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A decent return to the band's roots - 75%

kluseba, July 28th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak, Limited edition)

Hexed is the tenth studio release of Finnish melodic death metal quintet Children of Bodom. The gap between the underrated predecessor I Worship Chaos and this output is the longest to date with three and a half years. If you expected the band to come around with something spectacular, you might be somewhat disappointed. If you were however craving for more of the same on a high level, you will certainly appreciate this album.

The song writing has become a little bit more concise and less atmospheric if compared to the predecessor. The guitar work has become more domineering and goes back to the band's early output with obvious heavy and power metal reminiscences. The keyboards are used more scarcely but sound quite versatile and progressive when employed at the right moments. The vocals sound the same as usual and the rhythm section could be a little bit more adventurous here and there.

The record's first half is particularly strong. ''This Road'' is a concise opener with great melodic guitar play and progressive keyboard layers that never overstay their welcome. This track might be the band's strongest opener since the atmospheric ''Living Dead Beat'' fourteen years earlier. "Under Grass and Clover'' has cold and industrial verses but catchy and melodic bridges with wonderful guitar harmonies. This mixture shows the band's contradictory yet harmonizing sides and is a perfect choice for a single. ''Hecate's Nightmare'' is the record's most atmospheric track and sounds like a nightmarish lullaby with haunting keyboard melodies. ''Kick in a Spleen'' follows right after and fools the listener with an epic overture before this approach is abandoned for brutal and fast riffs and harsh screams that make for this record's most intense song. This track should find its righteous place on the set list for upcoming tours.

The record is not without its flaws however. The second half loses some steam and especially the last three regular tunes can't compete with the excellent first half and great middle section. The new version of ''Knuckleduster'' can't compete with the original version and the remix that closes the album is nervously noisy electronic music that makes push the skip button within seconds. This final song also includes a short hidden track that doesn't add anything to rate the record up either. The two live tracks feel out of place as well and a regular live release thirteen years after Chaos Ridden Years - Stockholm Knockout Live would be a more welcome addition to the band's discography. This record should simply have ended with the tenth track instead of watering it down with seventeen minutes of unnecessary filler material. If the band had been asked to absolutely record bonus material for the limited edition or the Japanese version, the quintet should have stuck to its usual cool cover songs.

In the end, Hexed is neither among Children of Bodom's greatest nor among its worst hours. The first half of the album is creative, energetic and melodic while the second half loses steam and the tracks of the limited edition are bearable. The overall sound with more guitar duels and efficiently employed keyboard sounds goes back to the group's earlier records which will please fans of old date. Those who have never quite liked the band won't become fans with this album either. Children of Bodom's Hexed is a good genre release but not worth a mandatory purchase.

Children of Bodom - Hexed - 90%

Orbitball, May 6th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak, Limited edition)

This is a somewhat less heavy release than say 'Halo of Blood', but it's more melodic. If I were to go so far as to say if this is their MOST melodic album to date, I'd have to disagree on the premise. My contention is that it's not as brutal as previous albums, be it 'Hate Crew Deathroll', 'Follow the Reaper', et al. It's like heavy metal mixed with melodic bits. They sure show their influences though, be it thrashers or composers, COB recognizes that they're main idols were actual composers. I only know this because I'm into all sorts of metal and composers like Mozart. Some albums sound like classical mixed with heavy metal guitar-work.

But all that aside, was this a step up from their previous? I would say "yes!" resoundingly. The tempos are pretty slow and the music just flows like water may in a river. They simply squeeze as much melody as they can on here and I'm surprised that not more people have contributed to reviewing this. Maybe it's because COB has been somewhat cliche with their past few platters. However, that doesn't take away from this effort, I actually am esteeming this quite highly. The leads and rhythms go well together. Alexi blasts on lead guitar (as usual). But this is a more laid back COB release. It seems to fall under a more maybe concept album. I'm not quite sure.

This whole release was about 60 minutes in length. It's worth the listen to though. The whole way through, that is. The vocals are similar to older releases screaming but not as aggressive. It's a milder album as I say, but it's still really good. Just keep in mind their influences and a riff or too may have sounded like something you've heard before, but don't know where. That's my view of course, though that doesn't take away from the hierarchy of COB riffs. They are solid here and worth listening to. They've dedicated their time to making one of the most consistent COB albums to date. Everything is in accordance to reason musically.

If you don't have this yet, or are curious as to how it sounds, you might want to try it on Spotify or YouTube. I'm sure you might think that they've totally slowed down (which was my first impression). However, once you get into it, you'll feel the COB vibe to it which may keep you coming back to it more and more. If it's their most melodic album, that stands to contention, my contention at least. Give it a try and if you don't end up buying the album because it's too slow for you, that's perfectly alright. But if you do like this, support the band and purchase a physical copy of the CD. It won't disappoint!

Bodom's Most Melodic Album - 85%

Dragonchaser, March 27th, 2019
Written based on this version: 2019, CD, Nuclear Blast (Digipak, Limited edition)

Children Of Bodom have fallen a long way since their glory days, producing uneven albums that, while always enjoyable, are more frustrating than anything else. I’ve been a die hard Bodom fan since my teen years, and it was great to see them get so much recognition when ‘Hate Crew Deathroll’ dropped in 2003, but like many bands I treasured (Nightwish, Sonata Arctica, Edguy), the new millennium and its pressure to be heavy enough to appeal to the youth of the day turned this band into something I didn’t like. True, I’ve enjoyed everything they’ve put out to a certain degree, but I’ve yearned for them to return to the ‘Follow The Reaper’ sound, and I thought we were almost there with 2013’s killer comeback ‘Halo Of Blood’. Then they put out just another muddy Bodom album with ‘I Worship Chaos’, still hitting that ‘Blooddrunk’ vein with no fucks given. So I approached this one with trepidation. Thankfully, I was rewarded in spades, as this is the best album this band have recorded since 2003.

