Doombound is the sixth full length album from this Finnish metal band, released in 2011. Musically Doombound is typical Battlelore, but in general it has quite a different feel to it than their previous album The Last Alliance, it’s not as fast paced an album, but in other respects it follows pretty much the same formula, with male vocalist Tomi Mykkänen continuing to use clean vocals along with his growls, making the music sound more in the vein of the group’s first two albums which featured his predecessor Patrik Mennander. The musical approach may be predictable, without bringing many new ideas to the Battlelore table, but it does retain the group’s unique symphonic metal sound, which while typically lumped into the same genre, in no way sounds like some of the top names from the genre such as Within Temptation or Nightwish. The sound here is more guitar driven, making it heavier than most symphonic metal typically is. There is also the odd moment where a melody may have a very minimal folk feel to it, and while it’s not as evident on Doombound, some of the band’s music reaches into more extreme territories (you can hear some of this on the bonus DVD). In short symphonic metal probably isn’t an accurate tag to give them because the band is pretty unique, which is why this lengthy introduction was required so that people unfamiliar with them don’t ignore the album/band based on the tag. And so let’s get this review going proper.
While Battlelore have always written lyrics based on the works of Tolkien, Doombound is actually the first album in their career to be an actual concept album, about character Túrin Turambar. Strangely for a concept album they actually features a song written in their native Finnish, a first for Battlelore. This track, Kärmessurma, is easily one of Doombound’s highlights.
While as an album Doombound has its moments, I must say that after the strength of The Last Alliance this is a bit a disappointment. It’s a good solid release, very solid in fact, but I was hoping for the best Battlelore offering to date with this album since they seemed to be really hitting their stride with The Last Alliance – this feels like something of a step backwards overall, at least in terms of the impact the album has on me. There are actually a lot of good ideas going on in the music throughout Doombound, and they’re not disjointed ideas either, and the performance of the musicians is top notch, but in my opinion there’s just something undefined missing from Doombound that holds it back from the real high end of a scoring system.
Like much of Battlelore’s material, Doombound took a few listens to really appreciate. Though I am still disappointed by it even now that I have got myself familiar with its songs, when I first listened to the album it actually came across as more of a bitter disappointment, since parts of it actually bored me. It’s definitely a grower though, and now after several listens I really like it. I think it must be mentioned that as a concept album the music is designed to tell me of a story than any of the band’s previous Tolkien themed works, and taking that into deeper consideration, this album works very well. Those initial impressions of the album lacking something really special haven’t gone away, but I wouldn’t consider this a major letdown in their career. To make my feelings known in short, I’m only disappointed by this release because The Last Alliance was so good that I expected much more from Doombound, it is in no way a bad album and I expect that the fans, like myself, will find it a worthy addition to the Battlelore discography.
Highlights from the album are opener Bloodstained, with which I note that male vocalist Tomi Mykkänen vocals are pretty varied, ranging from his trademark growl, cleans, and something that sits in between the two. Iron of Death which follows is another great track, as is Last of the Lords, which features some guest guitarist from Dan Swanö (Edge of Sanity, Star One et all). The Finnish track Kärmessurma as mentioned above is another great piece and features one of Kaisa Jouhki’s best vocal performances on the album. Fate of the Betrayed and the title track, which is an eight minute piece, are also pretty strong pieces. The title track is a pretty varied affair, and Kaisa’s vocals on the light sections are really beautiful. In fact there isn’t really a bad track on here one the sound of the album has had time to grow. It comes down to missing that special something again.
Overall this is a very strong album though, and it’s definitely not the worst thing Battlelore have ever made. It may not have the same impact as The Last Alliance did but what it does showcase is a lot of good ideas, especially in the atmospheric sounds of Maria Honkanen’s keyboards, which at times really make the songs on Doombound really great instead of just good. And these ideas are still heading in the right direction overall (as opposed to their 2007 offering Evernight, at which point I thought the band was running out of ideas despite a few really great tracks) and I’m confident that Doombound will be well received by established fans of Battlelore, though I will recommend several listens before passing judgement. I’m not sure that it will win them any new fans over though, so if you’re reading this and are unfamiliar with the band, I’d recommend starting with either The Last Alliance or their debut Where the Shadows Lie instead.
There also exists a special edition of Doombound which comes with a DVD which is packed with enough additional material to make Doombound much more of an essential purchase for fans of the band. There’s two features of live music, neither is very long but combined we get a total of eleven live tracks, which is actually more music on offer than on the group’s stand alone DVD release, The Journey and no track appears in both performances. There’s a nice selection from all five prior studio albums here, and it’s pretty interesting to hear some variation in the vocal parts of some of the songs, and also surprising to see Kaisa joining in with some of growled vocals on Raging Goblin, which I would consider to be Battlelore’s heaviest track. What makes this more surprising is that she actually did some growls in Storm of the Blades from Third Age of the Sun, which can be heard in the music video for the song which is included on this DVD, but on the live performance of the song Tomi does these growls.
To top the amount of live material off the band has also included all four of the music videos that they have made up until this point (Journey to Undying Lands, Storm of the Blades, House of Heroes and Third Immortal). No promo video for anything from Doombound though. There are also two tour videos and four photo galleries that are set to music. In short this is an unexpectedly huge DVD package from Battlelore. The album overall is good but a disappointment. This is not. However I am going to have to rate the album based on its standard content alone, but special/limited edition extras.