Enbound – The Blackened Heart – Album Review

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Artist: Enbound

Album Title: The Blackened Heart

Label: Inner Wound Recordings

Date Of Release: 18 November 2016

If I’m honest, I thought Swedish melodic metallers Enbound were one of those bands that had been sadly consigned to the ‘one album wonders’ dustbin, having released the marvellous debut ‘And She Said Gold’ back in 2011 only to be never heard of again. Thankfully, this isn’t the case as five long years later, in which time the band has maintained almost total radio silence, they are back to deliver their sophomore album, ‘The Blackened Heart’.

Casting my mind back half a decade, I remember receiving the Enbound promo and, knowing nothing about the band at the time, I was blown away by the music that confronted me. Melodic metal is not generally a genre known for pushing the envelope and trying new things. As a result, if you’re not generally a fan of melodic metal, you are free to look away now. For everyone else, stay exactly where you are.

You see, if it is done right, the melodic metal genre can produce some of the most entertaining and satisfying music anywhere within the rock/metal world. And so was the case with ‘And She Said Gold’ – in my Powerplay review, I remarked that the debut was a great blend of power metal, AOR and melodic hard rock that came together to create ‘pure melodic metal gold’.

As you can imagine then, I was delighted to eventually be confronted with the follow-up effort from ex-Zonata Drummer Mike Cameron Force and co. I’m even more delighted to be able to report that ‘The Blackened Heart’ proves that the debut was no flash in the pan. In fact, it is fair to say that Enbound are an even better proposition five years on than they were in the beginning. Mike Cameron Force alongside guitarist Marvin Flowberg, vocalist Lee Hunter (Work Of Art) and bassist Swede Odén have together constructed something very special with ‘The Blackened Heart’. 2016 has been a strong year for melodic metal as far as I’m concerned but this record is arguably the very best. Yes it is genuinely that good. Addictive, rich-sounding, slick, entertaining, anthemic – it literally has it all.

To begin with, if you can forgive my boldness, ‘Feel My Flame’ has got to be in the running for best melodic metal song of the year. It is a superb piece of music full of power, emotion and the chorus is nothing short of a killer hook-laden masterpiece. Hunter’s vocals are superb, displaying an impressive range, akin to Lost Horizon’s Daniel Heiman, another personal favourite of mine. I challenge anyone to listen once and then not press repeat, it is so wonderfully addictive. Plus, the Seventh Wonder-esque progressive-sounding bass line in the breakdown in the middle of the song is a very nice, sophisticated touch, courtesy of a guest appearance from Symphony X’s Mike LePond.

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In fact, the bass work overall is one of the highlights of this album. Jacob Hansen has mastered this record and he has done a great job, enhancing an already impressive production to ensure that all of the individual instruments get their time to shine. And the bass is one of the big winners here. Aside from the aforementioned ‘Feel My Flame’, take a listen to the grandiose symphonic majesty of ‘Twelve’ to hear Odén work his four-string low-end magic. Or the power metal meets commercial rock of ‘Holy Grail’. Or…well, you get the idea.

‘Falling’ kicks off the album with a Sonata Arctica vocal intro before it truly bursts to life with the strength of a Rhino on heat. The song benefits from some modern layered effects and a properly muscular rhythm section led by Force’s drums. And the chugging riffs that act as a counterpoint to the melodic vocals of Hunter and guest vocalist Linnéa Wikström (Kamelot, Therion) are gratifyingly heavy and ensure that the instantly catchy chorus is surrounded by music of real gravitas and substance.

More huge riffs and expressive drumming usher in ‘Give Me Light’, another anthem of massive proportions. Again the layers of synths give the track a more modern edge and enhance the richness of the music but it is the chorus that steals the show. Or it would have, had it not been for the unexpected and flamboyant acoustic guitar and bass-led breakdown in the latter stages.

