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EFFORT! HONEST TO GOD EFFORT! - 81%

BastardHead, June 7th, 2013

Over the years, I've managed to review five of Bodom's then-current seven albums (don't read the first four of them, for your sanity's sake). They're not a band I ever really set out to constantly cover, but when a band is as important to me as this one is/was, and when said band finds itself on such a consistently downwards slide, it's hard not to pipe up every time they disappoint you. I maintain, even after all these years, that Follow the Reaper is one of the most important albums in my development as a metal fan, helping ease me from the HerPeS-only mindset into more and more extreme metal thanks to my eventual acclimation with Alexi Laiho's frenzied yowling. The vocals and lyrics have always technically sucked, but the level of enthusiasm was so high that it never mattered. It fit perfectly and just the sheer amount of fun the band was having with the light melodies and preposterously wanky dueling solos rubbed off on the listener. That all changed with Are You Dead Yet?, which focused more on heavy chugging and less on guitar/keyboard theatrics and fast paced and fun melodies. Ever since then, the band has been on the steady decline, releasing three crappy mostly-melodeath albums with wretched lyrics, banal, insipid jokes for cover tracks, and just really lazy songwriting. Years and years we fans have put up with the band just not giving a single fuck about anything, churning out brainless albums every few years, collecting a paycheck, spending it all on booze, and then making another shitty album to pay for their next supply of booze.

And then 2013 rolls around, and queue in Halo of Blood, the band's eighth album. Right off the bat, the aesthetics felt kinda different. The last three (bad) albums had all portrayed Roy in a more straightforward and vicious light, rife with menacing poses and gory splatter, whereas the earlier albums I love so much always seemed to portray the embodiment of death in a more romantic, mysterious light. Compare the cover for Follow the Reaper, where the Reaper is standing calmly in a graveyard, beckoning you forth, to the cover of Blooddrunk, where he's viciously slashing somebody with blood splattered all over the place. From "Death be not proud..." to "I DON'T GIVE A FLYING FUCK MOTHERFUCKER!" Clearly two massively different approaches to both their aesthetics and their music itself. Halo of Blood rolls around and suddenly it looks much more subdued. The palette is very predominately white (which could symbolize something lighter than previous, less dark), with the trademark Grim Reaper looking down remorsefully upon a frozen lake; where the snow has been brushed away you can see the water is packed with screaming victims, frozen under the surface. This is intriguing, this piques my interest. That romanticized take on death that used to counteract the band's youthful exuberance is so much more interesting than the last three albums which simply reaffirm the band's juvenile nature.

But moving past that... yeah, the throwback artwork is 100% indicative of the sound to be found on Halo of Blood. I could not be happier for what this album is, I really couldn't. The fifteen year old version of myself wet himself with happiness merely two tracks in. This is the true successor to Hate Crew Deathroll, ten sad years after the fact. As far as I'm concerned, this album just erased two and a half albums worth of ill will that Bodom had built up. Relentless Reckless Forever, Blooddrunk, and all but about three-ish songs on Are You Dead Yet? no longer exist to me. Bodom's drug fueled mishaps of the mid-late 00s were all just some strange hallucinatory fever dream I had. They never sucked! Hooray!

The important thing is that the music is good, right? Well, this album finally one-ups its predecessors by actually doing just that, making good music. The opening track, "Waste of Skin", utilizes a main melody quite similar to "Hate Me" from the stellar Follow the Reaper, and just revels in this lighthearted melody that the band used to always throw around in abundance. This is the throwback we've been waiting for, one that came straight from the heart, not the wallet. This is loaded with tracks that wouldn't sound out of place on the band's third or fourth albums ("Waste of Skin", "Bodom Blue Moon", "One Bottle and a Knee Deep", "All Twisted"), and this is the sound that I and countless other fans have been pining for for roughly ten years now. I feel like, somewhere down the line, Bodom got a wake up call of sorts. I'm not sure what or where or how, but the band collectively realized that they just weren't connecting like they used to, and had to think about how to stir up the passion within their fans again. The trick was to just... just try again. It's clear to me that the band wasn't didn't really have their heart in the last two albums, as they all just seemed to kind of go through the motions. Halo of Blood feels like the band is pouring themselves into the writing process again. They're having fun again, and for the first time in years, so am I.