I think this record could be taken in one of two ways. Either people will think it insipid and lazy, or they’ll appreciate its considerate melodic direction. I hope it’s the latter for most people, because this is a pretty remarkable album. With a crystal clear production job, ‘Hexed’ is a smooth, crystalline attempt to recapture this band’s more intricate, melodic side that was present on ‘Hatebreeder’ and ‘Follow The Reaper’, only it’s played with the conviction and anger of ‘Hate Crew Deathroll’. While it certainly feels like their old stuff, this is still very much a modern Bodom album, only they’ve ditched the dirty, abrasive groove riffing and replaced it with catchy melodies, subtle arrangements, and a touch of their old neo-classical flair. The album opens with ‘This Road’, a pretty typical modern Bodom tune that isn’t particularly noteworthy; it’s a cool song, but not representative of the album as a whole. Things pick up with my favourite cut on the album, the melodic, hair-raising ‘Platitudes And Barren Words’, and it never lets up from there. This run from ‘Platitudes’ to ‘Knuckleduster’ is crazy good. The title track is an epic monolith that references all of Bodom’s past, from its tinkling harpsichord refrain to its jagged power metal riffing, this is a classic in the making. The backing vocals are so infectious, you’re forced to join in. It’s not optional. Then the zesty riff of ‘Relapse (The Nature Of My Crime)’ kicks in and you’re fucking owned by a spicy banger that could’ve easily been on ‘Follow The Reaper’. ‘Say Never Look Back’ is a somber melodic piece, and we end with the sucker punch that is their reimagining of former b-side ‘Knuckleduster’, which finishes the album off in style. That main riff is a bone breaker.

I understand your skepticism regarding Bodom’s return to form, because this isn’t a straight up tribute to the past. It’s a new age Bodom album, much more considered in terms of melodic composition, with well structured songs full of atonal key changes, sweeping displays of guitar/keyboard interplay, and of course, Alexi’s hostile bark, which is as innocuous as ever. It’s not as in your face as many of their past efforts. I’d go as far to say this is actually Bodom’s most melodic album to date. It has low points; ‘Hecate’s Nightmare’ is a drag, and the first half of the record is not as inventive as the second, but that run mid-album is just heavenly, and such a shot in the arm for a band like Children Of Bodom, who prove with ‘Hexed’ that they are still a vital band.

A blessing or a travesty? - 65%

dasimusplagarin, March 14th, 2019

The last decade or so of Bodom albums have certainly been somewhat of a rollercoaster in terms of quality. For albums such as 2013’s return to form, Halo of Blood, there was the middling follow up release I Worship Chaos. Indeed it seems that with Hexed, the band takes a stripped back approach and it largely pays off for the most part.

The biggest addition to the album is the return of the long dormant neo-classical style which flavoured early records such as Hatecrew Deathroll and Follow the Reaper especially. Hexed is full of old school flare and doesn’t disappoint on the guitar side of things.

The singles prior to release gave us a strong idea of what to expect going into the full album with This Road and Under Grass and Clover leaving a lasting impression on me. I feel a similar way with how In Flames’ I, The Mask returned to old school roots too as I do here, It felt to me once I heard these two songs that their work prior to Blooddrunk was returning in full force and the album carries that momentum throughout.

In terms of the guitar work present, I believe that the addition of Daniel Freyberg works wonders to spark the creativity from Alexi Laiho and give us those dual aspects in the richness of the rhythm and scope that we have been missing from Bodom since 2013’s Halo of Blood with long time guitarist Roope Latvala absence.

What we have here is a catchy album with a tonne of riffs and melodies to spare backed beautifully by a healthy dose of old school synth work reminiscent of their Follow the Reaper and Are You Dead Yet? which work astoundingly well.

Lyrically there really isn’t anything to hold onto here. You won’t find any deep meaningful insight or anything of note to ponder on once you have finished spinning the record for the first or second time, not that it’s ever been Bodom’s strong point. On that subject, Laiho’s vocals remain unchanged from how they have always sounded and simply put, you either love his shrill bark or you hate it. I’m in the former category, I enjoy his gruff power metal shriek, not quite a growl or a scream but it once again, as always, is entirely serviceable and he sounds good enough here.

The choruses are once again hit and miss as far as Bodom goes, its a modern trapping that the band cannot escape, whilst a lot of the hooks are indeed infectious ear worms, that isn’t always for the best as the lacking/juvenile lyrical content quality on offer here leaves a lot to be desired. I’ll admit, I have listened to the record a couple times and I have a decent feel for it despite every song not having the staying power as their older material.

Fans of Bodom’s earlier releases, I believe shall be very happy with the band’s latest offering. You may not find depth but what you will find however is a fun record that doesn’t outstay its welcome, which is laden with technical, melodic and inspired guitar work which culminate in what I believe to be their best album since 2005’s Are You Dead Yet?.

[Originally written for Pit of Plagues -]