Following the up-beat ‘Crossroad’ that features yet another catchy chorus, ‘Get Ready For’ takes over and pushes ‘Feel The Flame’ close for the title of my favourite track on the album. It begins quietly and ominously, building up the cinematic symphonics in classic Kamelot style, before veering off in a full-on melodic hard rock direction complete with a pumping, sing along chorus of gigantic proportions. The lead guitar solo from Flowberg is a thing of extravagant beauty and entirely befitting of this song, whilst vocalist Lee Hunter continues his impressive performance, hitting all the notes, from quiet and reserved to all-out power.

Have I mentioned ‘Feel The Flame’ yet? I have? Oh. Well, it’s really good, trust me.

Elsewhere, ‘HIO’ keeps the speed and drama at full pelt, whereas ‘They Don’t Really Know’ is a truly beautiful ballad. I can take or leave ballads but when they are executed like his, they are irresistible. An elegant piano melody is eventually joined by an acoustic guitar and then layers of synths as the intensity is increased, led by an emotional and heartfelt performance from Hunter.

To put it bluntly, there isn’t a weak second on ‘The Blackened Heart’, let alone a weak song. Each of the ten tracks offers something of real quality and enjoyment, be it a catchy chorus, bombastic riff, killer vocal or a moment of real ostentatiousness in the form of a guitar or bass solo for example. The result, as I alluded to earlier, has to be that with ‘The Blackened Heart’, Enbound have delivered the best melodic metal album of the year. But please don’t leave it so long for album number three, guys, you hear me?

The Score Of Much Metal: 9.5

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others via my reviews pages or by clicking the links right here:

Blind Ego – Liquid
Dark Tranquillity – Atoma
Hammerfall – Built To Last
Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake
Crippled Black Phoenix – Bronze
Riverside – Eye Of The Soundscape
Hanging Garden – Hereafter
Theocracy – Ghost Ship
Arkona – Lunaris
Oddland – Origin
Sonata Arctica – The Ninth Hour
Edensong – Years In The Garden of Years
Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep Of Reason
Alcest – Kodama
Opeth – Sorceress
Negura Bunget – ZI
Epica – The Holographic Principle
Amaranthe – Maximalism
Eye Of Solitude – Cenotaph
Seven Impale – Contrapasso
DGM – The Passage
Pressure Points – False Lights
In The Woods – Pure
Devin Townsend – Transcendence
The Pineapple Thief – Your Wilderness
Evergrey – The Storm Within
Dream The Electric Sleep – Beneath The Dark Wide Sky
Periphery – ‘Periphery III: Select Difficulty’
Karmakanic – Dot
Novena – Secondary Genesis
Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary
Eric Gillette – The Great Unknown
Tilt – Hinterland
Cosmograf – The Unreasonable Silence
Fates Warning – Theories Of Flight
Wolverine – Machina Viva
Be’lakor – Vessels
Lacuna Coil – Delirium
Big Big Train – Folklore
Airbag – Disconnected
Katatonia – The Fall Of Hearts
Frost* – Falling Satellites
Glorior Belli – Sundown (The Flock That Welcomes)
Habu – Infinite
Grand Magus ‘Sword Songs’
Messenger – Threnodies
Svoid – Storming Voices Of Inner Devotion
Fallujah – Dreamless
In Mourning – Afterglow
Haken – Affinity
Long Distance Calling – Trips
October Tide – Winged Waltz
Odd Logic – Penny For Your Thoughts
Iron Mountain – Unum
Knifeworld – Bottled Out Of Eden
Novembre – Ursa
Beholder – Reflections
Neverworld – Dreamsnatcher
Universal Mind Project – The Jaguar Priest
Thunderstone – Apocalypse Again
InnerWish – Innerwish
Mob Rules – Tales From Beyond
Ghost Bath – Moonlover
Spiritual Beggars – Sunrise To Sundown
Oceans Of Slumber – Winter
Rikard Zander – I Can Do Without Love
Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld

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