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CHILDREN OF BODOM_Halo_of_BLOOD_albumcover

[7th June 2013]
[Nuclear Blast Records]

01. Waste of Skin
02. Halo of Blood
03. Scream for Silence
04. Transference
05. Bodom Blue Moon (The Second Coming)
06. The Days are Numbered
07. Dead Man’s Hand on You
08. Damage Beyond Repair
09. All Twisted
10. One Bottle and A Knee Deep

For those who do not keep up with Finland’s Children Of Bodom, the band faced a major setback last summer when frontman and lead guitar player Alexi Laiho was hospitalized for a rather severe stomach infection, which resulted in the cancellation of several European festival dates. This news, to many fans, seemed like a potential band-killer at the time, due to the severity of illness and that beyond a few short updates from the band, there was no news heard from the group for most of the year. Needless to say, it was quite a relief to see the band tease a new album earlier this year. With the unveiling of Halo of Blood’s track listing and album cover, many Bodom fans were eager to see Alexi and company back in business, especially with Hypocrisy frontman and studio guru Peter Tägtgren at the production helm.

Coming into the review, I ruminated on the new album and allowed it to steep in the larger pot of the band’s discography. With their first three albums, Bodom styled themselves as a neo-classical/black/melo-death metal band, but this shifted to a heavier, thrashier focus with 2003′s Hate Crew Deathroll, and following this they followed a heavier, more commercially accessible style, which has allowed for newer/younger fans to enjoy their music – much to the chagrin of older fans.

Interviews with the band had revealed that the new album would rekindle older Bodom styles and techniques, while keeping true to their newer form. While this sounds awesome in theory, the actual execution of this could have ended up blowing up in a band’s face, because it just heightens the already sky-high expectations.

The instrumentals for the most part follow in the vein of the newer material, with hard-hitting guitar passages accompanied by thundering drums and whirling keyboard flicks. The title track – the album’s second single – is a great example of this attempt to blend old and new styles however; the song itself is a flurry of tremolo guitars accompanied by a whirl of blast beats which quickly switches between heavy riffing and group chorus chanting/shouting. The blast beat/tremolo combo certainly has a flavor of their first album Something Wild, which had some prominent melo-black element to it, whilst “All Twisted” opens with a catchy thrash riff and breaks into an equally catchy key-heavy chorus which could fit right in on Follow the Reaper.

“Bodom Blue Moon”, which starts with a flurry of spiraling guitar, keys and drums, has one the catchiest riffs I have heard in a while. This song could fit easily in the tracklisting of Deathroll, and it is likely to become a new classic for the band, and will surely feature in their live set.

Overall, the execution of this desire to merge the old and new is rather mixed, however. Despite the successes, the album does suffer a few pitfalls. “Scream for Silence”, which admittedly would fit flawlessly on Follow the Reaper, is broken up in the middle of the song by a weird series of chords and Alexi singing in a (relatively) cleaner vocal styling, which throws off the balance of the song somewhat. “Dead Man’s Hand on You”, too, is an odd duck. The band’s slowest song to date, it features clean guitars and Alexi singing in a duality of his usual sharp shouts accompanied by slow almost croaking ‘clean’ vocals. The song seems so out of place on the album and honestly sounds pretty lazy; it breaks up an otherwise solid second half of the album, and repeat listens do it no favours.

This contrast between old and new styling is really where I am torn here. While the great songs on this album do still strike a powerful chord (with the title track and “Bodom Blue Moon” being new personal favorites), the few ugly ducklings really do stand out, and despite their best efforts, the band is certainly showing their age. Perhaps their decades of relentless drinking and partying have finally caught up. This album hasn’t completely lost me, however, and I still find myself rooting for Alexi and company, and I certainly hope that Alexi’s health scare has rekindled his fire for creativity and live-ass-kicking