Bloodbound – Creatures Of The Dark Realm (Album Review)

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Orcs arise from the decrepit depths.

Popular fascination tends to follow bands that match a consistent yet novel style with a common lyrical trope. However, every now and then a band comes along that seems to spend a good deal of time discovering themselves before hitting the aforementioned sweet spot between originality and accessibility, and this has been the modus operandi of Sweden’s own Bloodbound since its 2004 inception. Originally billing themselves as a darker answer to fellow Swedish old school metal trustees Hammerfall and Dream Evil, sporting a getup more readily associated with a black metal band, the second half of the 2000s and the first of the decade that would follow saw them shifting their stylistic focus on every album, and often also their lead vocalist. It would be with a rather auspicious pivot in lyrical direction towards the popular television Game Of Thrones combined with a more bombastic yet streamlined melodic approach comparable to Sabaton on 2014’s “Stormborn” that a consistent formula would emerge for this now veteran fold.

The close of the 2010s would see this approach culminate in two more LPs of a similar stylistic bent, forming a sword and sorcery-based trilogy of sorts that has seen this sextet go from a fringe player to one of the more prominent adherents of the current power metal scene. Continuing in this newfound tradition of sticking to what works, their first full length studio offering of the 2020s in “Creatures Of The Dark Realm” reaffirms the swift, occasionally folksy and consistently triumphant musical air that typified “War Of Dragons” and “Rise Of The Dragon Empire,” albeit with a somewhat darker lyrical tone. Taking a page out of the playbook that the band was using on 2011’s “Unholy Cross” when current vocalist Patrik J. Selleby first joined the group, the words accompanying the infectious hooks and driving riffs still falls into a fantasy context, but with a greater emphasis on the evil side of the struggle as original heard on such noted anthems as “Moria”, “Reflections Of Evil” and “Message From Hell”.

But whatever the subject being covered by this band’s satyr-like narrator, the obligatory mixture of symphonic pomp, fast-paced drumming, tuneful and folk-tinged melodic hooks and old school heavy metal sensibilities that has served them well in the past is on full display here. Following a brief acoustic guitar prelude that looms like the shadow of an oncoming foe, things hit a sudden and immediate fever pitch with the banger of a title anthem “Creature Of The Dark Realm”, combining a bombastic principle keyboard theme right after the spirit of Sabaton and Civil War, but contained within a more guitar heavy and fast-paced package that would not be mistaken for either band. Alongside similarly bombastic yet straightforward anthems such as “When Fate Is Calling”, “Gathering Of Souls” and “March Into War”, this is the sort of mixture of fist-pumping metal with a sing-along feel that has caused Bloodbound to be compared to the two aforementioned bands, though a needed contrast point emerges between a more aggressive drumming approach, Selleby’s moderately gritty yet soaring vocals and Tomas Olsson’s more involved riff and guitar solo work.

For what this album showcases in familiar odes for those who enjoyed the previous three albums, there are also a few moments to be found here the at least suggest that Bloodbound is capable of wandering about the stylistic borders of their sound in a manner similar to their earlier days. The high octane speed ride after the spirit of Helloween with some folksy melodic elements dubbed “Ever Burning Flame” hearkens a bit closer to the early 2000s mode of European power metal exuberance that was only occasionally hinted at previously, ditto the similarly speed-infused romp “The Gargoyles Gate” and the almost Human Fortress-inspired medieval themed mixed with modern Sabaton pomp of a closer “The Wicked And The Weak”. But arguably the biggest curveball of the bunch is the Judas Priest-infused pile-driver of an anthem “Eyes Come Alive”, which alternates between sounding like a homage to “Painkiller” and a massive tribute to the massive symphonic bluster of Avantasia when the chorus chimes in, which is topped off with a solo that could pass for early 90s Glenn Tipton, no small feat for a song that barely over three and a half minutes in length.

In a sense, one could argue that an album such as this is an exercise in playing it safe given how similar it is to its immediate predecessors, but the degree of refinement and potency on display here cuts against the idea that this is a band that is simply going through the motions. Though in their early years Bloodbound was a band that saw fit to switch their stylistic template with each passing album, here the same template that had defined their sound for the past seven years has been ornamented with a few echoes of their more distant past, and also the past of power metal going back at least to the days when Hammerfall, Blind Guardian and even the likes of Primal Fear were setting the tone of the scene. The structure of each song is highly compact and predictable, but the sheer power of what is contained within compensates for any lack in technical intrigue or formal progression. It’s not quite on the same level as their debut masterwork “Nosferatu” or the riveting display that was “War Of Dragons,” but this is sure to play well to existing fans of both the band and the power metal audience at large.

Released By: AFM Records
Released On: May 28th, 2021
Genre: Heavy/Power Metal

Musicians:

  • Patrik J Selleby / Vocals
  • Tomas Olsson / Guitars
  • Henrik Olsson / Guitars 
  • Fredrik Bergh / Keyboards
  • Anders Broman / Bass
  • Daniel Sjögren / Drums

“Creatures of the Dark Realm” track listing:

  1. The Creatures Preludium
  2. Creatures of the Dark Realm
  3. When Fate Is Calling
  4. Ever Burning Flame
  5. Eyes Come Alive
  6. Death Will Lead the Way
  7. Gathering of Souls
  8. Kill or Be Killed
  9.  The Gargoyles Gate
  10. March into War
  11. Face of Evil
  12. The Wicked and the Weak

8.8 Great

A one-time wildcard in the Swedish power metal scene turned rival to the massively popular Sabaton unleashes yet another memorable collection of melodic bangers, hearkening a tad closer to the high octane approach more common to the era that birthed it.

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 8.5
  • Originality 8.5
  • Production 9
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