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Bodom is one of those bands that really got me to where I am today. Back in 2003 they were practically the first band to utilize some semblance of harsh vocals that I enjoyed, and as such opened the doors for essentially the entirety of extreme metal for both me and legions of like minded kids who have surely become valuable additions to the metal scene. I realize how over the top silly they are and how utterly devoid of integrity they've become, but there will always be a warm spot in the cold, shriveled, black stalactite that once existed as my heart for this merry band of naked, drunken Finns. Ever since Are You Dead Yet? the band pretty much seemed to lay down and accept their fate as the cool thing for the stereotypical Hot Topic malldwellers, churning out uninspired and stupid(er) music at a slower pace than before. And this, 2011's Relentless Reckless Forever, stands as the band's seventh full length, and probably the one with the least hype surrounding it since their inception.
But why? For their immense popularity, it seemed strange that nobody seemed to bat an eyelash at the prospect of a new album. Was Blooddrunk really received so poorly that all the enthusiasm had been sapped out of fans? Was their steady decline over the last few albums becoming apparent even to the new fans introduced to them in the second phase of their career? For my money, I'd say it probably had something to do with the fact that their (unfortunately) trademarked silly cover song this time around was going to be Eddie Murphy's "Party All the Time" and that the short teaser promo for the album featured a dull chugging riff and people kickflipping flaming skateboards. Children of Bodom has become so absurdly disconnected with their original fanbase that it's almost on par with the likes of Metallica or Genesis at this point. Musically they really haven't changed significantly since the beginning, it's the same distinctive melodic death/power metal mixture they helped make popular along with Kalmah, Skyfire, Norther and the like. However, this fact doesn't change that the music just feels different somehow.
Perhaps it's the spirit of the music itself. Dating waaaaay back to the Inearthed days almost twenty years ago, back when Alexi Laiho actually was a little girl instead of just a grown man who looks like one, the band was fueled on raw emotion. The music was more restrained back then, but the band was serious about its craft. Through the years, even after becoming one of the most insane and over-the-top bands to gain popularity until Dragonforce became a household name, they kept their quality of songwriting very high. Melodic power metal with bombastic keys and cartoonishly overdone leadwork, layered over a harsh, high pitched rasp belting out the most juvenile and underdeveloped lyrics imaginable. And despite the inanity of the lyric work and the complete and utter lack of restraint, the musicianship was so high, the songs so catchy, and the performance so entertaining that the flaws seemed practically nonexistent. Since those happy, happy times, the band has since started to add more and more melodeath elements to the leads and riffs, tuning down further and focusing more on chugging sections, with the once prominent keys being relegated primarily to the background. Maybe it's easier for Janne to drink while performing with these newer songs and that's why he keeps it up, despite his talent being so above and beyond the level he's been playing at lately. Relentless Reckless Forever just continues the direction they've been going.
And after three long paragraphs I realize I'm only just now actually touching on the album at hand, and maybe it's because the history lesson is necessary because, to borrow a Walkyierian pun, history lessens. On its own, this album isn't anything special, but it isn't anything offensive either. It's just there, doing its own thing, not really bothering anybody, but when you remember where the album came from and the pedigree behind it, it's just intensely disappointing. I ragesploded really hard on Blooddrunk four years ago, but really in hindsight the album isn't anything worth getting bent out of shape about. I could blame myself for being 17 years old and stupid and overreacting to a predictably disappointing album, but in reality the album was a lame and inconsequential release from a band that used to put out some of my favorite music fairly consistently in their prime. It's basically the '90s Mercyful Fate in that regard. And that's the same problem with Relentless Reckless Forever here, there's just nothing here. It's by far the least aggressive output from the band, with the only highlights in that department being "Shovel Knockout" and "Northpole Throwdown".
Good lord, I guess I should address something that anybody who read that last sentence is surely thinking about, I don't have the slightest fucking clue what kind of mushrooms these guys were on when they thought of the lyrics and song titles for this album. Lyrics were always an afterthought with Children of Bodom, with Alexi making up a majority of them on the spot in the studio. The lyrics and vocals were never the highlights nor the focus of their music, so it was one of those things I kind of let slide because the high energy melodeath/power metal was so much fun. But now that the songwriting has taken such a hefty downturn over the past seven years, I can't help but hold them accountable now. It's just... my god. Five year olds have put in more effort than this. It's just lazy and dumb. "Pussyfoot Miss Suicide", what does that even mean? "Roundtrip to Hell and Back", we knew it was a round trip by virtue of the fact that you came back. "Was It Worth It?", I dunno Bodom, you tell me. Are the new fans and the money really worth your old fans and credibility? You know what? That was a silly question, credibility doesn't buy you a nice house.
As I've said a few times throughout this stream of consciousness garbling, the music isn't necessarily bad here, it's just dull. "Pussyfoot Miss Suicide" rides on a catchy melodeath riff that stands well enough on its own that I don't feel the need to lament about the lack of keys on the track, the title track possesses one of the few moments of old school Bodom in the solos, and "Northpole Throwdown" is a welcome hearkening back to the balls out theatrics of the first few albums that made me fall in love with the band in the first place. But with that said, I can't tell you a damn thing about "Ugly" or "Not My Funeral". The entire album is this dull, grey slab with a couple of standout moments here and there. There are a few lowlights with the primarily low melodeath riff based songs like "Cry of the Nihilist" and "Was It Worth It?", but overall the entire album tends to run into itself. The band was always at their peak when they essentially just played frantic power metal with insane leads, so when they slow it down or focus on the newer melodeath qualities like they've been so fond of doing on the last three albums, the whole thing just seems to fall apart. It's a shame too because their talent is still there, they're just entirely out of ideas at this point. Perhaps it's time to put the band on hold for a time and focus on side projects or maybe just take some time off. Go ice fishing or... sauna shopping or whatever the hell you do in Finland. Maybe they're just burnt out and they need some time to recharge, I'd certainly recommend they try.
Also the "Party All the Time" cover can fuck itself with dynamite. "Funny" covers are useless and only serve to remind old fans how vapid you've become. Knock that shit off already.
