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While I do consider myself a fairly intense Children of Bodom fan, I have not been too much of a fan of their most recent releases. Granted, achieving the brilliance of an album like 'Follow the Reaper' (one of my all time favorite extreme power metal albums) would be difficult for any group, but I found the change of direction exhibited in the records 'Blooddrunk' and 'Relentless Reckless Forever' to not grip me nearly as much as CoB's classic material. So, I was not expecting much when I heard that Alexi Laiho and company were going to release another record, 'Halo of Blood.' But boy was I mistaken.
What makes 'Halo of Blood' such a true return to form is that the band is exploring themselves musically and creating exciting musical moments just as much as their classic albums. I realize that 'shred' may not be everyone's cup of tea, but for me the biggest appeal in CoB was always the musicianship: Janne Wirman's keyboard leads are always inventive and tasty, and Laiho's lead playing, at its best, rocks HARD. These more power-metally elements are on display in full force on this record. While every track has great solos and inventive musicianship, I have to say my favorite track in this regard is 'Bodom Blue Moon.' The whole song is a collection of technical lead guitar lines and memorable riffs, but for me as a keyboardist, the highlight of the song is the keyboard lead in the song's final moments, where Wirman shows off his chops with a deliciously creative keyboard lead. Roope on rhythm guitar, Jaska on drums, and Henkka on bass all deliver more than competent performances, but to be honest if you're listening to hear some mindblowingly awesome metal drum tracks, you're probably better off checking out Dream Theater or something. Nothing against Jaska though, because his parts on this album suit the music perfectly. Vocally, Laiho delivers strong performances throughout. His lyrics on the album are at times cringe-worthy, but then again, I personally have never listened to Bodom for the purposes of hearing life-changing, profound lyrical content...
All this being said, this album is not QUITE up to par with 'Reaper.' I'm not sure exactly what it is, but I don't think Bodom will ever quite top the magic of that record, or capture its pure energy and virtuosity. However, 'Halo of Blood' is certainly miles better than it's two predecessors, and signals a return to form that should make old-school Children of Bodom fans happy to say the least.
Let me make it very clear. This album is NOWHERE in the scale of Hatebreeder or Follow The Reaper but this is one of the most solid offerings by the Finnish melodic death metal quintet. It is highly likely that Children of Bodom finally realized how crappy and disgusting their last three albums were and wanted to deliver an album which would be comparable to their old sound. Soul searching and introspection definitely seemed to have worked.
Making mistakes and realizing them after a certain period of time is human nature. What took them so long to correct their errors or blunders is something I don't quite understand but I am pleased that they finally did. Better late than never, as the old saying goes. Halo of Blood is an answer to what fans of old Bodom wanted in nearly eight years. It is a perfect return to form and every song of the album is pure, in-your-face metal. It reminds us of the quality of work that is generally expected from Alexi and co. Right from the opening riff and the melody of Waste of Skin that sounds very similar to 'Hate Me', to the ending theme of 'One Bottle and a Knee Deep', every freaking sound is unique and fresh. The black metal-ish title track is definitely the fastest song ever done by CoB and an esoteric reference to the Indian Goddess Kali on 'Dead Man's Hands on You' was the last thing I expected from them. Profanities have been kept to a bare minimum and are almost non existent. 'Transference' seemed more of a filler at first but it has completely grown on me in nearly two or three months after its release.
'Scream for Silence' is one track that I am not quite fond of in spite of it being highly melodic and catchy. 'All Twisted' and 'Bodom Blue Moon' are poised to become fan favorites in the years to come. The guitar work by Alexi is phenomenal as usual and sometimes I wonder whether he has taken his guitar playing abilities to new heights. Jaane Wirman is a beast on the keys, playing intensely melodic solos reminiscent of his previous works in Follow The Reaper or Hatebreeder. Wounds have been healed, skeptics and agnostics like me have been slapped tightly by highly coherent and structured songs, pounding riffs and blistering guitar/keyboard solos , and prayers have been answered for those who believe in a higher power. I will finish this review by thanking Alexi and co. for this incredible piece of work. I hope these men from Finland continue in this direction and make amazing albums like this in the future.
Favorite tracks- Bodom Blue Moon, One Bottle and a Knee Deep, All Twisted.
Children Of Bodom are quite known for their own unique brand of keyboard-laden melodic death metal, and for acknowledging the fine line between tripe angst and boredom. With the preceding release 'Relentless Reckless Forever', Alexi and the crew seemed to have stepped over, and that saw their once rabid fanbase disintegrating even further than it was already. This had already happened with previous works in the past, banal lyricism, rehashed riffs, superfluous cover songs, they were slowly becoming a gimmick in the genre they were part of. It was because of this carelessness that they received almost unanimous hatred, scorn and vitriol by the time 'Relentless' rolled around. Fortunately enough, they've stopped being so reckless and realized that lazy, uninspired songwriting wasn't cutting it. The result of such an epiphany? Some of the best work since their early days.
