Children of Bodom are a band that are in the spotlight and criticized more than most. With fans heralding the first four albums as their best, and the followup albums Are You Dead Yet? and Blooddrunk as melodic death metal blunders, they’ve been a bit unpredictable over the last ten years. Relentless Reckless Forever was met with divided opinions, mine being in support of the album. Here we are ten years after the release of Hate Crew Deathroll and the Bodom boys have served up their best album since.
Halo Of Blood kicks off with “Waste Of Skin” which immediately lets us know that the band has returned to their celebrated roots. Enthusiastic folky melodies give way to a rhythmic verse and already we have the dynamic from Hate Crew coming into play. The title track employs the first blast beats since the band’s sophomore album in 1999 with a black metal riff that is a throwback to Alexi’s brief stint with Impaled Nazarene.
Over the last ten years, Bodom have been significantly less melodic and have favored more pummeling rhythmic chugs than anything. Tracks like “Transference” and “Bodom Blue Moon (The Second Coming)” abandon this rhythm-oriented focus in favor of the melodic shredding Alexi is known for as well as a warm welcome back for Mr. Janne Warman and his lightning-fast right hand on the keyboard.
In the early days of this band, it seemed that Janne and Alexi had shared some inter-dimensional communication and laid down some of the most complicated dual lead work in heavy metal. A few years ago, Warman had stated in an interview that the time between keyboard parts were long enough for him to walk off stage and drop a deuce in the middle of a song. On Halo Of Blood, he’ll hardly have time to take a leak with these songs live.
“Dead Man’s Hand On You” is a power ballad…of sorts. It’s no secret that Alexi Laiho is a huge fan of hair metal. When the band plays “Downfall” live, the guitarist will interject Mötley Crüe riffs in with the intro lead before heading into the song. They’ve also covered Poison’s “Talk Dirty To Me” to boast their pride in hair metal. This song starts with Alexi speaking in a gravelly, low voice before tearing into his signature banshee shrieks. The song is slow and plodding with a bombastic chorus that has an arena rock sway. However, this is definitely the weakest song on the album, even for a fellow glam fan like myself.
The last three songs off Halo Of Blood are among the best on this disc and really pick up the energy and pace as the album ends. It makes for an odd finality because they easily could have been the first three songs. Then again, Children Of Bodom were never ones to end an album on a more somber and mellow note and these tracks end it with a bang.
While the songwriting here is most in line with Hate Crew, there are nods to Hatebreeder with the folky melodies and “Your Days Are Numbered” and homage is paid to the stellar Follow The Reaper in the energy and passion within these ten tracks. Halo Of Blood is a remarkable return to form from the Finnish group and fans who gave up on these guys after Follow The Reaper or Hate Crew Deathroll should definitely start paying attention again.
8 out of 10
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