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CHILDREN OF BODOM “HALO OF BLOOD”

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CHILDREN OF BODOM “HALO OF BLOOD”

Children of Bodom are back! And I don’t just mean that their new release, Halo of Blood, hits the states this summer. I mean that after having heard it, I’m completely in love with them again.

I can still remember the feeling I got back the summer of 2000 after I randomly purchased a CD copy of their debut ’97 release Something Wild. I honestly picked up the disc because I thought the cover art looked cool, but I was stoked to find that I had stumbled across what would be one of my favorite bands for years to come. I love when fate brings me together with awesome music.

I remember I was immediately compelled to go out and find the band’s other two releases, Hatebreeder and Follow the Reaper, which were already out at the time. I got more and more hooked with each record. No one else that I was aware of at the time had this super-aggressive sound coupled with the incredible guitar work. It was perfect for the part of me that craved the dark and pounding intensity of death metal, as well as the part of me that was a die-hard prog fan. Frontman Alexi Laiho’s blending of earlier thrash and neo-classical styles is extremely infectious, and to me, intellectually stimulating, like listening to Bach or Mozart.

To be honest, I wasn’t completely on-board with the bands next few releases. Hate Crew Deathroll was a great sounding album overall and featured a step up in production value; however, I perceived a definite change of direction in the writing style that seemed to focus more on simple, riff-based songs that were, perhaps, designed to appeal to a broader audience. The COB element was still there, but I must admit it gave me pause. When Are You Dead Yet?, Blooddrunk and Relentless Reckless Forever built on this new trend, and I was definitely starting to become wary of the homogenized quality of the releases.

This is why I proudly say that Children of Bodom are back. Halo of Blood is a triumphant return to the writing quality that first made the band so appealing to my ears, and at the first riff of the first song, I felt a smile spreading across my face that did not leave until the last song was over.

From the vicious opener to the album, “Waste of Skin,” you hear the return of the ultra-fast, melodic guitar and masterful blend of bass, guitar and keys. The music moves and travels; not just from A to B, back to A and then to B again, but rather in a three-dimensional space, soaring and dipping like a rampaging dragon burning its way through the core of your mind.

The title track brings on the twisted soul of black metal with gang demon vocals and scorching, speedy riffs. One of the album’s more simplistic songs, the intensity still grabs on and does not let go. The following track, “Scream for Silence,” comes on slow and steady with a great solo section.

Beginning with the fourth track “Transference,” the album really comes into its own. This song is undoubtedly going to be a hit. The whole thing made me feel like I was standing in a stadium surrounded by an army of fists in the air, pumping to the moderately speedy tempo. The music is fairly straight-forward but features a number of catchy hooks as well as a dueling guitar and keys solo that totally takes me back to the Hatebreeder days.

The successive tracks get better and better. “The Days are Numbered” is a definite favorite with its chaotic qualities and one of the best solos on the album.  This track is followed by one of the most surprising things I’ve heard the band do … a slow, ballad-like track called “Dead Man’s Hand On You.” It is dark as fuck and  builds its intensity over time, coming to a climax with a solo section very reminiscent of ’80s shred.

Then there’s the eighth track, “Damaged Beyond Repair.” This song is all-out war! Seriously, listen to this song, put on your favorite battle scene from any of the Lord of the Rings movies, and mute the volume. The belligerent tone fits so well, you will totally be rooting for the Orcs. If it’s a long battle scene keep right on playing it through the next track, “All Twisted.” The intensity won’t budge one inch.

The album ends perfectly. “One Bottle and A Knee Deep” features some of the most innovative, catchy and technically impressive writing on the record, with 6/8 being a refreshing change-up from the usual straight-8 and some intriguing key changes throughout. I enjoyed it so much I was a bit saddened by the abrupt ending.

I say again, Bodom is back! Halo of Blood is old-school COB writing with up-to-date production quality and tone. If you are a fan of the band, you will be blown away by this album. If you don’t know the band (what the “F” is wrong with you?) but are a fan of metal, you will be blown away by this album. If you are not a fan of metal – you just read a really long review of a metal album for nothing – you should still get this album. Bottom line: Halo of Blood is awesome!

Halo of Blood is out on June 11 on Nuclear Blast!

Rating: 5/5 Stars.

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