I'm not going to sit here and pretend that there are a wide array of influences at work, but there are indeed a few different moments. Most notable is the nearly Dissection-esque meloblack influence in the title track, which ranks among the fastest songs the band has ever written. I'm most pleased with the fact that Bodom went back to doing what they did best, but that doesn't mean I don't also appreciate them trying something new (mostly because it works, as opposed to the last three albums of new ideas). There are a few bum spots as well, since there are still some minor holdover from the chuggy days with "Damage Beyond Repair". And yet again we have one of their kinda-trademarked terrible slow songs here in "Dead Man's Hand on You". Really, does anybody honestly prefer the slow Bodom songs like "Angels Don't Kill" or "Banned from Heaven" over "Towards Dead End" or "Kissing the Shadows"? If you do, I've got a fiver on you also preferring the doomy Overkill songs, you freak of nature. The point is that they're an inherently energetic band, so toning it down really doesn't do them any favors. It's like Stone Cold Steve Austin hosting a cooking show where he never once puts a crowd member through a table or Stone Cold Stunners Rachel Ray, it's a situation wherein the band/host isn't playing to their strengths. "Scream for Silence" does the same thing, but it's got a better pace and moves along well enough to not be too irritating (though the main melody has a really obviously flat note that seems completely out of place, which is irritating since it repeats so much).

But with those quibbles aside, there isn't a whole lot I dislike about Halo of Blood. It's the best kind of reversion I could have ever asked for. The keys are back in a relatively prominent role (much more so than the fuck all they did on Blooddrunk), ripping through overindulgent solo battles with Laiho's lead guitar just like the old days, along with providing melodies over the verses and such. "All Twisted" and "One Bottle and a Knee Deep" are great examples of this hearkening back to the glory days. He still doesn't let loose as much as he does for Warmen, but he does finally get some more opportunities to exercise those wacky spiderfingers of his. After several, several listens, I still can't tell if the lyrics are as drop dead derpy as they always have been, but to the album's credit, there aren't any titles as fucknards stupid as "Northpole Throwdown" this time around, and I'm not hearing "YOW" at the beginning of every single song nor "FUCK" at every sixth word, so it seems like Laiho has finally, finally learned how to write lyrics. There's a good possibility I'm wrong though, feel free to point out any horrid examples I may have missed. Even the cover song is good again. I mean think about it, early on the band was covering Iron Maiden, Stone, and W.A.S.P., and then around the time they started getting shitty, they started covering Britney Spears, Kenny Rogers, and Eddie Murphy. Their cover song has always been a good indicator of their attitude at the time, and they morphed from musicians having fun and covering their influences to a bunch of durr hurr lol random Invader Zim dipshits covering anything they thought was funny. So who do we get this time around? The mo'fuckin' Thunder in the East, LOUDNESS! Yeah, "Crazy Nights" is a kind of silly song, but it's silly in how over the top cheesy it is, as opposed to silly in the sense of METAL BAND COVERING POP SONGS?! OH PSHAW! They're tackling metal again, and it's awesome.

That melodic death/power metal hybrid I've been missing so much is back in full force, and Bodom fans around the world should rejoice, for the band has finally pulled their collective heads out of each other's collective asses. This still have a focus on heaviness in parts, as opposed to the "really fast Nightwish songs with ridiculous screechy vocals" of the first two/three albums, so if you didn't like Hate Crew Deathroll, then chances are you won't like Halo of Blood either. But let me tell you, I (and thousands of other fans) would much rather have a Hate Crew 2: Electric Boogaloo than Blooddrunk 2: Drunk Harder. Comeback of the year for me, hands down.


Originally written (with added visual aid!) for Lair of the Bastard