Children of Bodom has come a long way since Something Wild. For better, or worse, fans took the evolution in what ever manner they chose. I like every album, so far. I'm mixed on this one. Here's why:
It's a good idea to point out with the most noticeable aspect, the vocals. I'm not sure what happened between Blooddrunk and Relentless Reckless Forever but Laiho's vocals have changed. It's not exactly what most would thing. This wasn't a revert back to when Alexi used to sing with those black metal-esque vocals. He sounds like he's hurt his throat. Interestingly enough, I looked up some live videos from recent concerts and the vocals aren't edited to sound that way. That's how Laiho sings now, so something messed up his voice. Compare his voice and Are You Dead Yet? or Blooddrunk and you'll see a big change. If you thought he was hard to understand then, well now you'll have a harder time. In "Northpole Throwdown" I swore for the longest time Alexi sang the line "Look at my titty" (the real line is "Look at my kingdom", it's gotten that bad). On "Ugly" Alexi truly sounds odd. He sounds so scratchy and as if he had a sore throat when singing the song. The guitar makes up for the vocals and still makes it listenable. There isn't much to say than that. Alexi does provide some excellent vocals on "Party All The Time", but if you're like me and got it in America day-of release you got screwed a song. That song being "Party All The Time". Anyway, the vocals on that track are more of what I was expecting to hear from Laiho. The clean vocals are well executed and if you remember their cover of "Rebel Yell" then you know singing clean isn't foreign to him.
Next up is the guitars. While they still have some of the similar COB-mystique we've all come to love there's still something awry in Denmark. Some of the riffs don't seem to have that perk like prior albums. Other's seem to much like fumbling, particularly the verse riff in "Was It Worth It?". his perk can still be found on the album so not all hope is lost. Otherwise it's almost standard of what you'd expect to hear from COB. As usual, the bass is invisible it's like Henkka T. Blacksmith, sadly I had to look up his name so he really is that invisible, wasn't there for the recording. He's so obscure that his band mates don't realize that strange guy with the weird guitar on stage with them and someone remembers who he is before security throws him off stage. He's like the sugar in a soda, he's in the mix but you don't notice, more like acknowledge, him.
A note on the lyrics, there's a few oddballs in the mix. For instance, this one from the title track: : "Back to the place where, I was told, drunken ignorance, Is pure, true gold". The way it's written is even odd too. You'd expect this to be at least two lines not four. The final verse in the title track, the one that mentions the monkey clinging to his back his another example. Now I know COB has some strange lyrics before, but they've worked. It seems hard to believe that they actually wrote that down. At least it isn't as bad as what Metallica wrote in the film Some Kind Of Monster. those lyrics were putrid. However, not everyone is out to make a quick buck from rockumentaries and the like and we'll never see what else they could have written. I have this strong feeling that the band on;y writes after tours not on or between them and that they never write more than necessary. They aim for nine originals, except on Something Wild with it's seven original tracks, and say "That's all for now. Let's work on guitar". Laiho seems to assert dominance in the band as he writes the only lyrics they'll ever need. There's a few questionable lyrics in there and there's at least one per song. I'm not gonna go through them all. Check out the album to see what I mean.
An aspect to the music that is of worthy mention is Janne Warmen's keyboard playing. Most complaints I've heard was that there wasn't as many keyboard parts in the album. Well, that's an incorrect statement. The keyboard plays a major part in the verse riffs of most songs on the album. Off the top of my head I can think of many keyboard solos from this album. I usually listen to the album while writing this out but I finished it and I'm not going to go listen to it three more times while I slowly type this out. But maybe that's just a point. The album is mostly easy to forget. I'm not typically thinking of this album when I have a song stuck in my head. There isn't much to comment on about the topic of keyboards since it's more of what you'd expect again.
The production is nice and clean on the album. The band's come far enough to have it that way. There's not much to comment on about it though since all there is to say is it's nice. the drumming is also as expected on this album, well-executed.
Despite accusations that this album gave the band the means to keep touring, it's not a completely terrible release they've had better. This is, in my opinion, the first time they sort of flopped on an album. It's hard to compare this to other COB albums but I'll still listen to it. It's like that redheaded child in a family of blonde, Finnish people, it sticks out. I recommend a listen if you're a fan and have been putting it off. For newcomers, however, I recommend giving the other albums a listen first, and I mean all of them and every track too. So by 2014 I expect the next release from the band. I can't wait for them to release a new album and I do hope it's better than this album. I hope it'll sound more like Hatecrew Death Roll or Are You Dead Yet?, looking at it realistically. Until then I'll see you on the reviews for that album in 2014.
As far as Children of Bodom go, this is definitely a new low for them. Honestly, this release appears to have only ever been attempted to kill that small section of time between Blooddrunk and the next release coming in 2-3 years. As this album features their customary guitar solos, albeit lacking any lyrical substance and strength at all, and if I was going to be perfectly honest, it sounds like the lyrics and vocals were an afterthought on Alexi's part. A SEVERE let down on his part and a definite let down for the listener. After all, lyrics didn't feel to be an after thought on Hate Crew Death Roll, Follow the Reaper, or Blooddrunk for that matter regardless of what you think of the album.
After the first few listens this release really got under my skin and left a horrible mess on the way out. The lyrics were at best, shoddy. Guitarmanship (if it's not a word, it is now) is the same as it has been with with Alexi for the past 10 releases, phenomenal as a soundtrack and for that it earns points. The drumming was on par, but there's just something about Children of Bodom and the lack of lyrics that's both off putting and worrisome about their next release, especially if their systematic degradation since HCDR is anything to go by, they'll be doing guitar covers of Lady Gaga with Alexi dressing up as Freddie Mercury.
The effort's there clearly, but possibly not in the right areas to make this a decent album in relation to the time taken to produce it as the format of half the songs are pretty much the same: singing amidst solo after solo, making me wonder if they were written before the lyrics were, and then implemented in such a fashion to put emphasis on the solos. If not, why not? Because it sure as damn feels that way, especially with every song seemingly starting with a guitar solo of some sort or other, most notably Northpole Throwdown.
