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Intriguebreeder. - 91%

hells_unicorn, May 1st, 2008

Children of Bodom were, at least during their early years, one of those bands that contradict the rule that if something gets mainstream attention that it will be hollow and uninteresting. They have had their fair share of exposure along with Cradle of Filth on the whole Hot Topic bandwagon, and are often lumped together with musically inferior acts such as Slipknot and a whole barrage of mallcore acts. Naturally the traditional fan of melodic metal would be embarrassed at associating with the abomination that Korn and Limp Bizkit pioneered, which explains the hostility that is often unfairly levied at this band’s older material.

I can’t fully explain the enigma of this band, particularly during this juncture of their career, being on the listening list along with bands that give Road Runner Records a bad name, other than there perhaps being a level of eclecticism amongst the monkey see, monkey do crowd that can associate real metal with Marilyn Manson. Perhaps it was my own personal lack of interest in anything associated with said scene that kept me unaware of this album, but upon first hearing it a little less than 2 years ago, I began to understand what all the hype was about.

“Hatebreeder” is a literal breeding ground of melody and flash with a thick sheet of seething rage guising as human shouts superimposed on top of it. At the time, the seemingly clashing elements of consonant melodic material being merged with toneless barks and growls was a melodic death convention, mostly lacking the blistering speed of the thrash and power metal genres which were also making serious headway at this juncture. The entire presentation on here is as tight and disciplined as a seasoned Neo-Classical outfit, unlike the sloppy mess heard on early Gothenburg acts, to who this band is often compared. I don’t think I’ve heard of a single guitarist in the melodeath crowd that has ever tried to capture a balance between Kerry King’s agitated brevity and Yngwie Malmsteen’s majestic speed, let alone put forward a keyboard solo to rival it, as is the case here.

The album is often hard to follow because there are so many old and new influences packed together into each individual song. “Warheart” kicks off with a rapid Joey Demaio inspired bass riff before landing on a blur of tremolo notes and a tight yet vicious blast beat that conjures up memories of Mayhem, yet with a slight hint of Kreator as well. Harmonically speaking the song mostly resembles a really aggressive power metal song, but the attitude put forth in the lyrics and vocals scream late 80s thrash. “Cowards Dead End” and “Silent Night, Bodom Night” combine the epic sensibilities of fellow Finnish acts such as Stratovarius with the same Kreator-inspired, knock you senseless, thrash metal punch. Some of the time the band actually presents some material not all that far removed from Slayer’s “Hell Awaits”, particularly the main riffs of “Wrath Within” and the album’s title track.

Not willing to be restrained to merely a power/thrash model of aggression, the band also ventures into territory similar to that of the Gothenburg scene, but with a lot more finesse. “Bed of Razors”, “Black Widow” and “Downfall” embody brilliant marriages of soft, atmospheric keyboard work and a slightly less aggressive take on speed metal more proper to the melodeath sub-genre. If At the Gates and all of their various bastard spawn had a better sense of how to write a song, I’d venture they’d come up with something close to this, save the keyboards of course.

And as far as the band’s self-titled song “Children of Bodom” goes; if you want to create some sort of top 10 list of most amazing songs in the aggressive yet melodic style, this one should definitely be on there. As most of what is on here has so many twists that memory retention becomes an issue, this song basically cancels out most of this very present flaw with a simple idea that gets developed like crazy. Tom Petty once said something to the affect that all the best songs make use of 3 to 5 chords, and this beast is no exception to the rule, although it’s probably far more ambitious technically than anything any hard rock band would ever dream of creating.

As far as this checkered metal band goes, you don’t really get a better picture of how they sound when they get it right than you do here. Most people tend to view “Follow the Reaper” as the band’s songwriting zenith, but this has a lot more gusto and lacks the overly polished studio work that takes away from the aggression that this band touts in their lyrics. If you have a problem giving this album a chance solely because you don’t like the bands fan base (I’m also not particularly fond of the crowd in question), I’d suggest getting over yourself and learning to separate the scene from the sounds, because you’re missing out on some great music.