Enbound - The Blackened HeartA few years back I had the pleasure of seeing Kamelot live at the only venue in my home state that hosts good metal concerts. It was a brilliant show, with the audience belting every lyric while the band granted us an unanticipated level of interactivity, yet one man I met in the crowd remained nonplussed. Forget one of America’s best power metal bands; this guy was excited as all fuck to catch second-rate supporting act Delain. After giddily proving himself to be the only person in attendance to know all (or any) of the symphonic metal band’s lyrics, he remained stone-faced through Kamelot‘s first two songs before donning his fedora and disappearing into the night. I deliver this anecdote so that you, dear reader, may better understand the mentality of Swedish melodic metal act Enbound on their sophomore release The Blackened Heart. Like my mystery Delain man, Enbound is inexplicably enamored with melodic bands that dilute the sounds of far more fulfilling artists. In turn, they have diminished the formula even further.

The Blackened Heart is the type of simplistic melodic metal à la (you guessed it) Delain that seems designed to be sampled on Spotify and promptly forgotten, but it’s not entirely without merit. Perhaps thanks to the influence of drummer Mikael Hornqvist of Zonata fame (who here goes by Mike Force for some pretentious reason), Enbound sports some evident power metal leanings that make for a few surprisingly enjoyable instances. The mystical opening melodies of “Crossroad,” for example, recall the atmosphere of early Pyramaze, and the towering symphonic arrangements of “Twelve” could stand toe-to-toe with Epica‘s bombastic compositions. The problem here is that nearly all the memorable moments the band pulls off are followed by totally insipid verses. The vocal melodies are of the thrown-together quality you might expect from a Saturday Night Live sketch, except where SNL has actually managed some earworms in the past, most melodies on The Blackened Heart roll right off of me. As you might imagine, this does not bode well for a pop metal band reliant on vocal hooks.

Enbound attempts to smother their compositions with a thick symphonic blanket in an effort to distract listeners from the emptiness of their Blackened Heart. Song structures are completely linear, 4:4 affairs supported by stock drum patterns and chuggy, robotic riffs. The symphonics are so prevalent that I was flabbergasted to learn that Enbound lacks a keyboard player; how are you supposed to pull these songs off live without one when the synths are layered heavily enough to make Jari Mäenpää blush? Not that you’d want to catch them live, because outside of the programming, this record lacks any defining traits. At least Amaranthe possesses some pretense of aggression and can muster a catchy chorus, whereas Enbound largely goes through the motions without a hint of urgency or purpose.

Enbound 2016

To their credit, Enbound manages one track that I can enjoy in its entirety with “Fallen,” which features a livelier chorus than the rest of the album’s cuts and offers intriguing staccato interplay between the rhythm guitar and drums. Singer Lee Hunter nearly killed my impression of this track though with his embarrassing, harmonized introduction. It sounds like it would be at home on an N*Sync b-side, as does the entirety of the cavity-inducing “Holy Grail.” Hunter is a good vocalist who reminds me of Pellek at times, but he completely lacks the energy to be an effective metal performer. The flaccid lyrics regarding love and other generic, pedestrian subjects certainly don’t help his case either, and as much as we like to joke about him around these parts, I really wish that someone like Jørn had been enlisted to bring some life to the proceedings [Report to HR. – Steel Druhm].

I have a troubled relationship with The Blackened Heart. While it’s so inoffensive that I can’t really say I loathe it, that very same innocuous nature makes this an extremely difficult album to review, as I forget half of the songs between spins. I suppose that, if you’re a connoisseur of derivative melodic metal, this might not be a terrible listen to hear the album’s brighter moments. As I see it, however, Enbound is a lesser product of a genre that was never particularly gripping to begin with, and outside of my reviewing duties, I would never be caught dead listening to this in a year filled with so many excellent and compelling releases.

Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Inner Wound Recordings
Websites: enbound.com | facebook.com/enbound
Releases Worldwide: November 18th, 2016

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  • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

    “The Blackened Heart is the type of simplistic melodic metal à la (you guessed it) Delain that seems designed to be sampled on Spotify and promptly forgotten…”
    You should be very proud of this because it’s a legitimately great twist on “okay but forgettable” that everyone who’s used Spotify for background music before would understand and relate to immediately. Excellent!

  • Dr. Wvrm

    An N*Sync name drop and a band pic that looks like it’s promoting the next season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. You pulled a real winner out of the basket this time, didn’t you EE?

    • Eldritch Elitist

      The only song they had made public at the time I picked this up was the only one I ended up liking. Silly me for believing that the quality of one song was indicative of the entire album!

  • WhamBamSam

    “I really wish that someone like Jørn had been enlisted to bring some life to the proceedings”

    Admitting it is the first step. Give your self over to the power of our Jørn and savior.

  • Oscar Albretsen

    I really don’t mind Delain, but they certainly wouldn’t be anywhere in Kamelot’s realm. This embedded track, unfortunately though, is a disaster, as you described it.

    • Eldritch Elitist

      That thumbnail, though!

      • Oscar Albretsen

        Yeah, okay, I hear that.

    • Danny

      I can see why someone would want to see Delain live, they have a few great songs, a bunch of decent ones, kill it live, and are genuinely nice people. I keep waiting for them to get their shit together and write a really strong pop-metal record, but that doesn’t seem to be something they really want to do. I just can’t imagine how anyone could like them and not love Kamelot, that’s just bizarre.

      • Paul McGuire

        Having Delain open for Kamelot makes it easier for me to bring my husband along with me because while he enjoys Kamelot he is really a pop fan at heart and really liked seeing Delain live.

  • AnnieK13

    Oh..that embedded track – not good, just not good.

  • brutal_sushi

    I kind of dig the embedded track… *ducks

    • Eldritch Elitist

      Hey man, if you like it, more power to you. It’s just not my thang, baby.

      • brutal_sushi

        Shitty video aside, to me, it has the sweet cheese hook of an Amaranthe song with out the cringe. Then again, I haven’t listened to any other song.

        • Paul McGuire

          If you like the cheese hook of this new album, make sure you go back and check out their debut. At least after two listens of the new album I don’t think it has the same charm as their debut.

  • Paul McGuire

    I’m still not sure if I enjoy this more than their debut album or not. But I really enjoy the combination this band presents between pop vocals and a hint of metal. Sure it is essentially metal lite and totally cheesy but sometimes that is what you are feeling up for. And it doesn’t go as far afield as Delain’s recent efforts.

    I’m curious which many compelling metal releases of the year you are referring to, (with clean vocals, not death, thrash, or black) because I haven’t found much to excite me this year besides Dream Theater’s The Astonishing and Sonata Arctica’s The Ninth Hour. I’m always hoping that I missed something.

    Also despite your jab at Spotify, with so many generic metal releases coming out being able to legally sample them on Spotify before buying is a huge benefit.

    • Eldritch Elitist

      I think you misunderstand, I really love Spotify! It’s where I listen to most of my music, actually. I do wish I had more spare cash to support quality releases, though.

      As far as compelling releases, I was looking at the full metal spectrum, not just at power / melodic metal. This has admittedly been an off year for power metal, but I recommend checking out The Passage by DGM (rock solid prog power, like a lighthearted Symphony X) and Awakening by Wardrum (very good traditional power metal with great riffs and vocals). Glad to hear someone is liking this new Enbound though, I gave it a fair shake and just didn’t care for it in the end.

      • Paul McGuire

        Thanks for replying with some suggestions. I’m curious, did you listen to Enbound’s first album? Perhaps you will find it more compelling. I’m doubtful right now if Blackened Heart will surpass And She Says Gold simply because it removes the fantasy elements that I enjoyed from their debut.

