Review Summary: Children of Bodom's finest work.
Well, has anyone here heard of "fun" death metal? It's a very tough thing to describe in a sense, but Children of Bodom is a band who can make just that. From the peppy, high-tempo delivery to just plain speed, this band finds and strikes that sort of balance here. In fact, it's quite a departure from CoB's debut album, Something Wild, which featured a very grim and heavy feel reminiscent of Norwegian black metal (a genre they borrowed from heavily at the time). Well, they've honed their style and polished it in this record, and it's definitely worth it.
With Alexi "Wildchild" Laiho leading the pack, the quintet goes through a stream of genres, something CoB is heavily debated for. There are things such as death metal, black metal, power metal, neo-classical, shred, speed metal, symphonic music, and some prog dabbled in for good measure. The other members hold up quite well at a technical standpoint: Alexander Kuoppola provides a great backbone to Alexi's shredding; Janne Wirman has very fast, technical shredding that generally coincides with Alexi's solos; Henkka Seppala just tears the bass up, especially on the title track; Jaska Raitikaanan delivers machine gun-style beats and generally technical rhythms. Basically, they are all very proficient musicians.
The album starts with a bang with "Warheart," an epic introduction to the great music CoB will utilize. It even starts with a cool line from the movie Amadeus, "From now on, we are enemies... you and I." Then BOOM! After Henkka's bassline, a huge raging thunderstorm of guitars and keyboards ensues, with speeding drums for support. It all sounds so intense to start, but when you get into the groove of the music then it actually settles in for some of the most accessible death metal to date.
Of course then, you'd probably still expect the vocals not to be for everyone... and you're right. Alexi utilizes a black metal-oriented approach, and occasionally a clean growl. It's not for the most accessible crowd, but it's not bad by any means. My only gripe is that they're pretty indecipherable overall.
Other tracks continue the bang that "Warheart" started. Two of the biggest recommendations would have to be "Downfall" and "Silent Night, Bodom Night." The former starts with a very haunting keyboard sound, almost with a dreamy mesmerizing approach. Afterwards, a great lead riff comes in and permeates much of the track. Many fills and breaks accompany the song, and some get quite progressive. The latter song is still the best here in my opinion. It has quite a melodic beginning before heading for one of the most haunting choruses around. As the title suggests, the song talks about the murders at Lake Bodom, very haunting indeed.
Another thing to mention about this album is that it's basically overflowing with neoclassical soloing from Alexi Laiho and Janne Wirman. This can be a very good thing. Take, for example, "Towards Dead End." The ending to this song seriously has one of the best solos by the band, if not THE best. It feature a bunch of trade-offs between keyboards and guitar work. The title track, "Hatebreeder," also includes this approach, especially in the middle bridge section. It has a very Malmsteen-esque riffing area that really shouldn't be missed.
Overall, this album is a very solid album, and a testament to how great Children of Bodom's albums used to be before they made changes. This album is very recommended. :)