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Children Of Bodom – [Album]

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Monday, 14 March 2011

Back in 2000, at the ripe old age of fifteen, I was introduced to a type of music that broke the mould of what I believed heavy metal to be. Metal to me was brash, ugly and dark. Down-tuned power chords and blast beats. Children Of Bodom’s Follow The Reaper swept in with their intricately interwoven guitar melodies atop keyboard licks that created harmonies, the likes of which had yet to be heard by my young and eager ears. Their skillful combination of thrash metal’s anger, speed and agility and their lighthearted and glorious melodies both redefined and expanded my comprehension of what metal music could be.

More than a decade after our first encounter, Children Of Bodom are still hammering out album after album at a fairly regular pace. Their newest offering, Relentless, Reckless Forever is their seventh full-length album, and seems to be making up for lost time as their last two albums were less that well-received by fans.

Opening with an angry guitar riff, “Not My Funeral” sets the mood for the first half of the album, with airy keyboards hanging over the chugging, stop-and-go guitars and then jumping into sporadic guitar and key solos. The keyboard solos seem forced, or lazy, which unfortunately is also a common theme in the first half of the album.  “Shovel Knockout” starts off with one of those “Let’s get the circle pit going” riffs before almost falling into a very classic, “Bodom beautiful” chorus. The more I hear this song, the more I like it; the guitar is so driving, really pulling the rest of the band along with it. The big guitar/keyboard solo break is a nice touch since the band has seemed to abandon them in recent years. Next up is “Roundtrip To Hell And Back” – a mid-tempo track and definitely the low-point for the album. I hate to keep bagging on the keyboards, but they drive me nuts on this track; adding the most pointless and boring layers to the chorus, making me want to drive spikes through my ears every time I listen to it. Janne is just going through the motions, while Alexi is struggling to keep the song going. Like I said, this is the low point, it only gets better from here, promise!

“Pussyfoot Miss Suicide” is another mid-tempo track – at least by Bodom standards – but what is this? Do I hear an awesome keyboard line complimenting the guitar? Yes, yes I do! Finally I think Janne has awakened to add flavor to the track in all the right places as well as contributing a totally shredding solo to this groove-laden song. The title track holds an American metal feel throughout, adding their melodic Finnish flavor on top of their heavy grooving guitar work. A solid track, but it did have me laughing at one point because the keyboard line at 1:09 is damned near the same lick as in the intro of “Mask Of Sanity” from the band's Follow The Reaper album.

“Ugly” is the next track and, for me, this is the real turning point in the album. The track starts with a sampling of a girl saying, “You’re feeling something, what is it?” Maybe it’s a rockin’ guitar riff on the horizon? Finally, this is how a Bodom song should start: Technical, fluid and melodic! This track continues forward with a solid pace and breaks into a chorus that is memorable and fun. Janne proves that he’s still awake displays a beautiful keyboard run that shows he’s still “got it.” Love the guitar solo at the end of the track too – it just flows off Alexi’s fingers like butter. “Cry Of The Nihilist” is another American-styled track and the main guitar riff reminds me of Pantera every time I hear it. Nothing remarkable here, but a fun listen. “Was It Worth It?” is the closest we’re going to get to a ballad on this album. It begins with an awesome little harmonized guitar part plucked in eighth-notes and Alexi’s washed-out vocals that the band seems to use at least once an album now; where the bass and highs are all rolled off, leaving a “mid-y” crackly voice left over. The chorus here will definitely leave me punching my fist into the air next time they come to town for a show. “Northpole Throwdown” finishes off the album with a “let’s get drunk and headbang ‘til our necks break” feel. This track totally rocks and has the most hilarious lyric of the whole album: “This is the way we roll, at the fuckin’ North Pole.”

Thank you, Alexi, for that little laugh to finish the thing.

There are a lot of sides to this album. For one, this is a great drinking album; if you’re going to crack open beers and hammer down some Jagermeister, this album will get the job done without question but, with a more discerning eye, it’s a bit too lackluster for a band that has had such amazing highs. There is just something missing – some level of passion and intricacy – the levels of interaction and the interweaving of guitars and keyboards that I was talking about earlier just aren't as mind-blowing and memorable as they once were. Children Of Bodom has toned down, but I’m not sure for what purpose other than maybe to appease the bland American metal masses. I have no doubt that Children Of Bodom will have a glorious opus release someday, and there's no arguing that the band is working their way towards it here. With a little soul searching and looking back at why people loved them in the first place, I know they can get there.