Were this anyone else but Bodom, it wouldn't have been aired as a brilliant album, but as it's Bodom they get a positive review across the board and a pat on the shoulder, claiming they've made yet another amazing album to add to their catalog, but it's not ok! This is something of a massive failure on their part to everyone who's fervently listened to them for the past decade, or for 5-6 albums, making Blooddrunk look like an absolute masterpiece of an album, and whilst I liked Blooddrunk, it was nothing compared to Hate Crew Deathroll. They may as well have not released this album and kept their good name in my opinion.
Definitely not their best offering and if it were possible, I would listen to this album to simply claim I have, much like I'd do many things to merely claim I've done them, but this is definitely no guilty pleasure at any stretch of the imagination. That being said, Northpole Throwdown wasn't too bad, nor was Relentless Reckless Forever, but they simply weren't redeeming songs. The solos + the name earned COB above 65%, but not by much.
See that little name there? Children of Bodom, and if you spoke to me in real life about music, you would understand that I happen to like this band. I happen to like this band a lot, like hail their first four albums as musical masterpieces that helped me really start getting into extreme metal. I must have listened to Hatebreeder over 75 times fully through and kind of completely killed that album for myself by listening too much.
However, the Wild Child, Alexi Laiho, and his merry band of thrashing misfits have slowly begun falling from grace since Are You Dead Yet? was released. Now, I like Are You Dead Yet? and some of the songs on there were pretty damn amazing even if some tracks fell flat. Blooddrunk, the album that this one is following up, however, was a fucking nightmare to my ears. To me, it sounded like Children of Bodom were told to make an album but literally had no material written and needed something on the fly to release. Now, I won't called Blooddrunk really all that terrible...just not any good. I mean, a few riffs and parts of songs were kinda cool, but overall it was just boring. Boring. Boring. Boring.
So now we have the follow-up Relentless Reckless Forever, which I find really obnoxious to pronounce in conversation, let alone in my head. Seriously, I keep double checking the name of the album because I keep thinking that I somehow got it wrong. Anyway, after listening to the single back in December, the preview for Was It Worth It?, I noted the great musicianship and very Hate Crew-esque sound from it.
Actually giving the album a few listens, and then a few more, I was quite pleased to say that it was much better than Blooddrunk, but that wasn't saying much. The thing was, I wanted so much to love this album and spit in the face of those who said that Bodom was losing it. The band is really not helping my case with these latest releases.
The album varies in the quality of the songs with several being outstanding and a few being almost completely forgettable. I know the lyrics for Shovel Knockout by heart, but at the same time can't remember the tune of the album's title track. Let it be known though, the good songs are GOOD. Now onto the actual sound itself.
Alexi Laiho has been somewhat renown for his guitar work and just what he can do with those strings. I remember reading in an interview that Zakk Wylde, one of his big influential figures, showered him with praise one night during their tour together. I guess he took it to heart because a few of these songs seem to have a Black Label Society influence to them. Is that a bad thing? Not really, except if you love the technical and neoclassical melodies joined with haunting keyboards as seen in Old Bodom. Turns out that I do, but I won't criticize a band too much for wanting to try something different.
If I had to pick one of their earlier songs to best compare their new stuff to, it would be If You Want Peace... Prepare For War. We have fast, brutal tremolo-picked riffs with loud crashing drums and neat little stints with the whammy bar with pinch harmonics. Even on my favorite songs though, it feels like Janne is slowly being squeezed out of the band. Keyboards seem to be becoming quieter, hidden in the background and muffled behind the sheer power of the riffing. The keyboard solos kinda disappointed me too, sounding like Janne was just going through some scales and thinking, "Meh, this is good enough". Just another day at the office for him.
Keyboards aside, Alexi's vocals are actually a step-up from, well, just about anything else they've done. The lyrics are still stupid and senseless, but that's what Bodom lyrics are supposed to be. Anyway, his voice seems to be a bit more refined and he dances between pitches while laying down blisteringly fast riffs. There's a bit of a change in his voice though, most notably in the first verse of Shovel Knockout that I simply can't describe. Another good point to mention is that you can kind of understand what the fuck he's singing now. Even reading along, I had trouble following the lyrics for their earlier stuff, but that problem has been amended without losing strength or throwing in awkward clean vocals. Major props to the band for this.
Now for my major issue with this album. You've heard one song, you've heard them all. Besides for the three that I really liked, this album doesn't have very many memorable songs, riffs, or parts. I could list off song from all their albums that I felt were extremely memorable and stood out, but it gets harder to do here. I guess Was It Worth It? does stand out a bit, but it's a fucking four minute song that seems to drag on. I was going to rant about Was It Worth It? because it felt like a stupid attempt to milk a single out, but then I realized the same could be said for a lot of songs. It doesn't really feel fair to call it an attempt at a single, but I can't help but feel that. So instead I'll just say the song is boring, like half this album.
Here's my numerical verdict:
Sound: 6/10: Ranging from awesome to completely forgettable. Bodom's musicianship is fucking brilliant, but they really need to revamp their songwriting. It feels so structured, rigorous, and lacking that dark, gritty feeling of their earlier works.
Lyrics: 3/10: Derp. That's pretty much all I have to say about it.
Musicianship: 9/10: As mentioned above
Impression: 6/10: I liked this album about as much as I thought would, actually. I haven't given up on Children of Bodom just yet, and these songs did prove that they still do have it (to some degree).
Overall: A solid 6/10.
Final thought - I still proudly call myself a fan, but it's starting to look like these guys are suffering from artistic death. Maybe all they need is a change in the lineup or something? Who knows, but something needs to be changed if they ever want to live up to the former glory of Hatebreeder or Something Wild.
Songs I really like:
Not My Funeral
Children of Bodom, my god are we in for a treat. Or so it seems. Relentless Reckless Forever, one of the most anticipated albums still needs a verdict: "Was It Worth It?" Or was it just plain "Ugly"? Personally, I'm still trying to decide myself. On top of that, they make the album cover look like something from a k-pop music video, well that's a real kick to the dick isn't it? Can this be Bodom's "St. Anger?" We shall soon see for ourselves.
