Saturday, 20 July 2013

Children Of Bodom: Halo Of Blood - Review

  • Genre: Melodic Metal
  • Release Date: 07/06/13
  • Number Of Tracks: 10
  • Length: 41:40
  • Record Label: Nuclear Blast
  • Producer: Peter Tagtgren


Children Of Bodom are a band that I had lost touch with for a long time. In my youth I was quite a big fan of theirs, owning both the "Follow The Reaper" and "Hate Crew Deathroll" records and was familiar with a lot of their other stuff as well. Despite this I never really got round to listening to "Blooddrunk" properly and missed "Relentless Reckless Forever" completely. I figured that since I am doing a lot of review writing these days it would be cool to give the new Bodom record a listen to see how the band had progressed over the last few years and to see if their style of music was still as enjoyable to me in my twenties as it was in my teens.

"Halo Of Blood" is Children Of Bodom's eighth full length release and it can be said that whilst this record is a very strong effort from the Fins it is also very safe. Bodom really stick to their guns and if in the past you have been a fan of their blend of lightning fast riffing, immense lead guitar work, more keyboards than a 70s prog convention and choruses that are sometimes so catchy you can't help but bang your head and sing along then you will not be disappointed. That being said if you hate this band then this album will in no way appeal to you as it doesn't really offer much new.

In my past reviews I have often bemoaned bands for not being able to strike a balance between solid riff work and excellent leads (Amon Amarth and Megadeth I'm talking about you) but of all the albums I have listened to since writing this blog "Halo Of Blood" has to be the one that best finds this balance. The riff work from Alexi Laiho and Roope Latvala is really well done. Within the same song they will vary speeds and ideas and it helps to make the songs feel fresh. Added to that is the amount of lead guitar work the pair get through. Bodom really know how to play their instruments and they allocate just the right amount of time to solos, allowing songs to come alive and gain their own character, which helps to make each song more individual. Moreover the extensive use of keyboard leads from Janne Wirman means the listener is constantly kept guessing. I wasn't sure whether to expect twin guitar leads, a keyboard solo, a single guitar solo or guitar and keyboards together  and this helped to hold my attention ands really made me enjoy the album as a whole.

In addition to this "Halo Of Blood" has a really good overall pacing. Bodom aren't afraid to slow things down a bit and so tracks like "Scream For Silence" and "Dead Man's Hand On You" help to bring more differentiation to the album. As a result of both the excellent pacing and contrast in leads and rhythms the album doesn't get boring and that is something that, given that Bodom are on album number 8 and are basically writing the same album they always have, is a massive achievement. Somehow Children Of Bodom have managed to make their characteristic writing style sound really fresh and exciting to listen to and this shouldn't be underestimated.

There are some really great highlights on this album. Opener "Waste Of Skin" has an infectious intro that is reminiscent of "Needled 24/7". Additionally title track "Halo Of Blood" features some quick riff work and heavy blast beats that almost reminds me of something Emperor would do; being a big fan of Emperor I appreciated the reference. Also the album closer "One Bottle And A Knee Deep" has the most catchy chorus you are likely to hear this year and reminds me a lot of their classic track "Bed Of Razors". Overall I really like how Bodom have referenced older material but put a new twist on it with this record.

If it wasn't already apparent, I really like this album but it wouldn't be fair of me to focus on all of the positives and I do have some issues. The first is that, although as a whole the album is great to listen to, I feel that the individual tracks on "Halo Of Blood" are not as strong as some of Bodom's older stuff. I find it hard to identify a track that I like as much as "Hate Me" or "Sixpounder" and so it does take a bit of the edge off the album. I'm left wanting just a few more standout riffs and a few more catchy sections. It's a strange contradiction because I think the album is great and yet I still feel like Bodom could do better with some of the writing; it feels like something is missing.

Added to this rather strange issue is my perceived lack of "power" in the album. Producer Peter Tagtgren has done a decent job with giving all the instruments space in the mix but I just think each instrument doesn't sound quite as big or imposing as it could. It's a minor gripe but I like my metal to feel like it is big and crushing (like on the new Amon Amarth record) and I don't quite get that impression with "Halo Of Blood". By all means it won't stop anyone from enjoying the album but it was something that I noticed and would have liked to be better.

To sum this record up then it is pretty damn good. It is safe to say that I can still consider myself a fan of Children Of Bodom and don't think I will ever stop loving the over-the-top brand of metal that these guys offer. The album is not without its flaws but overall it is a great listen and it's good to see that after so long Bodom can still sound fresh.


Standout Track: Halo Of Blood 

Overall: 8/10 


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