And while I'm all about singing the praises of this band for finally getting it together after such a long period of decency to mediocrity, I'm all the more surprised that they can go back to their much loved sound so quickly. It's only been 2 years since this and the last travesty, and while this isn't unprecedented, it's still nonetheless stunning. What we see here is a renewed interest in well-structured songwriting, catchy riffs, pounding drum lines and Laiho's trademark yowling, all of these put forth with at least an iota of effort. The slight black-metal influence we heard on their first three records that are reminiscent of Dissection are back, but not in full force like some have claimed. The title track may sound like all the proof you need to support that claim, with it's blazing tremolo picked intro riff and blast beats, but the majority of tracks on here do not showcase this in any form whatsoever. Some even go back to the groove side of things, 'Damage Beyond Repair' in particular, the intro riff being almost identical to 'Psycho Holiday' by the either much loved or much loathed Pantera.
Even with all the fields they've voyaged here, what they are at heart is just fun-to-listen-to, catchy melodic death metal, and songs like 'Scream For Silence', 'Transference' and 'One Bottle And A Knee Deep' attest to this. It might not be anything groundbreaking, but that's part of its charm. Just Children Of Bodom doing what they do best. Now that they know what's good for them, it seems they're comfortable enough to start playing with passion. Alexi's fret mastery has taken yet another step further, with the solos being more memorable and the riffs a bit more technical. The dual guitar attack with supporting rhythm player Roope Latvala is definitely refreshing, especially when the past few albums have been chug-fests and fixated on power chords and keyboards. It also seems he's remembered how to actually write lyrics that don't seem to send a 'tough-guy' message other than in 'Your Days Are Numbered', though it's not quite as scathing as some of the infamous stuff on "Are You Dead Yet?". It only helps that Alexi has absolutely wonderful vocals, his screams powerful and forceful.
The bass work by Henkka Blacksmith can be heard pretty well as a benefit of the wonderful production, though it only acts as a supporter for the guitars and does the usual "follow the drums" pattern. Nothing too stellar, but nothing monotonously boring and droning with no real purpose. And speaking of the drums, Jaska has acquired some variation in his playing than in the previous works, switching from thrash beats, to the traditional blast beat seamlessly. The fills aren't useless or show-offy, and help the transitions between the beats. When used, his double bass skills are tight and nowhere near off-beat, along with the rest of the instruments as well.
Now that Bodom are back to what they do best, will they falter again? Hopefully not. Will they continue down this road? If this album is any indication, most likely. Any Bodom fan will be glad to hear something similar to this in the near future. I can definitely classify this as one of the best comeback albums of the year, and will probably end up in my favorites for this year. You've fixed the mistakes you've made Bodom, now keep it that way.
I will kick right into the review stating that Children of Bodom are definitely back in the right direction. For almost a decade, most of us have been crying out for them to get back to their black metal-influenced, speed-driven sound and they have returned to just that. Halo of Blood is every bit what we wanted them to do and I daresay, there are some moments where they even exceed our expectations!
Talking about the overall sound of the album, it is halfway between being raw and being well-produced. The musical ideas pretty much wander around old school death, thrash, and black metal, giving us that raw, cold sound. On the other hand, a much more watchful effort has been taken to ensure that all instruments are heard in the best possible quality. The vocals and lyrics have also improved and have a fervent belligerence to it. Most notably, Dead Man's Hand on You, which deals with romantic emotions towards the Indian goddess, Kali...something I never expected Children of Bodom to do.
Alexi and Roope have concocted some really intense guitar work both in terms of the structuring of riffs and showcasing of their technical prowess. I personally am one of those few people who was not completely put off by the guitar work in the last couple of albums and it has now become evidently better, in Halo of Blood. The main reason is that the leads and melodies are driving the songs more than often and it adds up to the catchy-ness and flow of the songs, while Roope's rhythm section is strong and innovative.
Keyboards have always been a HUGE element of Bodom’s sound and while they are still there doing what they are meant to do, I felt certain parts could have had them a wee bit louder in the mix, especially in songs like Waste of Skin and Halo of Blood, as they are almost not to be heard with just some feeble choirs. However, there are some really melodic and technical keyboard solos this time around with admirable consistency. Scream for Silence, in particular, comes to mind. My only complaint with the keyboard parts, apart from them being negligently mixed, is that they continue to blindly accompany the guitars, which was NEVER the case in the first two albums. Janne Wirman should stop keeping his best ideas for Warmen (which is stupid to say cuz that is just an uninteresting, pop rock side project nowadays with only two instrumentals per album) and instead fully keep Bodom as his main focus. I hope he uses some new patches and "individually composed parts" so that it's not just Alexi who takes all the credit for songwriting.
