This will be a big year for Children of Bodom. The early June release of Halo of Blood is much anticipated by their worldwide legion of fans. The slot on the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival throughout the US this summer is prime time. The rest of the world tour has Facebook and other social communities posting notes of rabid enthusiasm at an alarming rate. After hearing Halo of Blood, I see why. This will be album number eight for the Finnish metal quintet, and the years of touring and studio seasoning have Children of Bodom flexing their muscles oh so confidently. Production values and precise virtuosity are dead on. Pairing them on-tour with the likes of Behemoth, Rob Zombie, and Amon Amarth is win-win for the bands and fans alike. Death metal could very well re-enter mainstream consciousness through Halo of Blood, the most accessible Children of Bodom release yet.
Halo of Blood is relentless from the beginning punch of the opener, “Waste of Skin”. “Scream For Silence” is one of the toughest cuts, and one I keep coming back to. At the end of the fourth track, “Transference”, there’s this swirling, intertwined guitar/key solo that hits so hard it left me grinning from ear to ear. Children of Bodom didn’t just score a touchdown with Halo, they pulled off the two-point conversion on top of it. The pace doesn’t let up until “Dead Man’s Hand On You”, the seventh cut. “Dead Man’s Hand” slows things down considerably, and taps into a darker brooding, reminiscent of “Change” from the Deftones. A welcome change of pace, indeed, for the first six cuts on Halo of Blood damned near wore me out. If there’s one thing about Halo that makes it hard to swallow, it’s the relentlessness of tempo, which does get monotonous after a while. Then again, I’m not as young as I used to be.
Alexi Laiho is a guitarist and vocalist in a class by himself. His total domination of his instrument while screaming alternate rhythms at the same time will keep aspiring musicians hot on practicing, for Laiho proves it can be done. Likewise, Henkka Seppälä (bass), Roope Latvala (guitar), Jaska Raatikainen (drums), and Janne Warman (keyboards) are all technically uber-tight. Put those overachieved proficiencies together with a masterful command of melody and theory, and you have an energy and focus equal to a military grade laser weapon that kills every time. Any real fan of Children of Bodom expects nothing less. These guys are one of only a handful of bands that can pull off every studio arrangement live night after night, leaving the uninitiated slack-jawed and bewildered, and the knowing completely spent at the end of the performance. That’s what metal of any variety should be… total exorcism. Children of Bodom are masters of their craft and purists of the genre. There won’t be a Bob Rock producer credit on future projects anytime soon. No Metallica-esque Some Kind of Monster embarrassment. No “road to redemption” comeback, at least I hope not. But don’t be surprised if you encounter a little split-pea soup and 360-degree head-turns along the way. Again, this will be a big year for Children of Bodom… and their fans.