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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