Bloodbound – Creatures of the Dark Realm (AFM Records)Monday, 31st May 2021
Evolving from the Urban Breed/Michael Bormann-led albums from Nosferatu, Book of the Dead, and Tabula Rasa into the Patrik Selleby years starting from 2011’s Unholy Cross forward, it’s not surprising to see Bloodbound embrace more of the grandeur and allure of fantasy, pomp and circumstance for their brand of heavy/power metal. The previous outing Rise of the Dragon Empire nestled itself in one foot Teutonic-driven metal, while the other side valiantly championed the catchy keyboards and vocal choir revelry of Sabaton. And it seems the latter side wins even more on Creatures of the Dark Realm – although the occasional diverse influence creeps up now and again to let the faithful know these gentlemen can rock, or engage in other genres if need be as long as it fits their stock, power metal formula.
The tendency to emphasize the keyboard/choir synchronicity, especially in specific choruses for “Eyes Come Alive” or “March into War” often supersedes the main guitar parts or verse melodies, which can be beneficial for those who love that military/ battle-like atmosphere but can grow wearisome as the album rolls on. The Celtic-oriented musical passages during “Ever Burning Flame” are uplifting and give Bloodbound an early front half highlight, Patrik challenging himself in his mid-range and upper register a la Tobias Sammet. The lead work from Tomas Olsson is exemplary, understanding where to throw around speedy virtuoso passages and play within the needs of the song – his phrasing and pacing seamless on a conventional double kick-led affair for “Death Will Lead the Way”. You just get the feeling by the time your ears hit “Face of Evil” and “The Wicked and the Weak” that conclude the record, the similarity of harmonic tricks and unison /grandiose outlook aren’t fresh or appealing on a long-term scale – and that’s not ideal for a 45-minute effort.
We know plenty of people in the metal realm that love sugar-sweet melodies, easy to ingest songs, and rally cry choirs that go down smooth whether one has inhaled a single beer or most of the keg. Much like the last outing, Creatures of the Dark Realm won’t have that lasting appeal that the earlier Bloodbound catalog possesses – adequate inherently, just not mandatory for these ears beyond an occasional airing.