Battlelore - Doombound 3.5/5
2. Iron of death
3. Bow and helm
6. Olden gods
7. Fate of the betrayed
8. Men as wolves
9. Last of the lords
One of metal’s biggest J.R.R. Tolkien enthusiasts, Battlelore, have explored the expanded fantasy world of Middle-Earth since their inception in 1999; covering everything that the land entails in powerful and bombastic hymns, beautiful harmonies and fierce warrior-like vocals. The Finnish symphonic epic metal septet have returned in early 2011 to deliver their 6th full-length CD, entitled ‘Doombound’.
Most would agree that Battlelore’s 2nd CD ‘Sword’s song’ has been their best release to date. It was also the final release to feature original vocalist Patrik Mennander, who left the band in 2004 and replaced by current vocalist Tomi Mykkänen. It was also around the time when a slight shift appeared in Battlelore’s sound. With the release of ‘Third age of the sun’, Indonesian born Kaisa Jouhki, the original female backing vocalist then moved to the front and was sharing the vocal duties with Tomi. Throughout the next 2 releases (‘Evernight’ and ‘The last alliance’) Jouhki has since established herself as a lead singer, with some songs requiring just her angelic vocals instead of the “beauty and the beast” method that frequented almost every track in previous releases. 2008’s ‘The last alliance’ was a welcomed return to form for Battlelore, after the so-so ‘Evernight’ and the disappointing ‘Third age of the sun’. So where will ‘Doombound’ take our Middle-Earth followers this time round?
If anything for the better, ‘Doombound’ really shows the band’s ever growing maturity and their efficiency of writing epic-sounding and memorable tracks. It’s not all “crash and bash” anymore, with a few tracks quite slow and sombre, and the change of pace at times can be refreshing and also breaks the monotony of Battlelore’s typical core song structures. Tomi Mykkänen has learnt to sing in a soothing melodic way on this CD, but still prominent is his typical raspy and gruff style we are used to. ‘Doombound’ contains more atmospheric elements, as well as its typical orchestral parts too, another step back in the right direction and a sign of maturity as mentioned earlier.
The opening track “Bloodstained” is not your traditional song opener, as it is quite slow and meanders through in a prodding fashion. I hear a faint Iron Maiden influence throughout the track, with Battlelore showing their technical and peaceful side; which has come into their songwriting from the last few releases. “Iron of death” shows the power side of Battlelore’s dark epic metalness, with double-bass pummelling, eerie keyboards and the ever present flutes and heavy guitars. So far Kaisa Jouhki has taken the lead of both tracks, with Tomi in the background with his huffing and puffing growls. “Bow and helm” is another slow to mid-paced track, quite melodic but with bursts of raw power throughout; while “Enchanted” is a wonderful ballad containing soaring keyboards and both semi-acoustic and also down-tuned guitars.
“Kärmessurma” finally breaks out the aggression we’ve been waiting for, with Ogre-ish bellowing from Toni. With heavy booming guitars and deep bass, the track bounds along yet still in a melodic fashion with the keys and flutes adding an atmospheric feel. “Men as wolves” picks the pace up a little bit, with Mykkänen howling to the sky with great passion, while Kaisa is her usual angelic siren self. The guitar riffs heard throughout from Jussi Rautio and Jyri Vahvanen are quite interesting indeed, featuring both black metal and doom metal riffs mixing with the typical dark epic metal power riffs; the diversity it creates has worked well on this CD.
The remainder of the CD is up to par with what has passed through before it, with the impressive “Olden gods” and “Fate of the betrayed”. The best track on the CD (in my opinion) has to be “Last of the lords” a brilliant epic track with furious pummelling on the drums, doomy down-tuned guitars and Tomi at his gruffest and howling best. “Last of the lords” is easily the most aggressive sounding track on a CD which is unfortunately lacking a fair amount of aggression.
In the end, ‘Doombound’ as a whole is pretty good, a little different to what Battlelore usually sounds like with the lack of aggression; but it was worked out quite well. Fearing the worst while noticing the removal of rawness and grunt, replaced with melody and sombreness, on reflection Battlelore really did a great job trying to keep these levels even throughout. Yes, the aggression may have been taken down a few notches, but it is still very bombastic and the melodies, orchestral and atmospheric elements suits the style of what the band wanted to achieve with this CD.
Battlelore fans looking for a return to the ‘Sword’s song’ style, could be disappointed with the changes the band have made with this release. While ‘Doombound’ is the most consistent CD Battlelore has released since that pinnacle CD, it hasn’t reached the dizzying heights of which that CD reached. Standing on its own however, ‘Doombound’ is quite good and I like the mature direction they are travelling in. Bands grow up and evolve and that is what is happening here. We saw glimpses of it with ‘The last alliance’ and also with ‘Evernight’, so these changes were a few CDs and years in the making. Despite all that, ‘Doombound’ should still make it into the hands of Battlelore fans, while ones who enjoy the dark epic power metal genre should find things of interest with this CD.
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