Review Summary: Despite not being as good as its predecessor, "Hate Crew Deathroll" still has a ton to offer.
The evolution of Children of Bodom
, a Finnish melodic death metal band, has been truly fascinating to watch. Their first album, Something Wild
, was dark and drew inspirations from both black metal and classic rock, creating a dark neo-classical metal sound. As the band progressed, the sound slowly changed from a black metal-esque to thrash metal-esque. While there is nothing wrong with thrash metal, most Children of Bodom fans concede that the self-proclaimed "Hate Crew" have a hard time pulling off the thrash metal sound.
There is no denying that Children of Bodom were at the top of their game when they released Follow the Reaper
in 2000. With Follow the Reaper, the black/symphonic metal sound that they had built with Something Wild reached its peak. Both critics and fans alike praised Follow the Reaper at the time of its release, proudly proclaiming it to be the "Hate Crew's" magnum opus. Once a band releases their magnum opus, everyone always asks the same two questions: "What can they possibly do next"" and "How can they possibly top that"" When faced with these questions, bands will usually do one of two things. On occasion, bands will release the same type of album as their magnum opus, believing that what worked so well on their greatest album must work just as well on their next album. Results of this method usually result in forgettable albums that look like nothing more than copycats. The other thing that bands will do is make a stylistic change to their sound. This method will usually produce an album that will, initially, receive mixed reviews by fans who are terrified that their favorite band's sound has changed. After the smoke clears, however, and the album is able to be judged fairly, the reaction towards the follow-up album usually becomes positive.
Aware that they were not going to able to top Follow the Reaper's sound, Children of Bodom changed their sound for their fourth album, Hate Crew Deathroll
. This was a sensible decision; time has shown that fans and critics will favor a stylistic change on a magnum opus' follow-up album. Examples are Metallica's ...And Justice For All (the follow-up to Master of Puppets), Slayer's South of Heaven (the follow-up to Reign in Blood), and Megadeth's Countdown to Extinction (the follow-up to Rust In Peace). Each of those follow-up albums were well-received, but usually not preferred by fans over their magnum opus. Such is the case with Hate Crew Deathroll, the album that changed Children of Bodom's sound from black to thrash with mostly positive results.
The album kicks off with "Needled 24/7," a song that has quickly become a fan favorite ever since its release. It's not hard to see why; the song's hard-hitting lead guitar riffs, cheesy keyboard solos, and crowd-pleasing shouted lines, like "Would someone tell me what the f**k IS GOING ON"" and the constant shouts of "YEOW!" make the song a Bodom classic. "Needled 24/7" is also one of the most power-metal oriented songs of the entire album, with its melodic guitar solos and its upbeat feel. "Sixpounder," the second song on the album, is a huge change from the lightning-fast tempo of "Needled 24/7." The song has a chugging feel to it, a slower and far less power metal-esque song than its predecessor. While it is not a bad song, the chugging becomes old rather quickly. "Sixpounder" showcases Bodom's sense of humor, with lines like "Six! Six! Six!.....pounder." The following song, "Chokehold (Cocked 'N' Loaded)" is more of a standard Bodom song. It totes cheesy keyboard solos, shouted vocals, and everything else one would expect from Children of Bodom. "Bodom Beach Terror" begins with a masterful drum intro, which leads into the main riff of the song. The song is speedy and keyboard-oriented, not to mention one of the catchiest songs of the album. The guitar solo at the end of the song is one of the most powerful in the entire album, showcasing Alexi Laiho's (lead guitarist and vocalist) undeniable skill. The chorus of the song, "Wash your hands in a lake of your blood, just before you die!" is one of my favorite lines in the entire album. "Bodom Beach Terror" sounds more like classic Bodom; its a song that could easily be on Follow the Reaper or Hatebreeder
and no one would notice.
"Angels Don't Kill" changes things up a bit. Perhaps the only mid-tempo ballad by Children of Bodom, it helps break up the monotony of the first few songs, providing welcome relief in an otherwise harsh-sounding album. The beginning of "Angels Don't Kill" creeps in slowly before smashing the listener's ears with its extremely melodic main riff. The song is a one-of-a-kind track by Children of Bodom and a unique offering to the melodic death metal genre. The next song, "Triple Corpse Hammerblow" begins with a melodic keyboard intro, which is quickly interrupted by a shout of "WAAAH YA YA YA YEOW!" and the song truly begins. Albeit an interesting intro and hilarious song title, "Triple Corpse Hammerblow" has little to offer. The song can be seen as a grave warning to the listener of the what's to ensue in future Bodom releases. "You're Better Off Dead" is another speed metal song, sounding similar to songs on Blooddrunk
and Are You Dead Yet"
. Despite a few solos and a wonderful mid-song breakdown, the song is more-or-less what someone can expect. "Lil' Bloodred Ridin' Hood" doesn't introduce anything new to Hate Crew Deathroll. The tempo is aggressive and the song clearly draws speed metal influences. However, the verses and chorus clearly draw symphonic/black metal influences, making the song sound similar to previous Bodom releases. While "Lil' Bloodred Ridin' Hood" is not as good as anything on Follow the Reaper, the song still relays the message that Children of Bodom have not ditched all of their previous influences that made their first albums such classics. The final song on the album is the title track, "Hate Crew Deathroll." The song kicks off with a short, yet relaxing intro, only to explode into one of the thrashiest, speediest songs on the album. The song gives an important reminder to the listener. It reminds them that, while their sound has significantly changed, this change is not only for the worse. It reminds the listener that Children of Bodom can be successful with their thrash metal-esque songs. Everything about this song works; its tempo is explosive, the guitar and keyboard are melodic yet thrilling, and the vocals are incredibly powerful. While it doesn't sound anything like the first three Bodom albums, the title track works nonetheless and leaves the listener with a sense of satisfaction once the song ends.
Follow the Reaper's follow-up (no pun intended) does everything it was supposed to do. The "Hate Crew" follows the success of their previous album by changing their sound whilst still remaining true to themselves and their fans. It may not succeed on every level, but Hate Crew Deathroll still has a lot to offer.
Bodom Beach Terror
Angels Don't Kill