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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.