Bloodbound have quietly amassed a good but not great discography. So while Creatures of the Dark Realm is the band’s ninth full-length album, experience speaks less to quality than to commitment to craft. That isn’t to say that the Swedes haven’t earned some amount of credentials so much as they haven’t yet knocked one out of the park. But Bloodbound’s arena-influenced, more traditionally heavy strain of power metal has been a relative rarity in 2021. If there were a critical moment for the band to step up to the plate, this would be it. And to its benefit, Creatures indeed finds Bloodbound embracing an even more obviously arena-ready sound.
So what makes Creatures a more compelling listen? Put simply, Bloodbound punches above its weight here with tight songwriting. With titles like “When Fate is Calling,” “Ever Burning Flame,” and “March into War,” that direct approach is most appreciated. After all, one doesn’t look to Bloodbound for proggy ditties but anthemic tunes about carrying on and fighting through smoke and fire while cities burn. And Creatures of the Dark Realm doesn’t disappoint.
Amplifying all the arena-ready elements that peppered earlier output—sing-along- choruses, punch riffs, and prominent keys—Creatures is an absolute feast for the shout-it-out-loud crowd. Whether it’s the more traditionally mid-paced bounce of “Kill or Be Killed” or the thrashier “Death Will Lead the Way,” Bloodbound unashamedly digs in. In most bands’ hands, the formula might otherwise seem rote but Bloodbound’s devotion to simple but fun tunes seems genuine and, more importantly, sounds inspired.
The fist-pump inducing intro of “When Fate is Calling” is emblematic of the album’s rollicking vibe. Of the 12 songs on Creatures, this feels the most saccharine and perhaps the closest to a lost Sabaton track. It’s also the most formulaic. As such, it’s an early test of one’s willingness to buy into Bloodbound’s approach here. Whether it has any staying power remains to be seen, but it’s certain to make the band’s next setlist. Though it’s not the strongest—or even most memorable—song on the album, Selleby sounds particularly good on it. There’s even a bit of charm in the bombast.
The remaining 11 tracks tread similar territory. Nifty little keyboard parts. Memorable choruses. Mostly smooth vocals. Excellent drumming. And they all serve the song. Standout tracks such as “Ever Burning Flame” and “Eyes Come Alive” simply tend to have the hookiest chorus or riff. No surprise, the heavier, speedier songs also sound slightly more inspired than their mid-paced counterparts.
As much as the album sinks or swims on the strength of a given chorus, there’s a not insignificant amount of impressive lead guitar to keep things interesting. And while it’s incorporated only at the most predictable moments, it does help to give a few songs a needed boost. This is especially true of several mid-paced songs jammed in the middle of the album such as “Gathering of the Souls” and “Kill or Be Killed.” In fact, the album as a whole would have benefited from more leads.
With Creatures, Bloodbound fully embraces its arena metal inclinations and gives power metal fans a reason to pay attention. The year has been short on albums of its ilk and its anthems are perfectly suited for the summer months ahead. Granted, Creatures won’t be that deep album whose layers you peel with each listen. And the uniform approach here with anthems galore can leave the listener fatigued. But when the mood strikes for simple but fun power metal anthems, you could do far worse than Bloodbound’s latest.