I feel like everything is completely different, Alexi's vocals have changed dramatically since the last album, I'm still having a hard time getting over it. It sounds like he's singing through a long plastic tube, of course I had friends of mine (who liked the album) make up shitty excuses by saying things like: "well, he's been growling for 12 years, what did you expect?" Bullshit, a steaming pile of it, I don't know if Bodom is trying to take another creative approach or if they have a shitty microphone production, for all we know it could be on purpose. Either get better equipment or lay off the smokes Alexi.
The songs seemed to have taken a bluesy approach in my opinion, take "Was it Worth it?" for example, bluesy riffs and such, that doesn't sound bad to me, but it gets to a certain point and by that point I mean when it starts to get old. Whatever happened to the band we once knew who played songs like "Lake Bodom" and "Deadnight Warrior". Now it's songs like "Pussyfoot Miss Suicide" and "Roundtrip to Hell and Back"? Give me a fucking break, seriously.
Don't get me wrong, I like the album, maybe not love it, however it's worth listening to. This album isn't all cons, there's some pros, Bodom never ended up like Metallica, where everything went so shitty that it was sickening, they instead showed a good balance of melodic death metal and blues. Sure, this album could use some tweaking like getting better sound equipment, better titles and probably bring out some of their old roots. Some people even claimed to me (before I listened to the album) that it sounds like a mix of Something Wild, Hatebreeder and Are You Dead Yet? When I heard that I was all for it, but when I started listening I felt a bit disappointed, I felt that there were a lot of things missing. This just goes to show that there's a lot of room for improvement.
Taken from the metal-archives page: "Pre-orders come with an exclusive Children of Bodom wall clock." Uh, alright, seriously; who needs a Children of Bodom wall clock? Are there really people out there who wanted that? Next you're gonna tell me Amon Amarth is putting out an album with an action figure included. Pfft.
So, onto the review. Children of Bodom want to be this wild, uncouth band of raging maniacs, but really with this album it's the opposite: they've pretty much become a bunch of tools of the mainstream, or as close to mainstream as metal gets. Processed and manufactured anger that holds no specks of any genuine feeling at all is what you will find on their latest full length Relentless Reckless Forever. I mean, OK, this is better than their last one, but that's not very hard. Dried elephant turds were more entertaining and gratifying than their last album Blooddrunk. This one at least sounds like a real Children of Bodom album, with a near-identical production to Follow the Reaper. But really that only serves to point out how deficient the songwriting has become.
Alexi's voice is a raspy, sore-throated squawk that doesn't distract, but doesn't really do much to help the music either. The riffs are distorted, groovy lumps in the background for the keyboard and guitar solos to wank all over, like a blank canvass for the world's sloppiest art student. The songs themselves are solidly constructed but boring. Most of them amount to little more than yapping over generic, over-produced modern EXTREEEEEEME DUDE metal dumb-chunk riffing for the kids who have nose piercings and think Between the Buried and Me is cool. Sure, the keyboards and leads bring the score up a bit by providing some serviceable cheesy ear candy here and there, but all these songs sound alike and the product as a whole is disposable as hell. Short musical description? Yes, but then, there simply is nothing more to say about it.
I have nothing against Laiho and his band for selling out; makes sense enough to do when you have a hot formula as they did a few years ago, but that doesn't make this any better. It's pretty much just a bland distillation of everything that kids who dye their hair 5 different colors and wear jeans that probably make them infertile want to hear. And I guess infertility is a decent enough price to pay for liking this kind of shash, after all.
From someone who owns all of their albums and still fosters a slight amount of hope for this band, the best way to describe this album is 'all over the place'. Alexi and the rest of the band have become notorious for coming up with a few good interludes, solos, choruses, and riffs, and then scattering them throughout an entire album so that while none of the songs are absolutely horrible, there are very few memorable tracks anymore. There is no other CoB album where this issue is more evident than their latest release 'Relentless Reckless Forever'. The songs on this album range from classic ('Not My Funeral') to barely listenable ('RTHAB').
When I first heard this album, it was near the end of 2010 when Bodom released their first single for the album 'Was It Worth It?'. I have to admit that when I first heard it, I died a little bit inside. I was convinced that the band was done for and wasn't even going to listen to the new album until I stumbled upon the leak for 'Ugly'. While the song wasn't my favorite, it at least convinced me that they still might be able to recover from the disappointments that were 'Are You Dead Yet' and 'Blooddrunk'. After listening to the rest of the album, I'm convinced that they didn't completely disappoint fans, but failed to recover as fully as many of us had hoped.
'Relentless Reckless Forever' is not necessarily a bad album overall, it simply fails to employ the same consistency, technique, and engaging melodies that the first four Bodom albums all possessed. The opening track, 'Not My Funeral', demonstrates to fans that Bodom still remembers their roots and contains echoes of 'HCDR' as well as 'Follow the Reaper'. This song's riffs, chorus, interludes, and solos are all well done (the guitar solo is Alexi's best since 'HCDR'). Unfortunately, the rest of the songs on the album don't match up to the strengths of 'Not My Funeral'. 'Shovel Knockout' takes a while to get off the ground and while the keyboard solo is excellent, the guitar riffs are largely uninspired and full of chugging. 'Pussyfoot Miss Suicide', along with having the worst title, is probably the most disappointing song on the album. It contains some interesting riffs, interludes, a good chorus and decent solos, but the band seems so far removed (almost bored in fact) from the music and the song sounds so disjointed at places that CoB ruin what could have been a great song.
'Was It Worth It?' is another issue that I have with this album. I understand why a lot of people hate on this song, but to be honest, most metal bands with large fan bases like Bodom want a single with mainstream accessibility. As much as I dislike this concept, I understand why it has to happen (record label, band members need to support themselves, new "fans", etc.). However, there are far more intelligent ways to go about doing this than Bodom's approach here. Yes, the song needs to have a strong, anthemic chorus, but it doesn't have to be this repetitive. Yes, the riffs must be simplified, but they can still be catchy (see 'Were Not Gonna Fall'). Yes, you can't pull a 'Kissing the Shadows' and spend half the song soloing, but writing shitty solos doesn't attract new fans and simply pisses off the old ones. Bodom makes all of these mistakes on this song. The chorus (while it is actually a great chorus) is far too repetitive, the verses are terrible in all regards, and the solos are possibly Bodom's all time worst.
