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A Return to Form - 90%

keithemerson5150, September 20th, 2013

While I do consider myself a fairly intense Children of Bodom fan, I have not been too much of a fan of their most recent releases. Granted, achieving the brilliance of an album like 'Follow the Reaper' (one of my all time favorite extreme power metal albums) would be difficult for any group, but I found the change of direction exhibited in the records 'Blooddrunk' and 'Relentless Reckless Forever' to not grip me nearly as much as CoB's classic material. So, I was not expecting much when I heard that Alexi Laiho and company were going to release another record, 'Halo of Blood.' But boy was I mistaken.

What makes 'Halo of Blood' such a true return to form is that the band is exploring themselves musically and creating exciting musical moments just as much as their classic albums. I realize that 'shred' may not be everyone's cup of tea, but for me the biggest appeal in CoB was always the musicianship: Janne Wirman's keyboard leads are always inventive and tasty, and Laiho's lead playing, at its best, rocks HARD. These more power-metally elements are on display in full force on this record. While every track has great solos and inventive musicianship, I have to say my favorite track in this regard is 'Bodom Blue Moon.' The whole song is a collection of technical lead guitar lines and memorable riffs, but for me as a keyboardist, the highlight of the song is the keyboard lead in the song's final moments, where Wirman shows off his chops with a deliciously creative keyboard lead. Roope on rhythm guitar, Jaska on drums, and Henkka on bass all deliver more than competent performances, but to be honest if you're listening to hear some mindblowingly awesome metal drum tracks, you're probably better off checking out Dream Theater or something. Nothing against Jaska though, because his parts on this album suit the music perfectly. Vocally, Laiho delivers strong performances throughout. His lyrics on the album are at times cringe-worthy, but then again, I personally have never listened to Bodom for the purposes of hearing life-changing, profound lyrical content...

All this being said, this album is not QUITE up to par with 'Reaper.' I'm not sure exactly what it is, but I don't think Bodom will ever quite top the magic of that record, or capture its pure energy and virtuosity. However, 'Halo of Blood' is certainly miles better than it's two predecessors, and signals a return to form that should make old-school Children of Bodom fans happy to say the least.