Bloodbound – Stormborn
Bloodbound – Stormborn (2014)
Reviewed by Daniel Millard
Well, I’ve got to hand it to Bloodbound. Once Urban Breed departed and I heard Unholy Cross for the first time, I more or less wrote the band off – a choice that was only validated further upon hearing 2012’s In The Name Of Metal. A couple of months ago, when the band’s “inner circle” was hearing the album for the first time, I heard from several people that this was *it*, this was to be *the* definitive release from one of Sweden’s less consistent power metal acts. While the artwork isn’t exactly great, there’s no spikes for hair or burning crosses or anything – it’s merely a continuation of the band’s absurd, excessive imagery. I actually started to feel a little bit excited, in fact, so here we go.
Stormborn is, admittedly, the best thing that Bloodbound has accomplished in some time. It’s not on par with the experimental grandeur of Tabula Rasa, nor am I ready to place it side by side with the vigorous Nosferatu, but it most certainly packs a punch. The sound has received a bit of retooling, and the band is showing the influence of modern bands in the scene – most notably Sabaton and Powerwolf. That’s right – compared to In The Name Of Metal, Stormborn is a downright histrionic and refined creature. While Bloodbound is still one of power metal’s most famously stupid bands, it breaks from the fatuous lyricism now and again here, and the songs are always more dramatic and enjoyable when the band at least attempts to write about something of substance.
I admit that I almost gave up on this after the first listen. With tired, predictable songs like “Satanic Panic”, “We Raise The Dead”, and “Made Of Steel” jumping out at me immediately, I initially thought that the hype was completely unmerited. These gave way gradually to several fairly impressive compositions, however. While “Seven Hells”, “Nightmares From The Grave”, and popping closer “When All Lights Fail” are good if unexceptional songs, “Iron Throne” and title track “Stormborn” are definitely superior. As you may have guessed, these both appear to be inspired by the now-omnipresent literature of George R.R. Martin, and despite my fatigue with the man’s work and most metal that he has inspired, these songs chuff me to bits.
It’s urgently apparent that “Iron Throne” is out to rip your head off. From the hectic speed, layered screams in the verses, and dramatic, sweeping chorus, this might be my favorite Bloodbound song ever. Patrik Johansson has been coming along as a great screamer (even if he’s no match for Breed’s raging upper mid-range), and he has pulled out all the stops on Stormborn. Even the otherwise forgettable “Satanic Panic” has a few glorious shrieks. The ominous intro to “Stormborn”, which includes a vocal and orchestration blend straight out of Sabaton’s playbook, leads into a mid-paced tribute to Daenarys Targaryen. If you listen to this song back-to-back with the later “When The Kingdom Will Fall”, you may be shocked at just how close they sound. It almost has to be intentional. Consequently, this later song doesn’t quite complete a hat trick. It feels much more safe and predictable, not to mention redundant.
Though it muddles melodic brilliance with the anticipated dumbing-down from time to time, Stormborn keeps its diabolical head above water long enough to not only avoid drowning in liquid-hot cheese, but even to leap out and soar part of the time. Past Bloodbound fans should like this, and those who have found the band too…tactless in the past should think it’s a considerable improvement. It’s certainly the first of the band’s works in five years that I think I’ll be purchasing. If the band keeps the foot on the gas and sticks with fantasy themes over metal, undeath, and corny hellishness, we might see it ascend even further over its fiery swimming pool the next time around.
3.5 // 5