While 'Relentless Reckless Forever' is certainly better than the last two Bodom albums, it fails to make the comeback that some of us were hoping for. It's irritating that they can write a song like 'Not My Funeral' and then fail to live up to this level of writing on all of the other tracks. Its almost as though Alexi and the rest of the band are saying to fans: "We still have the talent and songwriting skills that we demonstrated on our first four albums, we're just trying to appeal to two completely different groups of fans now".
Success is a funny thing…in the metal world, it’s the difference between holding onto your ideals or playing it safe for the sake of the masses. That’s what goes through my head every time I read about this here group of one-time melodic metal masters, the same group who’d degenerated into -core clad simplicity for the sake of doing so, it seems. I’ll admit to having a rather sour taste in my mouth as I watched Alexi Laiho and company become lazier in the composition of each successive album post-”Follow the Reaper”, and all that touring can’t be good for them in terms of saving face, but I guess it’s not up to us listeners despite us being part of the lifeblood that keeps musical groups alive.
So after two strikes, which we know as “Are You Dead Yet?” and a good portion of “Blooddrunk”, here’s hoping that the band have the capacity to at least bunt the ball in the right direction…
If this album is any indication on where CoB stand in this present day, then it’s painfully obvious that their best days are behind them and aren’t coming back. Success and artistic integrity are two extremes that are damned hard to go hand-in-hand with, and for what it’s worth I don’t think Alexi and company started the group for any kind of artistic reason, no matter how complicated and neo-classically intricate their first three albums were. They just want to rock. That’s it, nothing more. And I’m sure they like getting a few bucks thrown their way to do so. It’s that old rock spirit, sadly, and like many of their forefathers the consistent, bifurcating glad-handing by way of dipshit scene kids waters it all down until the orange drink cannot be watered down no more, and to that end I try to find the best of the bad situation known as “Children of Bodom”. Their latest, “Relentless Reckless Forever” (…what?), seems to teem with that “best of…” notion in that, in accordance with their past few albums, it contains slightly more cohesive songs with a touch more melodic thrash added to the modern sound they’d flirted with in recent years. What helps plug this little firecracker along is that each track feels like a real song rather than a handful of riffs and ideas pasted together, and, for the first time in quite a while, you can hear the keyboard lines. This helps make certain moments on the album sound less dry and more interesting, sugar-coating the increasingly-lazier riff structures and increasingly-blander solos with mere hintings of the symphonic fluff of old. Most of said structures are slightly better boilerplate nu-Bodom chunking that brand-new “Downfall” shirt-clad high schoolers clamor for and leave us long-in-the-tooth old timers longing for something wild to once again come bursting from the mighty corpse of Espoo like Roy the Reaper’s blade, with a few notable exceptions. The thing is, these guys are/seem perfectly capable of running their fingers along their guitar necks and synth keys with skills some of us out there wish we had, and they occasionally show that ability in fleeting moments, such as the stronger likes of “Shovel Knockout” and “Ugly”, only to be squelched some by the more trendy sounds of “Not My Funeral” and “Was It Worth It?” to remind us that Lake Bodom is still drying up.
At the end of the day, “Relentless Reckless Forever” is a better offering from the one-time heir apparents to the Finnish melodic metal throne, given their new direction, but the end result is not quite as addictive or awe-striking as we know they’re capable of being. Simply put, this probably won’t see the light of day versus their earlier offerings. But, the way I see it, they’ve yet to pull a Dimmu Borgir or Nightwish level of musical betrayal, so all you can do is bring your lips to the brim and enjoy the drink, no matter how bitter.
I must admit that I am not a big fan of Children of Bodom. In my opinion, those guys are a bunch of posers and their main fan base are male teenagers that think they are rebellious and very metal while they listen to their wicked music amongst other favourites such as Avenged Sevenfold or Atreyu. The number of "fucking fucks" that Alexi Laiho pronounces during the band's concerts is simply silly. I remember an interview with the so called "Wild child" for a German magazine where he tried out several sorts of beer and got heavily drunk and told about his greatest alcoholic experiences. All those things are reason why I regard Children of Bodom as a an immature fun and poser metal band that are enjoyable from time to time but not to take seriously from an artistic point of view.
But if I take a closer look at their music, I must at least admit that the band has got some talent. The keyboards are nor overwhelming, but well chosen. The guitar solos are of a high quality and there are also some great bass lines to find from time to time. The vocal quality is not much diversified but still quite unique and memorable. The only ordinary thing about the band's sound is probably the average drum work. There is also the fact that the band has a certain style and brand and doesn't quite move away from it so that there are no reasons for any new fans to try out certain new albums. You simply love or hate Children of Bodom and their style and they won't innovate or reinvent themselves.
That's why many songs on this new record sound rather similar and repeat the usual patterns. All the songs are rather short melodic death metal tracks with some keyboards and a few great guitar solos and the lyrics are about death, hate and black humour. Of course, there is another ironic fun party cover song on the record and the reaper on a rather boring and ugly album cover. The only new thing is that there is no song with the word "Bodom" on this record, maybe the band has run out of ideas but maybe the wanted to feel free to do whatever they want on this album.
Many songs have a few interesting elements in the beginning or in the instrumental parts but get soon lost and are not quite memorable. There is no typical sing along chorus, catchy riff or live hymn on this record. The only rather outstanding song might be "Was it worth it?", the first single, because of its unusual vocal parts and a mixture of progressive and aggressive sounds with some epic guitar melodies at some points. This diversity is also in the enjoyable opener "Not my funeral" and the quite hard but atmospheric "Ugly" which I would consider as album highlights.
Most of the other songs have promising beginnings but turn out to be typical and ordinary songs in the key of the old works of the band. "Shovel Knockout" for example starts with a great dark tuned bass guitar introduction and a nice guitar riff but the tension and diversity finds an end after less than a minute. "Roundtrip to hell and back" is the softest song on the record and calmer than the others. The dominating keyboards do a great job and the song would have been an amazing single but it ultimately lacks of a catchy chorus or something overall memorable. "Cry of the nihilist" has an interesting Thrash Metal attitude and some great instrumental parts but the vocals bore to death.
