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Something Vile - 40%

Livingwave17, June 29th, 2018

For as long as I can remember, I’ve known that Alexi Laiho is a very similar guitarist to Jari Maenpaa of Wintersun. As a longtime Wintersun fan, this means that I was intrigued to see what makes Alexi Laiho rise to such praise. However I never got around to hear Children of Bodom but after they were announced as a headliner at a festival that I will be attending, it felt like a perfect opportunity to hear this band out. Considering that they have recently celebrated two decades of existence with their ’20 years down and dirty’ tour and a big part of the playlist was from the debut album and I felt like it’s a good starting point.

‘Something Wild’ is in my opinion a highly overrated album for a number of reasons, and while the guys definitely have a lot of skills, when it comes to actually writing something pleasant to listen to, there’s a whole new story to be told. As the album starts playing, the first thing you hear is a simulation of a thunder followed by an evil laugh, jumping straight into a crazy riff. Soon follows guitar lead that sounds quite promising, but it is overshadowed by the low quality of the sound and the lack of inspiration in the song writing. What annoys me the most is the fact that after hearing this album quite a number of times, it’s clear that this band could be so much more than it is.

To start by clearing out the Jari vs. Alexi dilemma, I can see why they are associated. Their riffing and soloing style is very similar. They are both very technical and base their songs on killer speed and grinding harshness of the guitar sound. But these bands are a million miles apart in the way the music is built. I’m aware now that being a Wintersun fan will not make you a CoB fan and it’s applicable the other way around as well. CoB is for lovers of adrenaline inducing, hate filled, evil music, and this album is, quite simply put, a killing spree. Where the album suffers most is in the uninspired overall structures of the songs, the cheap sound mixing and the vocals and lyrics. At the time of this release, CoB where nothing more than rebel hate filled teenagers with an unstoppable urge to burn some stages. I know that this is only a debut, and I have heard albums with cheap production before that sounded good, but here, it literally becomes difficult to deal with the shrieking that plows through your ears for thirty-five minutes. The drums sound empty and shattered, there’s no depth, the bass seems to be missing completely, there’s no clarity, the voice is quite simply impossible to understand and the overall feeling is like listening to music through a speaker with a broken membrane. I can’t say anything nasty about the lyrical theme because… well there isn’t one. It’s just ‘hate this, kill that, burn the other, and do it all drunk and in a hurry’. And this is the vibe that the vocals send as well. Alexi’s harsh high pitched screeches in the higher spectrum are actually pretty good and despite making the ‘so-called’ lyrics impossible to hear, it’s actually enjoyable up to a point. The pointless yelling and the lower growls are where he sounds like an obnoxious animal, but thankfully there isn’t so much of that going on. I know that this is only a debut and I have heard albums with cheap production before, but it usually doesn’t hurt the music that bad. Maybe this problem disappears on the latter albums, and I’m actually curious if this band has grown from their initial state of teenage fury, but the same depiction of death on every album cover doesn’t exactly bring the word ‘Evolution’ to one’s mind.

If you’re a CoB fan and you’ve read this far, I appreciate you putting up with my rant and I hope you’re not currently on your way to buy lots of guns. If you are though, I’d like to ask you to turn around and stay with me a little longer, because I actually have some good stuff to say. Where the album earns most of its points is in the guitar leads and the keyboard work. There is a powerful neoclassical influence to the music with an Yngwie Malmsteen sort of vibe to it. I was astounded to hear harpsichord sound in the middle of what appeared to be an overdose of adrenaline. Where the vocals and riffs shut up and throw some leads that somehow hover above the harsh mix you can really hear some cool ideas. Take the opening guitar lead of ‘Lake Bodom’, the classical bits of alternating guitars and keys from ‘In the Shadows’ or the background keyboard that tries and even succeeds a bit, at soothing all the tormenting rough edges of the mix throughout the album. These are the elements that make the structure of the music stay together, allowing you to see some serious potential.

To emphasize the positive note, there is a lot of skill in Children of Bodom, and I’d like it if you could leave with that in mind. But the problem is that the music simply cannot be enjoyable. There are actually some good ideas in there but they’re snowed under a pile of retarded badassity, horrible sound and pointless riffs, like an obese teenager sitting on a tricycle for toddlers. When he eventually sits up, you can throw the darn thing away even if it was good to begin with. It’s not that they couldn’t make good music, it’s that they don’t want to. Everything about this album rimes with a waste of potential, and I’m sorry but if while being able to play baroque leads like a guitar god, you decide to revolve around yelling like a drunk, and riffing pointlessly like a maniac… then you’re just not worth it…