Bloodbound – “Rise Of The Dragon Empire” (AFM Records)
Absolutely amazing! Consistently releasing albums since they were formed in 2004, this Swedish band have released 7 prior LPs and played concerts in 25 countries, touring with the likes of Hammerfall, Sabaton and UDO. The brainchild of former Street Talk members Fredrik Bergh (keyboards) and Tomas Olsson (lead guitar), Bloodbound has also included Michael Bormann (Jaded Heart), Urban breed (Tad Morose) and Pelle Åkerlind (Morgana Lefay) in its ranks at various points in its career. Now comes “Rise Of The Dragon Empire” and it’s a complete winner with unbelievable songs throughout, taking in power, epic and folk metal in an irresistible package. Clearly there will be comparisons to Sabaton’s powerful epic melodies, although the vocals of Patrik J. Selleby are far more soulful and higher, while the use of folk and heavy metal definitely gives these guys their own highly catchy sound. It’s all over tracks like ‘Magical Eye’, opening with delicate violins which then gets more dramatic as the guitars build the passion while Selleby lures your heart through his passionate tones before the irresistible heavenly chorus just blows your mind. Mixing power with epic metal, ‘Blackwater Bay’ is a non stop singalong full of pomp and majesty, driven by the powerful trumpeting melodies of Bergh’s keyboards, while manly choirs chant out the stirring chorus as Daniel Sjögren keeps military time with his pounding but precision drum work, setting the perfect medium for Olsson’s solo that is so beautifully melodic words can’t describe it more. ‘Balerion’ is nothing short of pumping energy fuelled by Bergh’s keyboards and Sjögren’s pistoning double bass beats, but Selleby’s singing just takes it to a new level with the melodies, and backed in kind by Olsson’s excellent guitar, even gives the song a pirate punk edge that totally works in the expert hands of this talented band. Closing with ‘Reign Of Fire’ the folky pipe intro with birdsong soon explodes into a huge stirring melody with the keyboards, bombastic drums and heartfelt vocals backed by massive warrior choirs as Olsson exudes his own flowing passion before closing as ambiently as it started. Honestly, there are so many good songs on this album it’s been difficult to choose the standouts, although that doesn’t present a problem in rating this superb release a well deserved 5 stars!