There are also some rather bad songs on the record. "Pussyfoot Miss Suicide" is as stupid as the title suggests and even quite embarrassing for a hype band like Children of Bodom. "Northpole throwdown" is just fast and aggressive and invites you to create a wall of death during the concerts or to simply smash your head against the wall. This is modern brutality for frustrated children but of no interest for a mature metal fan. The worst track is probably the title track "Relentless reckless forever". I think that a title track should represent an album and be one of the stronger songs but this one is simply boring and the worst choice the band could have made.
In the end, this is an average album with three quite good, three good average and three bad songs on it plus a quite useless cover song. Old fans of the band might like the album but prefer the earlier works for sure. All the others may recognize that the band hasn't moved an inch away from their typical sound and style and may quickly loose a possible interest for the Children of Boredom. Still, the album is much better than what I first expected.
I get it now. The album pretty much sucks. I would not consider buying it or recommend anyone else buy it, but after finally seeing them live this week I understand why they continue to do what they do.
These guys love performing live. And like fans, they seem to also prefer their classic albums as well as some of the hits from the newest three albums. (God I hate using the word 'hit' in a metal review.) Releasing a new album every few years comprised of several good songs within an overall album of boring, unmemorable songs is what this band does now. Whether you like it or not, it gives them the means to tour and bring you the classics you know and love from Fear the Reaper, Hatecrew Deathroll, Hatebreeder, and even Something Wild. Whether this is because they have run out of ideas, don't have time, or are just being lazy, who knows?
In my opinion, this album has one great song, a good song, an okay song, and an okay song.
1.) Not My Funeral - This one is a good song. Nothing amazing. Has a couple new good ideas and is catchy enough that I can hear it in my head from time to time.
Tracks 2-5 are boring and were a pain to push through. I have no reason to ever listen to them again or even list their names.
6.) Ugly - This song is the best on the album and would fit right in on Hatecrew or Reaper. Furthermore, it might have been the best song they performed live the other night, even better than the classics. What they did with the lighting during the speedy opening riff was a pretty cool affect. I was very impressed. I hope they keep this one on their setlist for years to come.
8.) Was It Worth It? - Catchy, I'll give em' that. But, it's a little on the trendy side for me. Though it's an okay song, it surely helped get some mall kids to buy the album and pack the concert hall. That's not a good thing, especially when a band like Ensiferum opens, which should be a privilege to see before a Children of Bodom set. Instead, all the kids with "Relentless Reckless" and "Blooddrunk" t-shirts just stood there and completely sucked the life out of the building while Ensiferum put on one hell of a show for them. The Ensiferum bassist Sami Hinkka seemed to be completely aware of this and looked as if he took it personal. He seemed to want to go to battle with these kids when he didn't get any reaction from the crowd. I would have paid to see this because he is a frightening dude who probably could have taken down a majority of the mall kids with his bass alone.
9.) Northpole Throwdown - A heavy song that is short and just ends abruptly. I can never remember how it goes.
We would all probably love to see Bodom take the time to write a complete album. Waiting for enough ideas to come so that an album with tracks like these from the previous three albums could be released on one album would be awesome:
- Living Dead Beat
- Are You Dead Yet?
- If You Want Peace Prepare for War
- In Your Face
- Hellhounds on My Trail
- Not My Funeral
That would be a pretty sweet album you'd have to admit. However, realistically, these guys are making a living touring. If that means releasing several good songs with an album of mediocre songs so they can keep bringing fans what they want live, I will take it. On this current Relentless Reckless tour it was a near perfect set list only containing a couple duds from this album. I will not ever listen to the entire album again. Just the several songs I like. But if I ever get the chance to see these guys throw down for a night I will happily pay for concert tickets.
Aaah...a new COB album...something that we always look forward to. But this time around, fans were even more anxious for the release of a new 'anticipated' masterpiece simply due to a slight glint of hope...which pretty much died after I listened to the album a few times...and by few, I mean somewhere around 50. Bodom, sadly, isnt the Bodom we knew anymore. Its like Ashes of the Wake meets Hate Crew Deathroll with a little hi to Motley Crue. I have to literally pinch myself as I solely admit that they have now become a lazy bunch of retards who just want to party and mess around with girls and then write songs about it like PUSSYFOOT MISS SUICIDE! Can't imagine how anyone can sink so low...wasn't the Britney Spears cover enough?
The song titles, to begin with, are seriously misleading. I mean to say that if you look at a song name called CRY OF THE NIHILIST, you expect some black metal-ish symphonies and atmosphere...not to forget the aggression, but instead, you get some punk riffs and out-of-place keyboards. UGLY and PUSSYFOOT MISS SUICIDE are in a way, 'better', I would say. I thought they're going to be full on pop songs, but the experience of going through it wasn't as bad as it sounds...although in totality, they ARE bad. The same goes for Was it worth it...Bodom have a strong reputation of building up amazing intros and then blowing the rest of the song into oblivion since Living Dead Beat or In your face. Seriously demeaning...
On a personal level, I thought Jaska's drumming and Alexi's lead work(strictly not riff work) were great. The attempt to make heavier riffs were quite good but ended up being way to groovy. However, I may listen to the album for the effective drumming, if at all I bother coming back to it. Even the bass sounded good and acceptable. But the biggest disappointment (and I dont believe I am about to say this) is Janne Wirman! The guy who has been saving the band all these years delivers absolutely NOTHING new. The patches that he uses seriously makes me feel that the Roland JV-2080 is a useless sound module with limited range of decent voices. His leads are not at all memorable. Same old boring scale runs and now I am starting to think he does it heartlessly. Come on! Solos are meant to have a 'soul'. Soul-O! (lol...that was bad) Although, his funky outing in Not my funeral sounded good and I enjoyed his finger-feast in Shovel Knockout and Roundtrip to hell n back. But these are going to fade out soon. Frankly, even the Roadkill Morning keysolo sounded better than all of these put together. But we can cut him some slack, surely. He deserves to under-shine after delivering continuously. But now he needs to know that he truly has to make amends. Maybe have some piano pieces or some prominent choirs like Kalmah or Nightwish...not copying them, but be a wee bit more atmospheric and enigmatic...