Jaska was always an underrated drummer in the metal scene, but with the return of relentless blast beats and fast double bass work, he redeems his position as one of THE metal drummers out there. Not just in the fast songs, but also in the slower numbers like Dead Man’s Hand on You, he handles the drum lines with absolute composure and taste. It was a bit disappointing to see Henkka not getting that much to do, but he provides a solid backdrop to add to the heaviness of the songs.
As for the best song on the album, I would hand it over to Bodom Blue Moon. Simply because its the kind of song that Bodom are actually meant to be delivering. Both in terms of composition and skill, this utilizes the pinnacle elements from Bodom's arsenal. The intro itself is a guitar/ keyboard unison run with a change in key signature, something that might be a solo for certain bands out there. The chorus section is one of the tastiest arpeggios ever played by Bodom and the song has probably one of the most melodious guitar solos ever by Alexi to add to their humongous list. The song ends with a pinchy, death-thrash riff that culminates into a weird, alien-esque keyboard solo by Janne, which I am sure is gonna be immensely difficult to learn how to play.
This is the album where Bodom have embraced the Hatebreeder sound with some of the intensity of their latter albums. It is the kind of return which none of us expected, but were wanting very badly. If this is the direction they are going to take, then I am certainly a happy man!
Must listens: Halo of Blood, Scream for Silence, Bodom Blue Moon, All Twisted.
I'm only giving this release a "B" average because it lacks ingenuity, but it's definitely better than some of their previous releases. The riffs are very melodic in nature, however Alexi's epistemology regarding songwriting is lacking originality. Sure, the riffs sound good, don't get me wrong about that, but COB needs ingenuity. The production quality is superior to previous recordings, which is a definite plus. The guitars, bass, drums and keyboards blend in nicely. The vocals don't overshadow the guitar riffs and they're in unison with the playing. The leads were blindingly fast and technical, reflecting the band's progression from its predecessors.
Being a former guitar player, I would say that the songwriting is decent and in some respects a little bit more in unison with the keys that did drown out the guitars on earlier releases, namely "Hate Crew Deathroll". That album is a classic, but a lot of the songs stressed more of what was done mixing in the keys too much, which did overshadow the guitars on some songs, just not on this one. Like I mentioned, everything blended in casually and Alexi again flared his playing with a lot of influences, especially Mozart, when it came to writing the riffs and leads reflecting (to me) that of the works of the legend Joe Satriani.
This release is more of a melodic death-type of album instead of a melodic death/power metal album. It's filled with relentless energy and emotion, sort of like that of the Amott brothers during Arch Enemy's earlier days, just not as heavy and brutal as those first 3 releases of AE's. Alexi is still powered up on vocals, spewing out hatred and furious vox that keeps the music really aggressive. The clean tone segments were few here and not many instances where they are featured song-wise. Pretty much most of the songs are highly musical and actually worth hearing many times without lessening in outward disinterest.
Alexi (I think) has gone through peaks and valleys when it comes to previous releases, knowing that on some albums they are kind of just "crowd pleasers" rather than original pieces of melodic death/power metal that COB demonstrated on "Restless, Relentless, Forever" and "Are You Dead Yet". With "Halo of Blood", it is more intriguing to listen to, plus as I've already said the production quality has made this album a much higher quality release than these previous other releases. Their hatred is still rampant even though (to me) it isn't their most innovative piece of material.
I'd admit to say that when I originally heard this, I was really upset with the lack of ingenuity factor, but after repeated listens I'd say that COB is still kicking ass. The lineup is pretty much the same as their previous ones and the backup vocals really augment the hate-spewed aggression that really stands out on this one. Get ready for some heavy duty blast beats as well with super tremolo-picked guitar melodies! I have yet to hear many bands that are melodic death/power metal, so (to me) it was surprising. A definite step up from their previous 2 releases and definitely a good one to buy and keep in your COB collection!
When Children Of Bodom is about to release new material, I always hear that this will be something different and partly innovating, but in the bigger picture to me, Halo Of Blood is just a natural progress from their last album, Relentless Reckless Forever. With their now eighth album, they also prove that this type of metal is sort of narrow. Not being patronizing, but how many versions of these types of songs are a band able to create?
