A typical cheesy melodic power metal album that just seems to work
Back in 2006, Swedish melodic power metal band Bloodbound turned a few heads when they released their excellent debut album entitled ‘Nosferatu’. While the CD wasn’t anything relatively new at the time, it was however catchy, well written, crafted and delivered. The album gave Bloodbound a firm foothold on the metal ladder, climbing a few rungs from the debut and also acquiring some respect in the process.
Five years and a few line-up changes later and Bloodbound have returned to deliver their 4th full-length release entitled ‘Unholy Cross’. Due to the revolving door issue at the lead vocal position, which resulted in original vocalist Urban Breed leaving after the debut and then returning for the 3rd album ‘Tabula Rasa’ and finally leaving yet again, may have slowed Bloodbound’s progress to become one of the 1st tier melodic power metal bands. In total, the band has used 4 singers in 6 years, including (aside from Urban Breed) Kristian Andren, who never actually sung on a Bloodbound album, Michael Bormann (‘Book of the Dead’) and the current vocalist Patrik Johansson. There’s one other line up change to speak of (between albums 3 and 4) and that is bassist Johan Sohlberg leaving the band and replaced by Anders Broman.
‘Unholy Cross’ sound-wise is somewhat different to what I heard on their debut album ‘Nosferatu’. Whereas the first CD gave the impression of new life being breathed into the saturated melodic power metal genre, which in turn made the release so satisfying; the new disc however does not have that polish surrounding it anymore and now Bloodbound sounds just like all the other hundreds of melodic power metal bands out there. Bloodbound’s sound is quite similar to that of Edguy, Primal Fear, Firewind, Dream Evil, early Mystic Prophecy, early Cryonic Temple and early Hammerfall. I could keep going with that list, but I’m sure you have a pretty good idea now.
Even though ‘Unholy Cross’ is nothing new or fresh and is something you’ve heard many times before, funny enough despite its cheesy lyrics and song titles (take “Drop The Bomb” for example), Bloodbound have still managed to create and deliver an entertaining and catchy disc. In short, it just works and the band has done enough to keep the listener interested even though it’s quite predictable. The reason I would put it to would be the excellent guitar work of brothers Tomas and Henrik Olsson, with creative power chords, riffs, licks, shreds and solos driving each track on the CD. The impressive and raspy vocals of Patrik Johansson adds another tick to the scoresheet as his voice is quite flexible with a passionate delivery and a broad range.
Cheesy lyrics accompany the opening track “Moria”, (“bang your head to hell and back” is pretty cheesy is anyone’s language) and while the song is quite melodic and has some decent guitar riffs and a nice galloping beat; it’s fairly weak for an opening track. Things do improve, however, with the next track “Drop the Bomb”. The song title might make you cringe, but the introductory Primal Fear/Dream Evil-esque guitar riffs get your head nodding in approval. The chorus is cheese all the way, but it’s also very catchy and that driving heavy guitar/beat combination is just too good to ignore. “The Ones We Left Behind” is a bold metal hymn that would have a huge impact when performed live. A slower track, but quicker than a typical ballad, has Dream Evil and early Hammerfall written all over it, with big choirs during the chorus and an uplifting feel throughout.
While “In for the Kill” and “Together We Fight” are strong both tracks despite being very predictable, I would look to the final three tracks of the CD for the absolute killers, “Message From Hell”, “In the Dead of Night” and the title track “Unholy Cross”. “Message from Hell” is the fastest track on the album, with furious guitar riffs and mesmerizing drum beats. The shredding solo in the middle is one of the best on the CD too, as Patrik Johansson belts out a winning performance. This is followed up by the pummelling “In the Dead of Night”, another speedy track with heavy riffs and a catchy yet cheesy chorus. The trinity of kickass concludes with “Unholy Cross”, IMO the best song on the album. With an awesome sounding low end (almost thrash-like) guitar riff to open the track and get your head banging, the song continues to impress with its bombastic nature, excellent vocals and catchiness throughout. What a superb way to finish the album, but odd to have (arguably) their best three tracks at the end of the release.
In the end ‘Unholy Cross’ definitely isn’t new, groundbreaking or unpredictable; however Bloodbound has released a typical sounding melodic power metal album that is of a high quality. With hard and aggressive guitar riffs and catchy melodies and hooks, the album just finds a way to be infectious and entertaining to fans of the band and genre. It’s an album you can put on and just crank up and rock out to, playing your favourite tracks until you’ve had your fill. Luckily this band has the knack of writing quality tracks that you can still enjoy immensely even though it’s been done hundreds of times before; otherwise this release would have been one big yawner.