Bloodbound: Unholy Cross

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Bloodbound: Unholy Cross
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Bloodbound: Unholy Cross
Heavy Metal, Power Metal
AFM Records
June 14th, 2011
Release length: 52:06
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There are just some bands that, after their debut, end up sinking into depravity, churning out one rough release after another. Unfortunately, this is a group that does show signs of that wear and tear from the fans and critics stand points. Bloodbound, the Swedish Heavy/Power Metal group came out swinging in 2006 with their debut, Nosferatu, and since then has seen a bit of a dwindeling appreciation to their sound. After two follow-ups, the group storms back from their weakening receptions with Unholy Cross through AFM Records. But, does their fourth album really stand out for the better, or for the worse?

Right away, Unholy Cross will hook you with it’s heavy, rich audio quality. The guitars feel blunt yet not quite too deep to rule out that slightly rhaspier distortion used mixed with a cleaner sound for the solos. The bass plays a pivotol role here as well, coming through just loud enough that you take notice of it’s performance, though largely backing up the guitars. In this case, that works fine since it just adds to the heavier sound of the music, making the effort a lot catchier. The vocals are your typical clean singing performance that is quite impressive, and comparable to a slight Avantasia or Edguy sound, though nowhere near as off-the-wall. The bass kicks to the drum kit have a very strong sound that borders between a higher thud and click that’s not quite there. This adds nicely to the richness of the music against some tight snares that come through perfectly and cymbols that match the volume and really stand on their own as an important piece of the puzzle. There’s nothing here that feels overlooked in a negative way, or at the wrong level. Instead, Unholy Cross comes off as a shining example of a strong quality that you would come to expect from any Heavy Metal recording, especially since it really does capture the commanding sound of the band, but without dismissing the obvious joy they brought with them into the studio you can both hear and feel from the performances captured on this release.

With such a great audio quality, the only thing that can hold this release back is Bloodbound themselves and, of course, the group does not disappoint. Unholy Cross kicks things off with the single worthy “Moria,” a track that sets the atmosphere through some additional keyboards, an instrument that appears through the album as well at a somewhat lower level and clearly meant to give the release a bit of an epic atmosphere, which it does well. The harmonized viking-esque gang vocals in the background set the tone nicely as the main vocals ring out the chorus before hammering into a strong, galloping mixture of Power Metal and Heavy Metal that simply sounds perfect for the genre. The song itself feels a bit restrained, but once the chorus kicks in, everything changes as the music and vocals become emotionally stirring with a more passionate and epic sound that captures the Metal spirit quite eloquently as it fades out to bring “Drop the Bomb” into the mix. Again, the rich audio quality works so well with this track as it sticks largely to a Heavy Metal sound that, at times, one could argue also has a bit of a Hard Rock sound and attitude to it. Either way, the song brings a commanding authority with it that will have your head banging along with it, then exclaim out in obediance during the very catchy chorus. But the best is yet to come.

There are plenty of times that Bloodbound can venture more into the cheese territory, and that’s exactly what you get with the following track, “The Ones We Left Behind.” While it doesn’t quite come off as more of a Metal anthem like “Moria,” there’s no denying this song carries with it that more over-the-top feeling that marches along with stern authority. The hard hitting track hammers away at the listener with a rich sound and environment that headbanging becomes a mandatory thing, as well as even throwing your arms in the air along with the rhythm of it all, especially in the chorus. While the commanding tone of “The Ones We Left Behind” doesn’t really carry through, “Reflectiosn of Evil” still carries all the aforementioned positive elements to it, and just all around is a song that will sucker you right into being swept up into that rhythm from start to finish, and loving every second of it.

It’s almost impossible to sit down with this album and find something bad to say about it. But, at the same time, any fan or random listener can easily go on and on about what’s right with every track. This album pulls the best ideas for audio quality and performance together with a great deal of enthusiasm behind them, and that’s what really makes it work. For the most part, the songs just feel epic and commanding, and that’s something that works very well here, but it’s not until “Together We Fight” that the environment changes a bit. Sure the epic sound is still there, but the song itself really changes things up with a far more uplifting approach, both in sound, as well as in message. The lyrics are definitely meant to be more inspiring then anything, and it’s reflected well in the more upbeat, lighter atmosphere of the song. From here, it does feel like the album is starting to lose a little steam, but not in a way that ruins the album. While the first half clearly will get the listener pumped in various manners through the way the band approaches the music, the release doesn’t quite feel as compelling after “Together We Fight.”

This could very well just be the listener growing tired after so many good tracks, feeling worn down such great material as well. But, in the end, “The Dark Side of Life” and on does feel slightly weaker. That specific track, however, does try to do things a little different in the keyboards, allowing them to have a strong presence through more of the track, which is ok but doesn’t really work out too much in favor, or against the group on this song. It, like the others, still comes through as a solid effort. “In the Dead of Night” is another one worth mentioning, as it does pick the pace up again, finding more of a Power Metal foundation with additional keyboards the reflect it in a more traditional sound, similar to the aforementioned “The Dark Side of Life.” The closing track “Unholy Cross” definitely finds the band back in full force once more, though it’s not quite as catchy as the previous ones outside of the chorus, as well as becomes a suitable conclusion to such a solid album.

Unholy Cross is an album that will make fans of Bloodbound rediscover the group. This solid effort puts everything you could hope to have in both the Heavy Metal and Power Metal genre without becoming overly repetitive. The atmospheres vary throughout the release, and the production of the release is as top notch as the band’s performance. There’s a great deal of energy to be found as well, which is enough to get the listener pumped and immediately want to join along in any aspect, whether with a real instrument, an air one, or belting the vocals along with the release. This doesn’t really include the headbanging since many songs here make it more of a mandatory or involuntary action, and not a personal choice. If you’re a fan of epic, solid Metal along these lines, then there’s no doubt that Unholy Cross is an album you simply must have in your collection.

02. Moria – 5:50
03. Drop the Bomb – 4:03
04. The Ones We Left Behind – 5:31
05. Reflections of Evil – 4:22
06. In for the Kill – 4:31
07. Together We Fight – 5:22
08. The Dark Side of Life – 4:00
09. Brothers of War – 5:09
00. Message from Hell – 3:32
10. In the Dead of Night – 4:03
11. Unholy Cross – 4:47
Overall Score: 9.5/10
Bloodbound (Band)
Bloodbound (Logo)Digital review copy of this release provided by AFM Records via Earsplit PR.