For any seasoned fan of more extreme metal circles, then Children of Bodom do not need an introduction. Becoming famous in their early formation days for playing a ferocious, yet incredibly melodic brand of death metal with more seemingly in line with Sonata Artica than Six Feet Under (not that that is necessarily a band thing) courtesy of Janne Wirman's insanely catchy keyboard melodies and Alexi Laiho's guitar skills, this Finnish five peice seem to have very slowly ran out of steam over the years. Much like the proverbial faithful old dog, the band struggled to capture their early intensive fire that saw them release albums such as "Hatebreeder" and "Follow the Reaper", regarded as two of this particular niches finest albums, especially on 2008's "Blooddrunk" (let's just say the band were certainley drunk on something when they released the somewhat half-baked affair). So enter "Halo of Blood", featuring the producer of what is generally regarded as the band strongest material (Peter Tagtgren of Hypocrisy for those unaware) and an album promising a much more blackened and serious approach than previous releases.
|If first impressions are anything to go by, then Children Of Bodom are certainly going about it the right way|
Of course, the sound of old Bodom was still present on all of their records from "Are You Dead Yet?" onwards. It was just never there in the full force present on any album up to "Hate Crew Deathroll", instead tending to lurk in the background and occasionally rear its ugly head to provide glimmers of the part. Well, the good news initially is that this is the closest that the band has sounded to "Follow the Reaper" since, well, that album. Melodies from Laiho in particular are forced to the forefront of the bands sound, especially in extensive instrumental passages and song openings while Janne Wirman's keyboards are just placed a little further back into the mix, coming to the forefront for the bands trademark guitar/keyboard solo duels that have defined their career. Songs such as "Waste of Skin", "The Days Are Numbered" and "Scream For SIlence" all feature multiple solos and heavy hitting riffs, making the instrumentation some of the bands most impressive since "Hate Crew Deathroll". It should also be noted that sonically and both technically, this is by far the most competent drummer Jaska Raatikainen has ever sounded, especially on the title track and "Damaged Beyond Repair, almost sounding progressive in nature.. While blast beats and numerous instances of double bass are almost a trademark on Children of Bodom albums, here the drumming is tighter and much more inventive. The bass, courtesy of Henkka Seppälä is also solid and driving which helps a lot of the songs gain, or in most cases maintain momentum.
|Children of Bodom; instrumentally on top of their game|
For many, the make or break point with any of the bands albums seems to be the vocals of Laiho and he once again utilises his "barking" technique (I honestly could not think of a more technical way to describe it" but the delivery is clearer than in previous outings, especially 2008's "Blooddrunk" where he was virtualy unintelligible. This actually turned out to be something of a blessing, as the vocal passages for "Lobodomy" showed;
"You motherfuckers wanna give me, a lobodomy?Fuck no, then you know who I am?Well we're about to fucking seeYou started messin with deathNo one said?I'm a ManiacFuck yeah, you have no power to ask why!
Then I will give you a turn"
If nothing else, props for adding 3 swear words into 20 seconds of music. But in all seriousness, this is actually an are that has seen some improvement. Gone are many expletives, and sure while the subject matter is still somewhat cliche'd at least it is being delivered with greater conviction and clarity. The gang vocals, typical of this subgenre are still fist-pumping enough to rile a crows, and there is even some ominous spoken word in "Dead Man's Hand On You" that sets the atmosphere for this Bodom-by-Paradise Lost affair.
This is really something of a pleasant and unexpected surprise. This far into their career, many fans know what to expect from the band and on "Halo Of Blood", their expectations are met by the bucketload. Great instrumentation, good production courtesy of Tagtgren and an ominous blackened atmosphere lurks around a lot of the albums darker moments making everything seem more thought out and sincere than their last few studio outings which only serves to benefit the album. If the band can maintain this momentum and push forward from here, then we could all be in for even more treats.
8/10. Halo Of Blood is out now in Europe via Nuclear Blast Records