Artist:

www.cobhc.com/

www.myspace.com/childrenofbodom

Album:

Relentless, Reckless Forever
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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Children Of Bodom – [Album]

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Wednesday, 28 October 2009

No matter how open-minded a fan of any given band might be, there are moments when one has to be skeptical about their output – particularly when that output is an album specially dedicated to covers. Think about it; why would a group decide to stop in its tracks and play human jukebox? Particularly in the case of any metal band that enters into such an undertaking (Between The Buried And Me leaps), one has to ask why – “Why would this group choose to do a set of totally unlikely songs?” More often than not, suh albums have historically come off as sounding comical and novel at best and mawkish and fluffy as a box of baby ducks at worst but, no matter what, they only tend to be memorable in all the wrong ways.

Then there are albums like Children Of Bodom's Skeletons In The Closet; a set that isn't so boring or terribly formulaic as others of its ilk, but that's really only damning with faint praise. There's no doubt that some of these songs (most notably “Talk Dirty To Me” by Poison, Suicidal Tendencies' “War Inside My Head,” “Silent Scream” by Slayer and W.A.S.P.'s “Hellion”) may have very likely formative volumes that focused the band into what they are – some of them are even surprisingly good takes as the band masterfully grafts its own growling sensibilities onto them – but this album would just be another Anatomy Of… sort of exercise were it not for those songs where the band lets its hair down and exposes its own will to be silly.

Does that lighter aspect of these proceedings redeem Children Of Bodom? That decision will get made on a fan-by-fan basis.

The not-so-serious tone kicks off right from the beginning with a cover of CCR's “Lookin' Out My Back Door” and, from there, Skeletons In The Closet will have listeners doing double takes with a continuing stream of oddball covers including Pat Benatar's “Hell Is For Children,” Kenny Rogers' “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” and Billy Idol's “Rebel Yell” not because they're geared for grins (though they'll get those), but because it's obvious that the band has taken as much care with the strange choices as the ones that make perfect sense.

Of course, there some tracks here that are just par for the course. It's no surprise, for example, that “Aces High” (pulled from the Iron Maiden songbook), “Mass Hypnosis” (Sepultura) and “Antisocial” (Trust/Anthrax) would be prime tribute fodder for Children Of Bodom because the styles of that source material mesh very well with that of the band re-making them; those are songs that no on bats an eye for because the band pours itself into them and works them out well. Singer Alexi Laiho snarls much like the originals call for and his guitars (along with that of Roope Latvala) pay respectable tribute. In these cases, the songs are presented such that it's perfectly reasonable to assume the band may have been playing them in sound checks for years; they're hammered flat and flawless. More interesting are the partial steps outside the norm like “Rebel Yell,” “Talk Dirty To Me,” “Don't Stop At The Top” and “War Inside My Head” where the band plays outside of its own box and injects far more melody (“Rebel Yell” is all about Laiho's fantastic impression of Billy Idol) than one would expect from Children Of Bodom. These are the tracks that are more respectful than respectable, and the band produces stellar instrumental interpretations (check “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky” and “Antisocial”) that play very close to the originals, but still have some COB in them.

The real surprises come when Children Of Bodom takes a stab at fare closer to the Top 40 mark but, rather than coming off (as so many metal bands do when they try something like this) as cheesy, overdone or insincere, the band manages to simply sound like they're cutting loose and having fun. There's no possible way, for example, to take the versions of “Oops… I Did It Again,” “Somebody Put Something In My Drink” and “Lookin' Out My Back Door” seriously because listeners can actually hear the band laughing as they go along. Not exactly metal-infused renditions, these songs sound more like the originals might after having license plates riveted to them; still metal, but not very thick or very tight. While obviously very novel, these songs end up carrying the most interest because the band doesn't bother to try and hide the fact that they're goofing off, but still plays the hell out of those choices for shits and giggles. That lighter spirit is what makes Skeletons In The Closet worth listening to because they make the spirit in the rest most obvious; it's all for fun. These seventeen covers showcase every side of the band, but the most recurring of the lot is that the band is obviously having fun as they pay tribute to the bands they respect, but treat the outrageous steps out with equally good humor.

Band:
www.cobhc.com/

www.myspace.com/childrenofbodom

Album:

Skeletons In The Closet
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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