The songs are generally on a solid high level, but nothing extraordinary. The keyboard occasionally finds itself a bit lower in the mix than what we're used to, still being a vital element in their melodic death metal, though. The title track, Halo Of Blood, shows a more brutal side of the Finnish metallers and Dead Man's Hand On You sounds very In Flames and is as close to a ballad you can come within this type of music, yet in the end almost nothing has really changed significantly. It's still Children Of Bodom one hundred percent.
The trademark guitar play with its hooks and melodic parts are, as always, around. The same with Laiho's angry voice as he shouts his way throughout these forty-two minutes. A rather long album by their standards, actually. There's really nothing more to tell this time, so if you're a fan of this band, go buy this record. If you're not a fan, well…give it a shot.
Originally written for www.metalcovenant.com
Make no mistake about it: Children Of Bodom were a massive part of my younger, formative years as a metal head. Albums like Hatebreeder and Follow The Reaper were, and are in fact still, personal favorites of mine. Since then, Children Of Bodom has become one of the bigger love/hate bands doing the rounds (if they weren’t already); most of us who loved their earlier, power metal routed sound were particularly disgruntled with their last couple of albums. Alexi seemed to have turned his back on the fun European melodies, as well as the the prolonged guitar and keyboard battles (which earned the band’s popularity in the first place). Instead, Bodom replaced those features with dumb, chugging riffs, Robb Flynn-style cheap aggression, and continually worsening song titles. A lot of people had completely written them off, and whilst I’ve dipped in and out of their last few releases to find the odd gem, I didn’t really hold out much hope…
Honestly, when I first listened to this album I’d have to be lying if I said I was anything but gobsmacked. This is the kind of comeback I’d always hoped for but never expected, and while this isn’t the neoclassical madness of Hatebreeder or the mastery displayed on Follow The Reaper, it’s the album they could have released after Hate Crew Deathroll. Nay, scratch that, they could have released this after Reaper. Everything that made Children Of Bodom so much fun is back in spades: the keyboards are back with a vengeance, Alexi isn’t yelling profanities every other line, the riffs are killer, the melodies catchy, and there’s even the odd step forward in the band’s sound.
Kicking off with “Waste Of Skin”, the band mines a deep vein of nostalgia with a cracking melody and riff set which is both familiar and new. This has classic Children Of Bodom written all over until they kick into one of the best tracks they’ve ever written. The title track is the absolute business: furious blast beats and Dissection-style riffs give me a serious Something Wild flashback. This is exactly what I want to hear from these guys. From here onwards, the band steamrolls the listener with a collection of mostly excellent tracks; “Scream For Silence” shows them nailing their melodic side the best they have in years, “Bodom Blue Moon” is a tour-de-force in pure Bodom excellence – look out for that killer keyboard solo towards the end. “All Twisted” dishes out the goods in the riff department, making 2001 feel not so long ago. Even the film quotes are back, which had me beaming from ear to ear.
If there is anywhere Children Of Bodom goes wrong on Halo Of Blood, I’d have to say it’s in the slow song “Dead Man’s Hand On You”, which really isn’t all that bad (I’d take it over “Angels Don’t Kill” any day). I’d just say it kind of kills the buzz with the rest of the album being so bloody energetic, though I suppose it gives time for a rest and there is an absolute beaut of a riff in the middle. That’s it though, the only negative is one song – and it’s not even that bad.
From the artwork, song titles, atmosphere, and of course the songs themselves: this is classic Bodom, through and through. Songs such as the title track, “Dead Mans Hand On You”, and even “Transference” have enough bright ideas to keep the album from becoming merely a rehash of their earlier material, which sweetens an already damn sweet deal. To hear a return to form of this level from a band I grew up loving is an experience which can’t be beaten. If you’ve ever cared about this band, especially around the time of Follow The Reaper and Hate Crew Deathroll, (Hatebreeder this is not) then I can’t recommend this enough.
Originally written for http://blackwindmetal.com
There has probably been no European metal band more innovative and more important in the twenty first century then Children of Bodom. In no short order, the band has created a new strain of melodic death metal that many critics believe is worthy of getting its own sub genre and they have legions of fans in virtually every corner of the world. Despite their acclaim however, Bodom had been in a band in a state of decline. Between experimenting with industrial influences, Alexi Laiho injuring himself at a bowling alley, the band member's rampant alcoholism, and probably all the global acclaim, resulted in the band producing three albums that were so so at best (eg. Blooddrunk) and god awful at worst (eg. Relentless, Reckless, Forever). The Bodom boys seemed more energetic about covering Eddie Murphy (for the record, I like their pop covers), Janne Wirman wanted to have more drunken homosexual innuendo ridden encounters with Alexi then play keyboard, and Alexi himself seemed like he was a slowed down, drunken shadow of the metal guitar master that he once was. Fans of the band then had honest questions to wonder where Children of Bodom were going to do when they found out that they were making a new album for 2013, and I imagine they expected Bodom to only regress further, making us long more and more for their amazing first four albums from yesteryear.
