries at arena pumping magnitude, wherein Selleby’s vocals are drenched in layered vocals that he doesn’t need to sound powerful. The same goes for most every chorus on the album, and it doesn’t have as much sing along value as was intended, save perhaps for a few tracks like the admittedly pretty cool closer ‘Dragons Are Forever’. Add to that an at times odd mix where Selleby is overpowered by the bombastic synths and Pelle Åkerlind’s very energetic drums. The latter actually left the Bloodbound prior to the album’s release.

The deep and dark undertones are all gone, and themes centered around evil, darkness and Lucifer have been switched for dragons, warriors and heroic battles - as generic as it gets. Gone are the brothers’ Olsson’s slow, Judas Priest like intro riffs that created an atmosphere of their own, replaced with standardized power choruses that tell you exactly how to feel. The small guitar duels that still appear, spread over the 45 minute material, bring back feels of the old ways so it’s clear that all is not lost.

I wonder if Daniel Myhr (Civil War, ex- Sabaton) might be filing a lawsuit, because the keyboard sound on War Of Dragons is ridiculously inspired by Sabaton, and even that is an understatement. Sure, predecessor Stormborn (2014) had some such leanings, but it was handled more subtly and it didn’t take precedence over other elements of the music or storytelling. And when War Of Dragons does not sound like Sabaton, it sounds like just any generic power metal band, far from the intense heavy power of days past. ‘Silver Wings’ is a bit of a break, featuring some Turilli like stylistic choices, and keyboards like those of Alex Staropoli on old Rhapsody albums.

Given a few spins, War Of Dragons does produce a few tracks that aren’t half bad, even though they never get above average. ‘King Of Swords’ has likenesses to ‘Satanic Panic’ from the previous album and is a nice example of how good Bloodbound can be when they don’t overdose on “Sabaton did it and got famous, let’s do it too!” but instead builds on fleshy riffs and features an intense Selleby, otherwise fairly anonymous on this album, channeling his inner Halford.

Bloodbound had an almost perfect debut in 2006’s Nosferatu, and it’s understandable that they want to move on to different directions, and it’s equally understandable how hard it can be to live up to something like that album over a decade later. But the band did release great albums in both Unholy Cross and Stormborn, and that just makes the drop in quality that is War Of Dragons hit that much harder.

They’ve shifted from the darker elements and the staying atmosphere to uplifting power metal focused on speed and hymnal choruses rather than feeling, and landed in an effort that could be replicated just as well by any given band within the genre. While never bad per se - even with my complaining - it’s just so damn far from what you’d expect from the band that gave us Sweden’s greatest power metal album.

Standout tracks: King Of Swords, Dragons Are Forever