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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.