Review Summary: Schizophrenic power/melodic death metal at its best.
This is not an album for the faint of heart, or the newbie aspiring metalhead who’s taking his/her virgin steps into the vast realm of metal. Results may be catastrophic. Be warned.
It’ll go something like this.
A good friend lends you his some metal CD’s, since you’re a metal virgin, obsessed with mostly metalcore and nu-metal. Listening to your downloaded City of Evil album, you decided to browse through the CDs. Expecting names like Megadeth, Slayer, Iron Maiden, etc…what you saw, instead, were names like Kalmah, Stratovarius, Opeth, Nile, Nightwish, CHILDREN OF BODOM. Taking a random CD – which happens to be Follow the Reaper, you pop it into your disc drive, smugly assured that your own ‘metal(core)’ is the *** and you, being a fan of your ‘metal(core)’, are the most badass metal(core)head around.
It will be a quick and dirty lesson in hubris.
Forty-one minutes and fourteen seconds later, you lie prostrate on your floor, covered in sweat, having been senselessly violated over and over, your metal virginity taken in the most violent way imaginable to man.
Trashed, lost and strungout…you’ve just been BODOMIZED.
Sorry, I know that pun was a bit lame.
But this album will take you by force, especially if it’s your first time listening to it. Combining several genres into one, the boys of Bodom provide one of the most unique sounds in metal in this album. This is completely apparent even from the starting track, the title track Follow the Reaper. A generic, but catchy and powerful, melodeath intro, reminiscent of In Flames, paves the way for a completely power metal song. Everything from the Dragonforce-like bridge at 1:13, to the Stratovarius-like keyboards, to the blazing keyboard-guitar duel, culminating in the vastly epic guitar solo at 3:08 (my favourite Bodom solo), just screams power metal. I mean, sub out Alexi’s snarling vocals and sub-in Timo Kotipelto’s soaring voice and you have a perfect power metal anthem.
The next track starts off strong, as a sweet sounding drum intro kicks off the infectious Bodom After Midnight. This is easily, in my opinion, the most headbang-worthy song on this album, and that is saying quite a lot. The intro riff may sound a bit generic (once again) but a short guitar fill leads into, quite literally, headbanger’s ball. The riff starting at 0:46 (and once again at 1:32) is, to me, the catchiest, most infectious riff ever made. To top it off, it’s not that hard to play. Simple, catchy, rocking. Brilliance. And the song’s not finished. The chorus…well, if you don’t or can’t headbang to the chorus of this song…GTFO of metal right now. Headbanging continues to the bridge (the riff from Rock House Jail by Hans Zimmer). Suffice to say…sore necks will follow this song. And it’s only the second track.
Without even a second’s rest, Children of Decadence blows your face away with Bodom’s best intro by FAR. You can’t help headbanging (again), and by now (again, only the second track), your neck will probably be quite sore. This song is keyboard dominated (reminds me of Downfall). In my opinion though, while Downfall was the highlight of Hatebreeder, Children of Decadence isn’t much of anything but a transition track. Not a filler track, mind you (far from it, in fact), but to me, it merely provides a nice transition from the blazing Bodom After Midnight into the next, slower track.
The sole single off this album proves there can still be great singles without sacrificing musicianship. Everytime I Die is possibly one of the best put-together tracks in metal. Everything just works for this track. A chugging, death metal intro, a catchy-but-not-poppy main riff, and sweeps galore…three very different elements, and yet they manage to make it flow so nicely. While the previous tracks had their flaws in transitions from one riff to the next (Follow the Reaper’s melodeath intro sounds a bit weird transitioning into the Dragonforce-like power metal riff, and the guitar fill in the beginning of Bodom After Midnight doesn’t fit too well), this track is like a perfectly put together puzzle. And to top it off, it has deep and meaningful lyrics: a rarity in Bodom songs.
“The faint blaze of the candle of my life slowly dying like a fire in the pouring rain.
No sparks of hope inside, no shooting stars on my sky…I`ll let the wind blow out the light,
’cause it gets more painful everytime I die.”
The emotion in this song is spectacular (even more so than its carbon copy in HCDR, Angel’s Don’t Kill).
From slow to blazing fast, the next track is one of the most underrated Bodom songs. While Follow the Reaper was a total power metal track, Mask of Sanity shows a clear thrash metal state of mind. It’s thrash with keyboards. The verse guitar plays a thrashy power chord-laden riff and the prechorus is complete and utter thrash metal. Alexi’s even does the famous James Hetfield “Ooooghh” at 0:55. While the thrash may throw some people off, the song is still very much Bodom, complete with catchy, blazing guitar melodies. After a slow breakdown, it kicks into one of the most complex and ear-pleasing Bodom solos. The keyboard-guitar duel beween Janne and Alexi never gets old.
Taste of My Scythe marks, for me, a downpoint in the album. It seems like it’s another transition track for this album. And unlike Children of Decadence, there isn’t anything really special here. The riffs are nice and catchy, but it’s generic Bodom. And after 5 tracks of the Bodom sound, this track doesn’t offer anything new. It’s not a bad track at all, just a bit misplaced. This track is as close to a filler track as any Bodom song will get. Not much else to say, although it is worth at least checking out once.
Going into the weaker half of the album, we’re hit with a song that, at the same time, is so ridiculously good, and shamelessly bad that it’s impossible not to like. While the other songs on this album have lyrics that deal with death and the reaper, etc, Hate Me! is an aggressive, nu-metal song, the precursor to future Bodom songs like In Your Face and Are You Dead Yet? Bodom just manage to pull of the nu-metal attitude surprisingly well. The choral chant of “I DON’T GIVE A FVCK IF YOU HATE ME!!” is catchy and infectious. Not surprisingly, it’s a fan favourite at live shows: imagine thousands of Bodom fans screaming the line all at once. Now that’s epic.
The reason I label this part the weaker part of the album is because, although there are highlights, the two weakest songs are present. Taste of My Scythe was one of them. Northern Comfort is another. It suffers the same weaknesses as ‘Scythe’. The riffs are again generically Bodom (the intro riff = In Your Face’s main riff). The bridge, however, (at 2:17) is amazingly good, with an epic symphonic feel, complemented with another power metal-esque riff. To get there, however, you have to sit through a full two minutes of mediocrity. Not terribly appealing.
Bodom make up for it in the last track, however. It starts off a bit mediocre, but Kissing the Shadows quickly makes up for it in the second half of the song. Hastily put together in the studio, I guess Alexi ran out of ideas for riffs and decided to show off his shredding skills to fill up the rest of the song. While it may be a lazy solution, bottom line, it works. The keyboard-guitar duel is simply breath-taking. Almost a full two minutes of fret-burning and key-shredding by Alexi and Janne. Possibly the best keyboard-guitar duel in the history of metal. And it is a kick-ass way to end the album, finishing with the biggest bang you’ll ever experience outside of a Japanese fetish porn convention.
This album is pure schizophrenic metal, slamming you through death, thrash and power metal. This is the epitome of the Bodom sound that got them worldwide fame, and the best Bodom have ever produced. Damn near classic album: twenty years later, this album will be seen as Bodom’s very own Reign in Blood, Blizzard of Ozz, or Master of Puppets. If you haven’t heard it, you are missing out.
If you don’t finish this album needing reconstructive neck surgery, you’re not metal.
*Sorry I didn't mean for the review to be this long.