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Something wild has survived. - 90%

Diamhea, February 8th, 2018

This is what many consider to be Children of Bodom's finest hour - certainly no small claim. Hatebreeder's position in the timeline for the most part reflects the quality therein, existing as some sort of Frankenstein-esque amalgamation of disparate ideas thrown together in a manner somewhat-redolent of the debut. And while Something Wild suffered from a lack of coherence and unappealing/inconsistent track order, most of that is rectified here. Although generally a very spastic-sounding release by most standards, Hatebreeder effectively melts the band's earlier manic intensity into its more agreeable base forms. The end result is an album with a varied, yet lethal array of armaments at its disposal. This should be seen as the archetype of Children of Bodom's early sound.

Although Follow the Reaper trumps this one on raw melodicism alone, the suffocating nature of said record's incessant lead guitar/synth tandem tended to bottleneck the veracity of the rhythm constructions. Here, we get an overall grimier, dangerous sounding record with upfront, clicky drums and a guitar tone that strikes a near-perfect balance between loose, jangly leads and airtight, snappy distortion. The numerous breaches of then-genre protocol really give Hatebreeder a virile identity that persists to this day, be it the blasting, circuitous discord of "Warheart" or the low-end thrashing of "Wrath Within." (the latter exhibiting a sound rarely pursued by the band later on) The album strikes the anvil while the style is still malleable enough to conform. And it isn't as if Children of Bodom have any pretensions of becoming trendsetters here - it is simply the manner in which Laiho's drug-and-drink fueled ambition played out.

Even more agreeable to my ears is the fact that each track here has a distinct identity, be it the ironically "pirate" sounding main riff to "Silent Night, Bodom Night," the perfectly-placed "Fuck!" in "Black Widow," the aforementioned thrashier intensity of "Wrath Within" or the resplendent, melodic drawl of "Downfall;" there are simply too many timeless cuts to take proper account of in this writing. The neoclassical edge to the melodies remains as a clear carryover from the debut, although this time the balance is struck with more verve. Laiho also attempts that bellowing, decipherable "singing" style on many tracks like "Warheart" and the title track, which bifurcates the vocal monotony somewhat. Wirman is also somewhat restrained here compared to later work, injecting a crafty barrage of throbbing string ensembles and the ever-loved orchestral hit. Keyboard solos are more scarce than one would think, but are executed with finesse that Janne simply doesn't care to recreate nowadays.

And a final mention has to be made of "Downfall," which should be seen and appreciated as a precursor to the mid-paced atmospheric cuts that Children of Bodom have included at least one of on every album since. "Everytime I Die," "Angels Don't Kill," "Banned from Heaven," "Prayer for the Afflicted -" all can be traced back to this point of stylistic germination. Hatebreeder is more fun than a barrel of monkeys, and while my personal taste dictates that it can't possibly top Follow the Reaper, I can't bring myself to rate it any lower. So much of the current melodeath scene can be traced back to this point that it can't be seen as anything less than a genre innovator. Timeless.