Instead, Bodom have done a near 180 degree turnaround. In the span of a few years, Children of Boodm shed themselves of most of the elements from their past three albums, reinserted most of the good stuff from the first four albums, and have come up with one of the best albums they have ever created. Children of Boodm have done something special with Halo of Blood. Not only have they "returned to form", but they have actually managed to create music that, at several times, sounds like nothing the band has ever done, and all of it is resoundingly successful.
Critics who reviewed this album before me have noted two things that separate Halo of Blood from Are you Dead Yet, Hate Crew Death Roll, and Relentless Reckless Forever. First and foremost is the abandoning of the ever growing feel of chugging that you can hear on all Children of Bodom albums after Hate Crew Death Roll. Right from the opener, Waste of Skin, Halo of Blood is littered harmonies that are strung together as good as Alexi and company have done since Follow the Reaper. Though the harmonies and their transitions are not quite as accomplished or epic as that album, they more then make up for lack harmonies on the last three albums. Not only that, Halo of Blood finally puts to bed the idea that Alexander Kuoppala's departure and Roope Latvala's introduction as Bodom's rhythm guitarist was somehow detrimental to the band, an argument that I am happy to see die after this album.
The other aspect of Halo of Blood that critics have noted is keyboardist Janne Warmen's return to prominence. Janne's performance on Halo of Blood is a highly commendable one, returning with some of the jazziest and slickest work he has done on a Children of Bodom album. Using a mix of sounds from the synths of Are you Dead Yet to harpsichord keys that were so prevalent on Follow the Reaper, the keyboard work on Halo of Blood is the best that Children of Bodom has done in years. The key lines provide some of the eeriest ambiance that has ever been heard on a Children of Bodom album, with the orchestration on Dead Man's Hand on You being one of the most beautiful that Janne has ever played, and his performance is thoroughly impressive.
And there are even more "return to form" elements. Alexi's guitar solos, after being somewhat lacking on the three albums that preceded Halo of Blood, have returned with a vengeance, being some of of the fastest and most accomplished that he has done. The chanting background vocals, a hallmark on Bodom's earlier albums, are back in a much more full force role, opting for one to two word shouts rather ten the whole lines of words that were so prominent on Relentless, Reckless, Forever. Jaske Raatikanen brings one of the most inspired performances he's ever done on a Children of Bodom album, breaking out blast beats on the title track the likes of which he has not played since Hatebreeder. There is even a visceral improvement in Alexi Laiho's vocals, vocals which have never sounded more guttural or vicious then ever before.
Credit also must be given to Peter Tatgren, the producer of this album. Tatrgen, for those who do not know, was the producer of Follow the Reaper, and his contribution deserves a little bit of praise. Perhaps sensing a need to get back to basics, Bodom enlisted Tatrgen to help guide them in the direction that they had taken up earlier in their career. While I do not know exactly how much Peter contributed to the overall composition of Halo of Blood (chances are it was probably was not as much as I think), the production values and mix on this album are top notch. Children of Bodom albums are not meant to be "walls of sound" or extremely loud. They are not meant to bombard the listener with an overload of sound waves. Tatrgen opts for a mix very much akin to Halo of Blood, with very dirty sounding guitars, more organic sounding drums, and high levels of vocal production. It is an impressive album to listen to, and I cannot thank Tatrgen enough for making sure it was.
Is Halo of Blood perfect? No, not by any stretch. Does it have it's flaws? Sure. The band still seems to want to get into a few unnecessary palm muting chug sessions, but those are livable and fewer then they have been then the past three albums. Are there times when I think there is still too much singing and not enough instrumentation? Sure, yet I am willing to overlook that. Perhaps the album's biggest flaw is that at times Bodom seems too eager to atone for past mistakes and simply redo certain songs. For example, Scream for Silence sounds like a redux of Roundtrip to Hell and Back (from Relentless, Reckless, Forever), with better arrangements and a stronger composition. The same goes for Your Days are numbered, which is an almost shameless redo on Blooddrunk's track Smile Pretty for the Devil. The last thing I want Children of Bodom to do is try to go back and correct past mistakes, I would prefer if the band just moved forward and learned from what they did rather then try to correct what they have already done.
