Review Summary: A colossal leap forward, full of thrills and spills
Children Of Bodom managed to construct a respectable legacy with their two best releases, Follow The Reaper
. They promptly went on to tarnish this legacy with every subsequent release, each one blemishing the defining sound of Children Of Bodom a little more. After three mediocre releases many felt that the band’s fifteen minutes was up. Halo Of Blood
, the latest high-energy release from the outfit seems to tick all of the usual Children Of Bodom criteria boxes: somewhat cliché/ violent title, an album cover featuring the grim reaper, and a wealth of typical song titles, ranging from the unusual to the too usual. Perhaps the most surprising aspect, though, is the album itself. C.O.B come blazing out of the gates with a trail of white-hot flame flitting behind them like a silvery tail. The most startling thing, though, is the fact the band have really not changed their approach to songwriting all that much; all that has really changed (and it is a very noticeable alternation) is how crisp and unwavering the material is. Previously, the musicality had rarely strayed from the safety of tempos, time signatures and even melodies as laid forth in the band’s earlier material. Halo Of Blood
effectively scrunches up the formula and then attempts to flatten it out once again. The labyrinthine folds in paper betray the again-recycled formula and some of the more underwritten areas, but for the most part, this formula is honed to its finest degree since Hate Crew Deathroll
To their credit, the one thing that Children Of Bodom have always maintained is the consistency of their sound. The main issue with this kind of consistency, particularly during this band’s career, is that this can frequently be seen as overconfidence or even obnoxiousness, which is unfortunate for a group of such impressive technical abilities. As soon as first track 'Waste Of Skin' hits the eardrums, all stylistic establishments are once again riveted to the ground in a flourish of anger and melody. This time around though, it doesn’t feel nearly as predictable or as uninspired. A cute background riff in the chorus of the opening track echoes some of the more ‘classic’ Bodom anthems, such as 'Needled 24/7' (Hate Crew Deathroll
), but feels far more organic to the songwriting than in the band’s more recent studio releases. Even typical camp metal tics like the guitar solo in the title track feel smartly implemented amidst the tuneful wall of sound that is always present in the background. The same can be said for the main riff of 'Scream For Silence', which features a slower tempo set as the backdrop for the furious vocals. It’s an exhilarating experience to say the least, and echoes such powerful metal tracks as 'Cemetery Gates', particularly in terms of melody. Arguably, Halo Of Blood
features more traditional death metal influences than the band’s earlier work, noticeably on such tracks as 'Bodom Blue Moon', which features rich downtuned melodies interwoven with brutal breakdowns and boomingly heavy basslines. The sound is thick and coarse, but never overpowering or unlistenable, and this works in such a hearty tandem with the emotive solos and mature song structures, it’s a hugely satisfying experience.
In terms of the more cosmetic features, the vocals are the typical Bodom roars and growls courtesy of Alexei Laiho, the absurdly talented lead guitarist. The vocals, like always, could perhaps do with a touch of variety to accommodate the tighter style, but it does suit the aesthetic qualities of the music very well. All of the guitar solos are technically very impressive and don’t feel like unnecessary fill, and the instrumentation by the rest of the band is great and filled with heart. Another first for Bodom is the overall sound of the release, which exhibits a far greater amount of grandeur and even dramatic flair over the rest of the band’s catalogue. 'Dead Man’s Hand On You', for example, features a nervy and highly tuneful sound with the abrasive vocals replaced with deep, low utterances, almost in the style of a Vincent Price narration. Such touches give the album a sweeping feel as a whole, and this goes a long way to holding the package together, as it exhibits more than its fair share of variety within the genre. Even songs that are assembled with cliché aspects seem to succeed in the context of the release, such as 'Damaged Beyond Repair', which utilises a chugging pattern as its main riff. However, thanks to the intrinsic weaving of additional melodies and solos throughout this pattern, the experience feels heady and rather cool. 'All Twisted' mirrors this further, as it is loaded with melody in the form of sprightly riffs and aggression, and is constantly joyous in its diversion and hard-hitting nature. Rather unfortunately, the album as a whole merges quite sloppily, with riffs and rhythm’s feeling interchangeable. This isn’t particularly lamentable, but on occasion the experience can feel a little flat in this respect.
All lesser aspects aside, this is a great release, and gives the Bodom boys a platform they actually deserve to play on. The frantic style of the music is still laden with good vibes and the technical proficiency is as eyebrow-raisingly complex as it ever was. What misfires there are on the release are not nearly enough to not recommend it, as they don’t dampen the end product at all in terms of quality, leaving an ambitious and masculine wonderland that will grip metalheads with its heavy riffage and may even charm passive listeners with its’ memorable orchestration. Like most all of the band’s other releases, the lyricism is a little toothless and dry, but this is so many different shades of irrelevant in terms of Halo Of Blood
it’s laughable. As, dare I say it, ‘irrelevant’ as Bodom have become in ‘serious’ metal circles recently, this release goes a long way to helping them reclaim their bruised yet esteemed position once again. The release feels complete, and more to the point, fun. They may not be sitting pretty atop the pile of modern melodic metal just yet, but Halo Of Blood
is leaps and bounds beyond anything in recent C.O.B memory, and one of the most razor-sharp excursions in the genre this year.