ENBOUND (Lars Säfsund) – The Blackened Heart [physical CD]
With the recent Art Of Illusion debut – the new band of Lars Säfsund (Work Of Art) & Anders Rydholm (Grand Illusion) many of you asked for more Lars Säfsund material. Under the pseudonym of ‘Lee Hunter’, Säfsund was the lead vocalist of Swedish act ENBOUND, recording two albums, being “The Blackened Heart” from 2016 the last with the band before concentrating in Work Of Art.
ENBOUND combines melodic metal riffs with hard rock groove plus Säfsund’s stratopheric vocal dynamics, ”The Blackened Heart” resulting into something like Allen / Lande meets Jorn and Khymera.
It’s incredible how versatile vocalist Lars Säfsund is. The man can sing anything, with a huge vocal range and perfect pitch.
The band is the brainchild of drummer, keyboardist and songwriter Mike Cameron Force (ex-Zonata) and alongside the same ENBOUND line up of their debut album; guitarist Marvin Flowberg, vocalist Lee Hunter / Lars Säfsund and bassist Swede Odén, have together constructed something very special with ”The Blackened Heart”.
Easily one of the very best melodic metal-related albums of 2016. 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 that year. It is a superb piece of music full of power, emotion and the chorus is nothing short of a killer hook-laden masterpiece. Säfsund’s vocals are superb, displaying an impressive range. 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.
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 melodic metal meets commercial hard rock of ‘Holy Grail’. Or…well, you get the idea.
‘Falling’ kicks off the album with a great 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 Lars 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 upbeat ‘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 cinematic symphonics 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 Säfsund continues his impressive performance, hitting all the notes, from quiet and reserved to all-out power.
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 Säfsund.
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 one of the best melodic metal albums of the past decade, and it’s another showcase for Lars Säfsund out-of-this world voice.
The digital download version of this album sounds a bit distorted, this physical CD is the one to get.
01 – Falling
02 – Give Me Light
03 – Crossroad
04 – Get Ready For
05 – Feel My Flame
06 – Twelve
07 – Holy Grail
08 – HIO
09 – They Don’t Really Know
10 – Make You so Unreal
Lars Säfsund (aka Lee Hunter) – Vocals, Keyboards
Marvin Flowberg – Guitars
Swede – Bass
Mike Cameron Force – Drums, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Mike LePond – guest bass on 5
Linnéa Wikström – guest vocals on 1