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Halo of Hatecrew - 85%

Baragon94, June 7th, 2013

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

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