Full of great ideas but lacking a constant vision, False Flags could be great if they settle on a direction.
Children Of Bodom – Halo Of Blood
At the risk of echoing the clichéd promotional sentiments spouted prior to album releases, I will kick off by saying that this album really is a culmination of Children Of Bodom’s best work yet. The Finns’ eighth offering may be their most focused and musically accomplished output since Hate Crew Deathroll, ten years ago. Halo Of Blood is versatile, well produced (something the previous album lacked), and most vitally – Bodomesque.
The emphasis on keyboard across the band’s discography has always divided listeners. Whether you’re an appreciator of Janne Wirman’s talents or not, the collision between his neo-classical melodies and Alexi Laiho’s guitar work contributes greatly to the band’s unique sound and lasting popularity. As always, this instrumental coupling has been utilised to achieve that early, folk influenced sound that compliments the metallic foundation so well.
Long-term fans can breathe a collective sigh of relief as a much darker feel has been captured here than on their previous effort. Eerie, neo-classical melodies like the days of old are subtly laced through high-speed metal that harks back to the band’s ferociousness around the time of the new millennium. Artistic trademarks are showcased, as well as never before seen talent. Halo Of Blood is an achievement unto itself.
The pre-released, endearing single ‘Transference’ is a mid-level indication of the spectrum of pace to be found. The album includes slower ballads (‘Scream For Silence’ and ‘Dead Man’s Hand On You’) that retain an undeniable strain of femininity within the Bodom sound, alongside full-velocity thrash numbers packed throughout the ten tracks.
Opener ‘Waste Of Skin’ is one of the latter, but gives only a hint of the heaviness that follows in the form of title-track ‘Halo Of Blood’. Wow – Here’s where things get interesting (and impressive, for that matter). The intro to Track Two is a crushing onslaught of black metal blast beats, and along with the guitar tone and riff, does not sound dissimilar to the likes of Dissection, (I dare say). The quintet has nailed an aggressive sound that I am sure many didn’t expect them to be capable of.
Even in light of this newfound bite, such blackness doesn’t return again throughout the album’s duration, except for maybe ‘Your Days Are Numbered’. But what decreases in danger, builds in grandeur with creeping hooks and soaring choruses, led by Laiho and Wirman’s duals.
‘All Twisted’ is a highlight for me, with its belting chorus and the delicate flurry of keys – like an aural interpretation of the snow falling on the album’s cover art.
Hopefully ‘Damaged Beyond Repair’ isn’t a reference to Laiho’s liver. The frontman seems to have built a reputation resembling a moody, over-drinking, LA rock-star. After the health scare he experienced last year, I’m inclined to think that perhaps a recent awakening of responsibility and renewed career focus has contributed largely to the musical advances made since 2011’s Relentless Reckless Forever. What’s important is that the axe-man is still writing epic metal today.
In fact, every band member has audibly pushed themselves within their individual areas of expertise. Children Of Bodom are back on top form; I knew they had it in them. Bring on the tour!