Despite these flaws, Halo of Blood is a great album by Children of Bodom, and the first truly strong album they have done in nearly eight years. Getting back to the fundamentals of their sound while making improvements in certain areas, Children of Bodom have shed away any signs of rust and decay that may have been apparent on the past few albums and instead shine brightly like a great star over the Scandinavian sky. So grab yourself a copy and let Alexi and company show you back to Lake Bodom, because times are good for Finland's leading guitar master and his motley crew of talented musicians.
Much like Overkill with their string of slower and unenergetic albums, Children of Bodom has been a band I've been waiting to "come back" for a long time. Also similar to Overkill, Children of Bodom was one of the bands that truly excelled in bringing pure metallic ENERGY to metal. I knew both bands had it in them, as they both had released some of my favorite metal albums of all time. And much like "Ironbound" rekindled my love of Overkill, "Halo of Blood" has rekindled my love of Children of Bodom.
Within the first 30 seconds of the album, you become aware that this is not the logical successor to "Relentless Reckless Forever". The feel of that very first main melody immediately brings back that old familiar CoB feeling of the first four albums. That certain something of the melodies, keyboards and tempos that really do capture what CoB really is. Whatever "it" is, it's there. And it's here on the album in general.
Children of Bodom is built for melody and speed, not heaviness and chugging riffs. They're finally back to what they do as good as or better than anyone in my opinion. They're letting the true talents of all the members really shine, and it seems to reignite passion and energy within the band members.
In general, "the faster and more melodic, the better" is how I view Children of Bodom songs. That applies here as well, and I'm fully aware that that is likely just an issue with me and my love of fast tempos. But there's more than enough melody in the few mid-paced (and one slow (!)) songs to keep them exciting, which for me is saying something.
I'm not sure I can say exactly where this album would fit in in the landscape of different sounding CoB albums. It's not Hatebreeder Part II, nor is it Hatecrew Deathroll Part II. I'd say if you could musically combine their first four albums (and the good songs off "Are you Dead Yet?") and sum them all together, then give some sort of musical average of their sound and feel, you'd have this album.
In short, I'm absolutely thrilled with this album. It's about as much of an incredibly pleasant surprise to me as Overkill's "Ironbound" was, and for the first time in what feels like forever, I'm eager and excited to see what Alexi and Co. will be doing in future musical releases.
They finally got it right. Finally. It’s been a long time since there’s been much excitement regarding the release of a new Children of Bodom record; a band largely pegged as the Metallica of melodic death metal. That is, a band that made a profound impact with their early albums, but divided the metal community following later releases in a more commercial format; exchanging black metal roots and neo-classical compositions for a more riff-oriented, Lamb of God style and a place on the Hot Topic shelf. Let’s get something straight guys: Children of Bodom are NEVER going back to Hatebreeder, no matter how much you bombard them through YouTube or fan-mail. Nonetheless, it’s painfully clear that the band needs a huge breath of fresh air following the rather stale and very forgettable Relentless Reckless Forever. Their latest offering in Halo of Blood gives us just that, and is hands-down Children of Bodom’s strongest offering since 2003's Hate Crew Deathroll.
There are many “what-if” questions in the timeline of heavy metal. What if Randy Rhoads never got on that plane? What if Metallica didn’t give Dave Mustaine the boot? What if Jari didn’t take 8 years to release half of Time? Probably asked frequently amongst half of the polarized CoB fanbase is what if Bodom didn’t jump on the commercial bandwagon after Hate Crew Deathroll? Well, the answer can be found on Halo of Blood, which effectively combines the heavier, power thrashing style they’ve become accustomed to, with their early black metal influence and sense of melody that made them so loved in the beginning. Die-hard fans will be teeming with excitement upon hearing the lead-off track, Waste of Skin (think “Hate Me!”), which kicks things off with one of their trademark catchy melodies and is the first of many old school Bodom moments to come. Right away the listener is thrown into the comfort zone of the glory days, which is great considering the lack of those moments in the band’s recent work. Bodom Blue Moon, All Twisted, and One Bottle and a Knee Deep are all trademark Bodom tracks that will quickly become fan favorites.
Funny how they choose to release an album with a winter atmosphere in June, but it’s a presence most welcomed and gives Janne’s keys some meaning again. You can thank him for the black metal feeling, as its influence is definitely felt. Alexi’s guitar-work is ace as usual, and even makes some room for Roope, who is a brilliant guitarist himself, to throw in a solo or two. It would be refreshing to see a little more of him though, perhaps in a more tag-team role as he and Alexi shared in Sinergy. Then again, Sinergy didn’t have Janne Warmen. It’s always great to hear him and Alexi going at it with the vigorous, yet friendly competition they have. Henkka’s bass is in the mix doing its thing, and ahhhh, blastbeats… Jaska serves them up for the first time in ages and is the typically excellent backbone of the music of Children of Bodom. The actual musicianship of these guys has never been questioned, and they continue to produce in peak form.
