Residing in the same power metal sweet spot as Sabaton, between Stratovarius, Accept, and Iron Maiden, Bloodbound recently crossed the threshold of their first full decade as a band. As is typical, they’ve chosen to mark the occasion by releasing yet another document of Scandinavian steel, including the usual high-caliber marching anthems that Sweden’s power metal scene is known for.
Stormborn is the band’s sixth full-length to date and it stands up just as well as anything coming out of northern Europe this year. Like an old redwood, the album is sturdy and dependable from front to back, providing the listeners with ample opportunity to throw their fists in the air and bang their heads. There’s certainly lots to love, from the opener, “Satanic Panic”, which evokes sturdy old-school power/thrash à la Iced Earth, to the pounding, rhythmic “Made of Steel”, as each song is incredibly catchy and well-constructed.
Stormborn sadly misses the mark compared to the competition in the lyrical department. Now that’s not to say that the lyrics are bad, because that certainly isn’t the case, but it’s all stuff that you’ve heard before countless times, delivered by a very competent but by no means unique vocalist. Whereas Sabaton have a lyrical concept that few bands, especially power metal bands, have invested in or explored, Bloodbound seem content to walk the same well-worn, swords and sorcery terrain that has been in use since the 80s.
Another weaker point of the album is the lack of memorable lead work. While there are lots of memorable riffs, I’m sitting here trying to remember a single solo from the entire album. I know they were there, but the only ones I can solidly remember are from “Made of Steel” and closing track “When All Lights Fail”. While this is a fairly small grip, as ultimately the leads aren’t the most important part of a given piece of music, it still would have been nice to have a few more solos that matched the epic feel of the rest of the music.
Those gripes aside, the album sounds fantastic. It’s well produced with a nice, open, epic palette that is perfect for the kind of music and the kind of talent the band put forth. Though I’ve mentioned that his isn’t exactly a unique voice, Patrik Johansson still sounds fantastic, soaring high above the rest of the band’s sturdy, battle ready riffs, which themselves sound expansive and fill the auditory space beautifully. A great power metal production for some great, tradition drenched power metal.
So while it’s far from the year’s best album, Stormborn is definitely worth your time if you’re the type that constantly craves epic and unequivocally true metal. Soaring vocals, great riffs, great overall sound, a worthy addition to any metal collection.