In a world where people are gasping to catch up with amazingly fresh technical melodeath bands like Lykathea Aflame, The Faceless and Psypheria, talented wizards like the Bodom boys stay busy trying to mesmerize the muggles. I know we shouldn't compare melodeath/thrash/punk with Technical Death Metal, but it hurts to see that COB are wasting their time and quite honestly, OUR's too. My rating is purely because I love the band to death and I DONT want them to lose more fans...I don't expect them to get back to their old sound, but at least make something that makes us feel confident saying, "I am a huge fan of Children of Bodom."
Not My Funeral, Shovel Knockout, Roundtrip to Hell & Back
There are three fanbases that piss me off. The first is ICP because clowns wielding CLEAVERS (not fucking hatchets) doesn't seem as scary they try to make it. The second is Slipknot, but who doesn't hate maggots? Finally that leaves me with Children of Bodom. I'm so tired of people writing "COBHC" everywhere and saying that Alexi is the best guitarist ever. I used to listen to them a lot, and some of their early album hits are really fun (especially the song, "Mask of Sanity" - Follow the Reaper, 2000), but overall, they are one of the most overrated bands. The fact that the members have talent is nice, but there is so much better music out there. I guess it's pre-bias, but I had low hopes for this album, especially since Blooddrunk was a total bomb.
Though this album was on the bottom of my listening list, it actually didn't suck as much as I thought it would. On this album, they went back to the sound right before Are You Dead Yet? and used that to form a new sound. Ironically, it sounded a lot like Follow the Reaper with more metalcore aspects to it. Most of the songs made me either laugh (at how goofy the lyrics felt) or actually get into them. I felt myself getting lost in a few songs, especially "Shovel Knockout", which was arguably the most technical song they have ever done.
The guitars were mediocre for the most part focusing around moderately hard chordal structure, tremolo picking, blues-esque solos and pinch harmonics, but it was catchy, so at least you can get into it sometimes. After a while, it can get boring, but I feel that way about this band in general, so that's not stating too much. Personally, this album's song structure (for guitar) was really similar to Hate Crew Deathroll. It was nice to hear that sound again. Especially when the chords of the guitar matched the keys in the right way. It often felt like they knew what they were doing - or just sobered up for the recording sessions.
Speaking of the keys, they were fantastic. I have always thought the keyboardist in this band was the one with the most talent, and he shows it (especially in "Roundtrip to Hell and Back"). It's really amazing to hear him be playing such a complex song while making it seem effortless. You know a keyboardist is good when he can play solos damn near as fast (if not faster) than the guitarist.
I have nothing to say about Alexi's vocals or the rhythm section of this album. It was completely cut and paste from any other Children of Bodom release. I seriously think they have a soundboard of Alexi so they can get that sound EVERY. GODDAMN. TIME. Personally, other than Something Wild, I think he's sounded like he has the same sound. It gets vexing.
Concluding this review is easy. I know who will like this album - Fans, people who like keyboards and people starting out on metal. It's not the greatest thing I've heard, and by far not the worst.
The inconceivable aberration known as Relentless Reckless Forever has done the previously impossible: It has made me appreciate Blooddrunk. Laiho's previous opus was lambasted upon its release for embodying a half-hearted attempt at reviving Hatebreeder-era stylings in a safe endeavor to win old fans back while preserving the newer fanbase. At the time, I agreed with the popular opinion, thinking the band couldn't sink any lower. Obviously, we were all wrong.
No, Alexi. No number of orchestra hits will make this material compelling to your original fanbase; not when the material is barely passable as a B-side of Blooddrunk or Are You Dead Yet? The last two albums suffered from a severe lack of keyboards. A controversy which was haphazardly remedied in a lethargic way here. Relentless Reckless Forever has plenty of keyboard solos and leads, none of them memorable at all. For the first time ever I can state with replete confidence that Janne is simply going through the motions, bringing nothing innovative to the table. His entire repertoire consists of tacky sounding bells/strings, badly placed orchestra hits, and heartless solos. I have never been so disappointed.
Bodom's rise to fame was largely dependent on their memorable melodies and catchy hooks: blistering leads and harmonies that you couldn't get out of your head for days. Now, just as in Blooddrunk, melodies often start promising then degrade into pentatonic sections which completely destroy the catchy nature of the section. This was a dilemma that has grown from a nitpick in the previous two albums to a major complication here. I would hazard a guess that the band's collective attempt to replicate American-style metal caused this corrosive paradigm shift.
Positives are hard to come by, however I will say that Jaska Raatikainen has improved dramatically from his previously dull outing during the Blooddrunk sessions. The title track, sections of Shovel Knockout, and Was It Worth It? are Bodom-worthy moments just making you wish that the band stopped trying to appeal to the watered-down American audience and got back to what made them such a force during the turn of the century. Immature track titles and an overuse of irrelevant audio clips put the final nail in the coffin. I feel like I just got a Lobodomy.
Despite a lame piece of cover art that looks like a poster for a movie directed by Rob Zombie or something, Relentless Reckless Forever heaves the Bodom boys out of the partial slumber they've rested in since 2003's Hate Crew Deathroll. Although Are You Dead Yet? and Blooddrunk had moments of arse-kicking in the form of 'Living Dead Beat', 'In Your Face', 'Hellhounds on My Trail', 'Banned From Heaven', 'Roadkill Morning' and a couple others, they felt a mite sterile next to the feral assaults of Hatebreeder and Follow the Reaper.
Turns out Hate Crew Deathroll was just one big fucking party that left them with an eight year hangover. Now they've had their greasy breakfast in the form of Are You Dead Yet? and a stiff coffee with Blooddrunk. So naturally they're back on the cheap beer and approaching the sound of Hate Crew Deathroll, the passionate melodies and flamboyant keyboard runs of early material once more complementing the slightly modernized and thrashing edge of later attempts.
