Sunday, February 12, 2017

Album Review: Bloodbound - War Of Dragons

Oh Bloodbound, what a strange journey it has been. Before they ever released a record, I was one of those people in the right places online to hear about this upcoming new band that was set to do something special. I heard "Nosferatu" that first day, and I sensed the spark of something great. We know the story by now. Urban Breed came, then went, then came, then went. Over the course of their time together, Bloodbound has made two albums that I think are fantastic, including one that is in my top twenty of all time. Those are the two albums with Urban. The others have left no lasting impact on me, which makes passing judgment on Bloodbound as a band difficult to do.

I have, however, kept giving each new album a try, in the hope they can recapture what made them great at one time. The band has found stability in the last three albums, but that stability has come at the expense of inspiration. Bloodbound has settled into a predictable groove now, with each album following a template.

That's not to say they don't color around the edges a bit. This time around, Bloodbound is throwing more keyboards back into the mix, adding a hint of cheese and symphonic bombast to the songs. It's not a bad approach, since these songs are not composed in a way that puts the riffs at center stage much of the time. The one questionable use of this tactic is evident in "Tears Of A Dragonheart", where the keys back every syllable of the chorus. It's one layer too many, and distracts from the hook.

Moreover, what's lacking here are those songs that have big, melodic hooks for days. Songs like "Unholy Cross" and "Bonebreaker" from this version of the band did that incredibly well, and it's not to be found here. Instead, "War Of Dragons" is filled with hooks that replicate the hits of percussion. I know that the removal of melody has been a big trend in heavier regions of the metal universe, but a power metal band like Bloodbound can't afford to get rid of the defining aspect of their sound.

And by the time the woodwinds make an appearance on "Silver Wings", it's apparent that this album is an attempt to make something out of the Rhapsody playbook, a soundtrack to a fantasy story I don't care about. I was cringing a bit just from the title referencing dragons, but my utter lack of interest in anything fantasy-realm related makes the subject matter here a chore. I don't know how power metal got stuck on swords and dragons, but I wish they would stop.

So "War Of Dragons" continues Bloodbound's flat-line trajectory. This incarnation of the band has found what they want to do, and they keep churning out albums that I suppose appeal to enough power metal fans. Myself, I find their current approach to be stale. "War Of Dragons" isn't a bad album, but it's a bland take on something that is meant to be grandiose. I realize they're never going to reach the heights I remember them for, but I would like to say I see some forward momentum for the band. Unfortunately, I don't. Bloodbound is stable now, but that might have made them too safe.

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