        • Eldritch Elitist

          I haven’t heard it, but I’ll check it out sometime if I’m in the mood.

    • WhamBamSam

      2016 non-thrash clean vocal albums that I’ve given enough time to definitively recommend.
      Holy Grail – Times of Pride and Peril (one or two lines of harsh vocals in the last song)
      Avantasia – Ghostlights
      Myrath – Legacy
      Monument – Hair of the Dog
      Dark Forest – Beyond the Veil
      Hammers of Misfortune – Dead Revolution
      Khemmis – Hunted (some harsh vocals, overwhelming majority clean)
      Jorn – Heavy Rock Radio

      2016 clean vocal albums that gave a positive first impression and I need to give more time to.
      Summerlands – Summerlands
      Quicksand Dream – Beheading Tyrants

      I do agree it’s been an off-year for metal with clean vocals. At the risk of tarnishing my metal cred, I’ll admit to a slight preference for cleans myself, but as my year end list takes shape I find them being eclipsed due to a slightly weak showing and an unusually strong crop of extreme metal.

      • Paul McGuire

        Awesome list many thanks! Any extreme releases that you think might be the one to convert someone to harsh vocals? I’m always open to trying new things but so far I haven’t been able to enjoy too much screaming.

        • WhamBamSam

          Releases from this year or in general? In my own personal musical journey, the gateway to growls was Opeth (which is probably why I’m so down on their newer material) and Death’s The Sound of Perseverance. In general, I’d point a newcomer to extreme metal toward later-period Death records (Human onward, but especially Symbolic and TSOP, which are probably the most immediately accessible), Amon Amarth (Twilight of the Thunder God is a good starting point), Carcass (start from Heartwork, a great example of a melodic death record which couldn’t have possibly worked with clean vocals), maybe Atheist if you’re a big jazz guy, or something like late 80s Kreator or Destruction (maybe Coma of Souls or Eternal Devastation as a starting point) or Vektor as an example of what you might call “thinking man’s extreme thrash.” Or, if you’d rather dip your toe in the water, maybe try something like Iced Earth’s Burnt Offerings, Orphaned Land’s Neverending Way of Orwarrior, or even Dream Theater’s Black Clouds and Silver Linings (I know a lot of people can’t stand Portnoy’s faux-growling, but hey, you’re already apparently a fan of the band) which have harshish vocals frequently enough that you’ll notice, but not as constant or abrasive as in the above, and which I remember really resonating with me as I was becoming more comfortable with a wider range of vocal styles.

          For 2016 specifically, I’ve got the new Vektor as my AotY, and it might be the best starting place to introduce oneself to the band. Also near the top of my list is Xoth’s Invasion of the Tentacube. The vocals aren’t quite so expressive as some of the other things I’ve listed, but that might allow them to slip into the background a bit as you’re getting used to them, especially as the music is very melodic. Perhaps the best gateway melodeath to come out this year is The Northern Sanctuary by Witherscape, which probably won’t be in my top 10, but is a fun record with a mixture of cleans and deep growls that you might enjoy. If you like neoclassical stuff, First Fragment’s Daesin is an excellent tech death record in that vein, and while the vocals are fairly standard gutterals they’re delivered with a lot of personality and charm. There’s also been a fair bit of good thrash this year, with vocals of varying degrees of harshness, though Vektor is the only band in the genre that I’d really say put out a career best. Those would be the releases that stand out as having the most potential to sway a newcomer to extreme metal. There are other standouts, but they’re weirder and/or more brutal, and hence probably not as accessible.

  • lakinen69

    Regarding Delain, their last couple albums are far better than everything Kamelot is doing nowadays.

  • Edmund Sackbauer

    I have to completely disagree with that review. Talking about melodic metal with some slight progressive twists Enbound delivers.
    Everybody enjoying stuff like Theocracy or the latest Pyramaze can order this one without much hesitation.
    Better than anything Kamelot has produced over the last decade.