Review Summary: Getting your quick fix of melodic fury
The year was 2005. I was 15 at the time and my friends and I bought tickets for my first ever metal concert. We decided to have a crazy lan-party the day before and we all stayed up all night and the following day playing games. Then, red-eyed and tired as we were after being awake for roughly 30 hours, we went to the venue, where Children of Bodom would be playing. Even though part of me just wanted to sleep, part of me was too excited, ‘my first real concert just with friends’! I reckon most of you know the feeling. I don’t know where I found the energy, but I (along with the other 1500 people present) went completely bat*** crazy. To this day it remains one of my fondest concert memories.
You would expect that Children of Bodom would hold a special place in my heart after that, and to a certain extent it does. Yet after Are You Dead Yet？
, the quality of the material released made such a drop that I completely lost sight of them. So it was quite a surprise when I listened to the first singles off their new album Hexed
and found them thoroughly entertaining.
The first thing I noticed when listening to Hexed
in full is the production. The songs sound fantastic, thanks to a very clean production job that, even though polished, sounds very organic. The trademark bass guitar and snare sounds are still present, but it is much more nuanced when you compare it to their older material. A dialed down compression gives everything more room to breathe and makes it easier to listen to. It also gives the record a more focused feeling where small changes, such as punching the bass to give it that extra oomph when needed, have a much bigger effect.
The songs themselves seem to cater to what their fans want. The energy is high, the tempos are fast and the vocals are angry. Songs like 'Glass Houses' and 'Kick in the Spleen' fly by with furious bpm’s and light speed riffing. Yet for all their fury, they never forget to be melodic where the song calls for it. Where this combination of ferociousness and catchiness is well balanced, the true magic happens and highlights appear. The title song is the best example of this. The neoclassical elements, enhanced by Janne Wirman’s use of a harpsichord sound, blend very well with the furious guitars to give it an almost progressive feel. Don’t worry though, there is never any doubt what style of music Children of Bodom is playing, for the moment the verse kicks in, we’re back in headbanging and moshing territory.
Alexi Laiho and co. have always been excellent musicians. There is an abundance of (twin lead) solos and a certain complexity to the riffing, so that clearly has not changed. A song like 'Under Glass and Clover' shows that Children of Bodom still know how to create a catchy tune that does not sound like a rehashing of old ideas, even though that song could’ve easily been placed on Are You Dead Yet？
What I do notice after a couple of listens though, is that the songs aren’t as catchy as their older material, especially in the vocal department. Where their older ‘hits’ are full with sing along choruses, on Hexed
I found there is not a single chorus that really sticks. This is mainly due to the lack of hooks and catchy phrases that were so prevalent in their previous outings. Even though they were pretty juvenile, they added something to shout along with. The juvenile aspect hasn’t completely disappeared though, for a song like ‘Platitudes and Barren Words’ still gives us phrases like “Come on just lay it on the line. You’re running on fumes and out of time”.
So here we are, 14 years after my friends and I first went crazy at their concert. Hexed
shows that Children of Bodom are still very much alive. They show that they still have the energy and inspiration to create a couple of very entertaining melodic deathmetal songs, which speak to the teenager in me. With 11 songs and a 44 minute runtime, the entire affair is very focused and never overstays its welcome, making it a sweet fix of adrenaline that might even have some staying power.