Swedish power metal warriors Bloodbound are about to release ‘War of Dragons’, their eighth studio album, due on 24th February. I love everything about power metal; the uplifting melodies, high end vocals, epic choruses that 60,000 people can sing along to, over the top tales of swords and battles. I also really appreciate the classical undertones that are commonplace through out the genre. Power metal truly bring me joy when it’s done right. So, I was naturally excited to get into this record.
The artwork on this album was a bit of a double take for me. At initial glance, I thought the cover could have been mistaken for a video game. Dragons setting shit on fire over a barren, scorched landscape seemed a bit cliché and boring if I’m completely honest. I did a double take and realized there was this cloaked, hooded BADASS in a saddle, riding a dragon like he was at a rodeo! Both dragon and rider have their arms reached out in some kind of epic, synchronized, dynamic movement, with the dragon is blowing one hell of a fireball at something! What the heck is going on here?! That fun moment was enough to lure me into the record to hear what Bloodbound have prepared for us.
The 12-track album starts out strong, with a short, 30-second introduction, then straight into latest single, “Battle in the Sky”. Everything one would expect in a power metal song is here. Patrik J Selleby’s vocal chords are on point, as he cruises through at least two key changes as easily as shifting gear. The band are coming out strong with their first song; the guitar harmonies, front and center keyboards, and very fast drums – Bloodbound set a great pace for the rest of the album.
“Silver Wings” is a great song that showcases a more folky side. Beginning with a medieval style intro, that is consistent throughout the song. I like way this song is written; there’s a slightly slower tempo, which makes way for the telling of the story of the song. It’s not as over the top as tracks like “Tears of a Dragonheart”, which was a bit too cheesy for me (is there really such a thing in power metal?). I like it. Halfway through the album and enter King of Swords. The intro to this song is pretty standard and consistent with the rest of the album, but absolute highlight is Selleby as he channels his inner Rob Halford and just lets loose! The chorus is very catchy and is worthy of being a great sing along at a massive summer festival somewhere in Europe.
“Fallen Heroes”sounds like it should be straight out of a Sabaton album. Its slower tempo adds an air of flamboyance to the song, and I really like the backing vocals. Having said that, I don’t know how I feel about this track as a whole. I’ve listened to it a few times, and it doesn’t feel as heart felt as the rest of the album. Things speed up again as we get into “Symphony Santa”. This is a fast song! It starts out with a quiet score that quickly builds into rapid guitar riffs and manic drums. I’ve said it already in this review, but I just love Selleby’s voice. Coming into the chorus, and again the background vocals sounding like a symphonic choir really adds to the drama of this song. There’s a hint of classical influence in the guitar solo which I really appreciate. I think this is one of my favourites on the album. It ticks all the power metal boxes, and is the type of song I could listen to again and again.
Sound wise, there’s a good balance across the album; nothing is out of place which makes for a clean and enjoyable listening experience. The magic power metal recipe has been followed to a tee, maybe too precisely, as there were times I found the album to fall a bit flat. Perhaps there is such a thing as anthem fatigue; there’s a lot of the same, and not enough diversity to showcase what is truly and uniquely Bloodbound.Tracks like “King of Swords” and “Battle in the Sky” tapped into something special, but the rest of the album felt a bit clinical for me.
‘War of Dragons’ is an album following a tried and true calculation that Bloodbound have been honing and tweaking for years to perfect. They know it very well, and that’s obvious in the quality of the bands musicianship. It’s got the anthems, the catchy riffs and sing along moments that fans want and expect in an album like this. While that’s all great, for me there is something lacking that I can’t quantify. They touch on that special alchemy in a few songs, but it’s inconsistent throughout the rest of the album. It’s lacking something, I’m just not sure what.