Unholy Cross

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Don't go judging this "book" by its cover, because neither the artwork -- depicting a blood-soaked demon crawling out of its grave -- nor even the title of Bloodbound's fourth album, 2011's Unholy Cross, accurately describes the music contained within. In truth, there be very few "monsters" sprinkled amidst the Swedish band's melodic brand of classic-cum-power metal (think Dream Evil, Hammerfall, Nocturnal Rites, et al., for references), but that's not necessarily a bad thing, if you're into that sort of sound and weren't misled by the packaging. Just know that horror stories and nightmare scenarios have rarely been sung to such relatively upbeat musical backgrounds, as evidenced by album opener "Moria" (surely the most cheerful visit ever made to Tolkien's doomed Dwarf kingdom) and by "Reflections of Evil" and "Message from Hell" (both of which are irresistibly chirpy speed metal chargers in the classic Helloween mode), to name but a few examples. Maybe this is why some of the album's best offerings are those where lyrics and music are better reconciled, as in positively heroic calls to arms like "The Ones We Left Behind," "Together We Fight," and the dramatic ballad "Brothers of War" (which details the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder). The message and music just fit more an iron gauntlet, of course. All kidding aside, it's actually quite easy to be seduced by Bloodbound's simple metallic pleasures and, in time, even those surprising contradictions, so why get hung up on such minor details? Unholy Cross is pure, uncomplicated power metal entertainment defined.

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