Halo of Blood is littered with pleasant surprises, using elements both familiar and new to the CoB style. First and foremost is the title track that is borderline black metal, and stands out as one of the heaviest Bodom tunes ever. Then there’s the dark ballad “Dead Man’s Hand on You,” the slow song that everyone has been talking about. Hearing Children of Bodom coming out with, I shit you not, a grand piano, clean guitars, and (what sound like) sensitive lyrics should be flabbergasting. But like Chuck Schuldiner’s famous kitten shirt, it doesn’t feel one bit out of place and can even be considered a transcending point for the band. Given their typical aggressiveness, it’s great to hear them take a step outside their usual domain and take a risk.
Possibly the most diverse music in their catalogue, Halo of Blood is without a doubt, the most innovative and exciting record Children of Bodom has released in a decade. Sure, there’s still going to be those nose-picking naysayers who will bitch and moan that it isn’t Hatebreeder II. If that's what you're expecting you might as well just throw on Hatebreeder and not waste your time; indeed, it would be wrong to call Halo of Blood a full-on back to roots album. What it is however, is the fine product of a fantastic band that has established growth in their sound righting the ship and resuming course. Safe sailing Alexi and Co. just stay afloat this time please…
Highlight Tracks: Waste of Skin, Halo of Blood, Dead Man’s Hand on You, All Twisted
Originally written for: dermetalkrieger.com
Over the years, I've managed to review five of Bodom's then-current seven albums (don't read the first four of them, for your sanity's sake). They're not a band I ever really set out to constantly cover, but when a band is as important to me as this one is/was, and when said band finds itself on such a consistently downwards slide, it's hard not to pipe up every time they disappoint you. I maintain, even after all these years, that Follow the Reaper is one of the most important albums in my development as a metal fan, helping ease me from the HerPeS-only mindset into more and more extreme metal thanks to my eventual acclimation with Alexi Laiho's frenzied yowling. The vocals and lyrics have always technically sucked, but the level of enthusiasm was so high that it never mattered. It fit perfectly and just the sheer amount of fun the band was having with the light melodies and preposterously wanky dueling solos rubbed off on the listener. That all changed with Are You Dead Yet?, which focused more on heavy chugging and less on guitar/keyboard theatrics and fast paced and fun melodies. Ever since then, the band has been on the steady decline, releasing three crappy mostly-melodeath albums with wretched lyrics, banal, insipid jokes for cover tracks, and just really lazy songwriting. Years and years we fans have put up with the band just not giving a single fuck about anything, churning out brainless albums every few years, collecting a paycheck, spending it all on booze, and then making another shitty album to pay for their next supply of booze.
And then 2013 rolls around, and queue in Halo of Blood, the band's eighth album. Right off the bat, the aesthetics felt kinda different. The last three (bad) albums had all portrayed Roy in a more straightforward and vicious light, rife with menacing poses and gory splatter, whereas the earlier albums I love so much always seemed to portray the embodiment of death in a more romantic, mysterious light. Compare the cover for Follow the Reaper, where the Reaper is standing calmly in a graveyard, beckoning you forth, to the cover of Blooddrunk, where he's viciously slashing somebody with blood splattered all over the place. From "Death be not proud..." to "I DON'T GIVE A FLYING FUCK MOTHERFUCKER!" Clearly two massively different approaches to both their aesthetics and their music itself. Halo of Blood rolls around and suddenly it looks much more subdued. The palette is very predominately white (which could symbolize something lighter than previous, less dark), with the trademark Grim Reaper looking down remorsefully upon a frozen lake; where the snow has been brushed away you can see the water is packed with screaming victims, frozen under the surface. This is intriguing, this piques my interest. That romanticized take on death that used to counteract the band's youthful exuberance is so much more interesting than the last three albums which simply reaffirm the band's juvenile nature.
But moving past that... yeah, the throwback artwork is 100% indicative of the sound to be found on Halo of Blood. I could not be happier for what this album is, I really couldn't. The fifteen year old version of myself wet himself with happiness merely two tracks in. This is the true successor to Hate Crew Deathroll, ten sad years after the fact. As far as I'm concerned, this album just erased two and a half albums worth of ill will that Bodom had built up. Relentless Reckless Forever, Blooddrunk, and all but about three-ish songs on Are You Dead Yet? no longer exist to me. Bodom's drug fueled mishaps of the mid-late 00s were all just some strange hallucinatory fever dream I had. They never sucked! Hooray!
