Released: 2007, Metal Heaven
Sweden's Bloodbound has been around less than three years in the metal scene and have already seen plenty of turbulance in terms of membership. Their first album, 2006's NOSFERATU, was a solid slab of Maiden-influenced dark-tinged power metal which was probably most memorable for the vocals of former Tad Morose singer Urban Breed. Shortly after the album was recorded, original drummer Oskar Belin left and was replaced with Morgana LeFay skinsman Pelle Åkerlind. On the tour for the album, the band went through at least four more lineup changes, culminating in Urban's departure to work on a solo project. Core members Olsson and Bergh soldiered on, taking five months to find a replacement vocalist and finally deciding on German singer Michael Bormann (Jaded Heart, Bonfire, J.R. Blackmore, Rain). Replacing a talented vocalist is always a tricky proposition, but the fact the band only had one album to identify a particular voice with their music actually works to their advantage - it's much harder to replace someone who's been with a band for a long time. It doesn't hurt that Bormann is a damn good singer in his own right with an excellent range, a great sense of melody, and a slightly rough tone that conveys an effective biting edge to the music - maybe not exactly what I expected given Bormann's previous work, but done well on BOOK OF THE DEAD.
There's an old adage: "Don't judge a book by its cover." I know I shouldn't judge a band by its appearance or a CD by its cover either, but seriously...guys, lose the corpse paint already. And the cover artwork (at least the European version I got - there's a different cover for the Asian market) looks just plain silly. That said, the important stuff is the music, and in that regard, Bloodbound have marched right along the same path they tread in their debut, delivering over fifty-six minutes of heavy power metal somewhat similar in style to fellow Swedes Nocturnal Rites and Hammerfall but with a strong injection of classic Maiden-style gallops and guitar harmonies. Huge, sometimes goofy but always catchy and scream-alongable choruses abound, energetic guitar leads fly fast and furious, and excellent double-bass-driven power riffs are dished out by the truckload. In fact, other than the change in the vocal department, BOOK picks up pretty much exactly where NOSFERATU left off - same solid production, same musical style. It's not exactly innovative, but it's good all the same.
If only the quality of the songs were a little more consistent, I'd probably have given it a better rating. There are plenty of high points, but there's something missing that keeps this from being a classic. Opener "Sign Of The Devil" is a monster cut with aggressive riffs and vocals, a cool chorus, and a guitar theme reminiscent of SEVENTH SON-era Maiden. Speaking of that particular album, the opposite end of BOOK OF THE DEAD features a seven-minute epic called "Seven Angels" which almost immediately had me mentally add in "seven demons battle for his soul" upon hearing the opening bass lick and gallop riffs, which sound like they were culled straight from the Book Of Old School 'Arry. The title track is pure Hammerfall-ish anthem-rock metal, complete with "HEY! HEY!" chants, stomping main riff, and absurdly silly but incredibly catchy chorus. "Black Heart" is a pretty much by-the-numbers power ballad, but it's well-done and lets Bormann show off his melodic capabilities nicely. And personal favorite "The Tempter" is a straight-ahead midtempo power-rocker with great vocal and instrumental work all around. The other songs are still good solid stuff, but while I wouldn't go so far as to call it "generic," very little else sticks out in my head as being especially memorable.
If you're a fan of bands like Cryonic Temple or Nocturnal Rites, this group is probably already no stranger to you and this album should already be on your list. If you liked the first album, you'll like the second. And if you like solidly-played power metal with classic metal influences and a dark edge to the sound, I'd say BOOK OF THE DEAD may not be an instant must-have, but it is definitely worth a listen.