It’s simple really. Do you like Melodic Power Metal? Do you like that Melodic Power Metal to have bombastic Symphonic arrangements? And big, memorable choruses? Do you…like Dragons…? Do you? Do you really? Then you will love Bloodbound! Previous album “War Of Dragons” showed the band start to slink away from their earlier shadow of Hammerfall re-creation, embrace the dragon fantasy imagery…and really find their own path! “Rise Of The Dragon Empire” continues that journey to distant, unheard of realms, beyond the sea, to a land where magic reigns and dragons abound.

I’m making no apologies, I can hear my friends and colleagues mocking me as I type – I don’t care! Power Metal like this is total escapism for me, bollocks to the day job, the bills, the humdrum – there’s dragons out there and we must fight! Haha-hah! This is upbeat music to drive the grey away, expertly delivered, powerfully executed and shines like a beaming light in the oppressive darkness! Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t listen to this day in, day out – the magic would wear off quite quickly, but thank the gods that when I want, or need to hear something as joyous and unapologetic as this, Bloodbound and their brethren are there for me.

As it did on their previous release, Bloodbound’s sound continues to combine early and late Edguy, still holds smatterings of Hammerfall, but balanced with healthy doses of Rhapsody Of Fire (as well as ironically Luca Turilli’s initial solo outings!), After all, this is a group of musicians that sound like they could play this music in their sleep, so this is their way of getting their talent across. Every song has an optimism and carefree memorability embedded into it’s core – it really can be an antidote to all the crap that every day life can throw at us…or for some maybe even make things feel even worse – that’s personal taste for you!

Now OK, Bloodbound have a tendency to cross the cheese-line, even for me on tracks like ‘Blackwater Bay’ which is really…well, quite awful at times if I’m honest… and admittedly ‘The Warlock’s Tale’ rates a tweak too high on the cheddar-ometer, but it has a nice catchy riff and the rip-roaring full-on quicker paced tracks like ‘Baleron’ and ‘Slayer Of Kings’ make up for it! There’s always a catchy chorus, riff or hook waiting around every corner, and OK, purists might accuse the band of being a tad generic, a touch obvious or maybe even down-right irritating, but not me and again in the context of the whole album and given the fan-base they are targeting it’s all relative. A sheer bloody-minded determination to create a Melodic, Symphonic Power Metal album that harks back to that turn-of-the-millennium innocent fantasy escapism is rare nowadays and I have to stick my head above the parapet just long enough to applaud Bloodbound for that.

(7/10 Andy Barker)