The important thing is that the music is good, right? Well, this album finally one-ups its predecessors by actually doing just that, making good music. The opening track, "Waste of Skin", utilizes a main melody quite similar to "Hate Me" from the stellar Follow the Reaper, and just revels in this lighthearted melody that the band used to always throw around in abundance. This is the throwback we've been waiting for, one that came straight from the heart, not the wallet. This is loaded with tracks that wouldn't sound out of place on the band's third or fourth albums ("Waste of Skin", "Bodom Blue Moon", "One Bottle and a Knee Deep", "All Twisted"), and this is the sound that I and countless other fans have been pining for for roughly ten years now. I feel like, somewhere down the line, Bodom got a wake up call of sorts. I'm not sure what or where or how, but the band collectively realized that they just weren't connecting like they used to, and had to think about how to stir up the passion within their fans again. The trick was to just... just try again. It's clear to me that the band wasn't didn't really have their heart in the last two albums, as they all just seemed to kind of go through the motions. Halo of Blood feels like the band is pouring themselves into the writing process again. They're having fun again, and for the first time in years, so am I.
I'm not going to sit here and pretend that there are a wide array of influences at work, but there are indeed a few different moments. Most notable is the nearly Dissection-esque meloblack influence in the title track, which ranks among the fastest songs the band has ever written. I'm most pleased with the fact that Bodom went back to doing what they did best, but that doesn't mean I don't also appreciate them trying something new (mostly because it works, as opposed to the last three albums of new ideas). There are a few bum spots as well, since there are still some minor holdover from the chuggy days with "Damage Beyond Repair". And yet again we have one of their kinda-trademarked terrible slow songs here in "Dead Man's Hand on You". Really, does anybody honestly prefer the slow Bodom songs like "Angels Don't Kill" or "Banned from Heaven" over "Towards Dead End" or "Kissing the Shadows"? If you do, I've got a fiver on you also preferring the doomy Overkill songs, you freak of nature. The point is that they're an inherently energetic band, so toning it down really doesn't do them any favors. It's like Stone Cold Steve Austin hosting a cooking show where he never once puts a crowd member through a table or Stone Cold Stunners Rachel Ray, it's a situation wherein the band/host isn't playing to their strengths. "Scream for Silence" does the same thing, but it's got a better pace and moves along well enough to not be too irritating (though the main melody has a really obviously flat note that seems completely out of place, which is irritating since it repeats so much).
But with those quibbles aside, there isn't a whole lot I dislike about Halo of Blood. It's the best kind of reversion I could have ever asked for. The keys are back in a relatively prominent role (much more so than the fuck all they did on Blooddrunk), ripping through overindulgent solo battles with Laiho's lead guitar just like the old days, along with providing melodies over the verses and such. "All Twisted" and "One Bottle and a Knee Deep" are great examples of this hearkening back to the glory days. He still doesn't let loose as much as he does for Warmen, but he does finally get some more opportunities to exercise those wacky spiderfingers of his. After several, several listens, I still can't tell if the lyrics are as drop dead derpy as they always have been, but to the album's credit, there aren't any titles as fucknards stupid as "Northpole Throwdown" this time around, and I'm not hearing "YOW" at the beginning of every single song nor "FUCK" at every sixth word, so it seems like Laiho has finally, finally learned how to write lyrics. There's a good possibility I'm wrong though, feel free to point out any horrid examples I may have missed. Even the cover song is good again. I mean think about it, early on the band was covering Iron Maiden, Stone, and W.A.S.P., and then around the time they started getting shitty, they started covering Britney Spears, Kenny Rogers, and Eddie Murphy. Their cover song has always been a good indicator of their attitude at the time, and they morphed from musicians having fun and covering their influences to a bunch of durr hurr lol random Invader Zim dipshits covering anything they thought was funny. So who do we get this time around? The mo'fuckin' Thunder in the East, LOUDNESS! Yeah, "Crazy Nights" is a kind of silly song, but it's silly in how over the top cheesy it is, as opposed to silly in the sense of METAL BAND COVERING POP SONGS?! OH PSHAW! They're tackling metal again, and it's awesome.
That melodic death/power metal hybrid I've been missing so much is back in full force, and Bodom fans around the world should rejoice, for the band has finally pulled their collective heads out of each other's collective asses. This still have a focus on heaviness in parts, as opposed to the "really fast Nightwish songs with ridiculous screechy vocals" of the first two/three albums, so if you didn't like Hate Crew Deathroll, then chances are you won't like Halo of Blood either. But let me tell you, I (and thousands of other fans) would much rather have a Hate Crew 2: Electric Boogaloo than Blooddrunk 2: Drunk Harder. Comeback of the year for me, hands down.
Originally written (with added visual aid!) for Lair of the Bastard