While there aren't any Mozart pieces being blasted out on lead guitar, the album is nice and dark from the get-go. Menacing synths and dramatic harmonized riffs characterize the stone-cold stunner of an opener that is 'Not My Funeral', and the vicious 'Shovel Knockout' accelerates into higher gears than almost any other song by the band. The bizarrely titled 'Pussyfoot Miss Suicide' is fairly disjointed, leaving little impression, but the huge rock-out riffs of the title track and 'Cry of the Nihilist' grab you right by the ball-hairs. Everything sounds a lot more Finnish this time around. Can't explain myself there, except that the intricate shredding of a song like 'Ugly' or the moody, stomping standout 'Roundtrip to Hell and Back' would melt nicely into a live set alongside old timers like 'Taste of My Scythe.'
There is a "commercial" track nestled in towards the end of the album, the overly catchy and chuggingly heavy 'Was it Worth It?' which could have fit on the 2005 album. Tony Hawk is in the music video, I think, or someone a bit like him. This time the band's pop hit floats by without causing offense and I rarely skip - and the charging melodic thrash of 'Northpole Throwdown' blasts it away anyway. The latter song features one of the most exciting Alexi Laiho solos I've heard, pure alcoholic fury and decadence in notated form. Laiho is on 2003 top form on Relentless. Throughout the album he nails a ton of riffs just right for the job, from meaty and atmospheric crunchers to savage cookers.
While Laiho has entered the mainstream eye and become something of a guitar god, with many a cover spot on the rock and metal magazines down your local WH Smiths or wherever it is you go for slashed-price moronic fiction, his vocals have never attracted critical acclaim. Funny that. While the hoarse bark that replaced his old black metal vocals for the last three full-lengths could become unconvincing at times, his sub-Schuldiner screams are more tolerable amongst the metallic battery a-goin' down here.
The remainder of the band obediently supply technically flawless performances, bass guitar spot-on, Roope Latvala providing solid rhythms and Janne Warman once more relevant beyond the odd keyboard solo guest appearance (contributing to the record feeling more Finnish, I guess! Ah, stereotypes). Drums meanwhile are fantastic, mercilessly smashing away all in the band's path toward pentatonic ruination, while the mix offered is thicker, rumbling and less one-dimensional than on the last two albums.
For those who coughed blood upon hearing the band's previous two albums, and certainly those of you who wouldn't even take Hate Crew Deathroll home to meet your mother, this might not get you back into a Children of Bodom beanie. The Helsinki rudeboys are still sluts for super-catchy riffs, a brahutally heavy rhythm sound, rock-out-with-our-cocks-out attitude and the odd bit of glam. Personally I wasn't violently opposed to recent stuff, and so this is a solid offering as far as I'm concerned, proving the band are capable of making very capable and stage-worthy heavy metal with a ton of attitude. Let's hope they keep the party going a bit longer this time, for fuck's sake.
I don't know about anyone else, but I've almost always found the music of Finland's chosen ones Children of Bodom to be like a brief bout with drunkenness. You feel elated, almost euphoric and dizzy when first confronted with their musical prowess, but all too quickly you've come down from the cloud. Most of their albums simply have not lasted me more than an hour or two of initial enjoyment. It's the melodic death metal equivalent to Ecstasy, just not as powerful or life changing as, you know, real hard drugs. That said, there have been some exceptions in their catalog. I enjoyed and still enjoy a few tunes from 2000's Follow the Reaper, and their previous album, Blooddrunk, was a nice surprise, the Wild Child and his companions seeming to tune out a fraction of their spastic composition to write a record with some atmosphere.
Relentless Reckless Forever more or less follows this same trail, but there are definitely a few stretches in the album which drag me towards disinterest. For example, I really don't enjoy Alexi Laiho's vocals for more than a few minutes. They remain brash fits of Tomas Lindberg worship that still feel like tortured teenagers, despite his evident maturation in writing and performance. It's not that they don't fit the music, but I almost wish that some of the riffs the band writes, which are often pretty damned good, were helmed by a more poignant presence. Then there is the wanking, the flurries of guitar and keyboard leads that stretch off into nowhere but self indulgence and impressing the more gullible elements in their audience who seek flair over substance. Last, but not least, the band holds on to this strange 'tough guy' album that they glossed up on records like "Hate Crew Deathroll" and "Are You Dead Yet?". We've got songs here like "Shovel Knockout", "Northpole Throwdown", and "Pussyfoot Miss Suicide" that sound like bad signature wrestling moves.
Brushing all of this aside is not easy here, because the elements do occasionally interfere with the content of this album, but otherwise it's a fairly solid and engaging listen. I especially like the distinct precision they create with a lot of their riffing. For example, the interaction of the bass and flighty, taut melodies that inaugurate "Shovel Knockout", and then explode into a circular vortex of speeding insanity. As forced and testosterone driven as such a burst feels, there is some great music in there, and when they break out the chorus with Warmin's keys, it erupts into the same passion I enjoy in other Finnish melodeath like Kalmah or Norther. "Cry of the Nihilist" and "Ugly" are two more riff-tastic tracks I would point out, and I also enjoyed the more accessible, poppy prog/metal veneer of "Roundtrip to Hell and Back". Then there are a few cuts I thought were mixed bags, like "Pussyfoot Miss Suicide" which trips over itself with, in my opinion, a few too many things happening, or "Relentless Reckless Forever" itself, which has 1-2 reusable parts in an otherwise forgettable chassis.
Overall, didn't care for this quite so much as its predecessor, which surprised the hell out of me despite the divisive reactions, but I would still say that Relentless Reckless Forever is good fun for those seeking to shut off their mind and dabble in the tempest of youthful energy. Children of Bodom are no longer children, but they still perform with that implied attention span, and there is really not a lot to this that will remain durable in the months to come, but there was obviously a good deal of effort put into this and some noteworthy riffs that, with better vocals and overall construction could certainly be considered brilliant. Obviously the hardcore fans of all things Bodom, who wouldn't care if the band recorded themselves chewing crackers for an hour at high speeds, will find much to praise here, but for the rest of us, there's a passing semblance of entertainment.