Once upon a time Bloodbound used to be the greatest Swedish power metal export, delivering darkly lit anthems accompanied by bombastic elements to light up arena fueled riffage. Then dragons happened. And with them came a Sabaton fueled get rich quick scheme that while big, bombastic and catchy never got near to the inspired early to mid material. Creatures of the Dark Realm is the ninth album, aiming to reclaim some of that dark power metal glory while still holding true to the catchy, accessible feel of the later few albums. And… it kinda works. To an extent. Thing is, it’s been seven years since their last actual good album - Stormborn (2014) and obviously, things are still far from the NWOBHM fueled origins, the Judas Priest inspired twin riffage of Nosferatu (2005) and Book of the Dead (2007) a thing of the past. The album was heralded before its release by two singles; the title track and When Fate is Calling. These two then proceed to open up the album itself on a strong high note. Hearkening back to the Unholy Cross (2011) sound, slapping dark melodies and riffs atop the bombastic foundation, while still holding fairly true to the newer style in build and structure; the two singles bridge the styles in a sweet way.
It’s a bit of a shame then that these two are the best songs on the album and that the remainder simply rehash the same ideas without delving deeper or exploring new directions. The chorus they say is the most important part of any power metal song, and that might certainly be true. A good chorus alone can’t reasonably expected however to carry an otherwise boring and forgettable song. That is certainly the case with Creatures of the Dark Realm. The choruses, and Patrik Selleby’s delivery of them, are bombastic, catchy and written for easy sing along value. Most of them are surrounded however by utterly forgettable music that seem more like filler or leftovers than anything else. Eyes Come Alive attempts for some of those high pitched shouts from Selleby, accompanied by Judas Priest inspired riffage in the choruses; unfortunately, the chorus just devolves to the same sing-along nonsense that covers the rest of the album, losing any attitude and momentum the otherwise sweet beginning of the song had going for it. That’s the situation with most of the stuff here; a good idea here or there, something nice to set it off, but then losing it and falling.
All the griping’s not to say it’s necessarily a bad album per se; the album is a definite step up from its two predecessors which seemed to just plod along about dragons while trying to clam in on a musical style that never fit them just right. Creatures of the Dark Realm takes some cues from Bloodbound’s older stuff, but it’s by far not enough. Fredrik Bergh seems busier slapping cheeky keyboard leads than the Olsson brothers do building massive riffs and swirling leads. Things are though undeniably catchy, and when coupled with the darker setting Bloodbound prove they do know their shit. Upbeat and hyper catchy stuff like Ever Burning Flame and Kill or be Killed don’t work quite as well, but those darker intonations of The Gargoyle’s Gate and March Into War, slapped near the end of the album, rounds the playtime off on a couple more high notes. Creatures of the Dark Realm is many things. Perhaps mostly it is proof that Bloodbound are still in the game, and an end to the age of dragons.
Standout tracks: Creatures of the Dark Realm, When Fate is Calling, The Gargoyle’s Gate