While Children of Bodom’s iconic mascot might be suffering from a case of AWOL/schizophrenia, the band themselves have come back stronger than ever.
Mr. Reaper looks more and more absurd with each passing Children of Bodom album cover. On the last album, he didn’t even show his face, just his stupid scythe and what looked like spilled red wine. Either he’s an increasingly shy guy, or he’s an imposter. Yeah, that explains it. No wonder the scheming bastard looks like a scarecrow carrying a pickaxe on this cover. Holy… he/it sold the iconic scythe for a pickaxe. Talk about bad acting and having a death wish.
While Children of Bodom’s iconic mascot might be suffering from a case of AWOL/schizophrenia, the band themselves have come back stronger than ever. I can’t believe I am saying this, but I just did. I lost a bit of interest in these Finnish metal stars ever since Are You Dead Yet? when their sound took a turn for the worse by becoming more thrashy, as it lacked the powerful and uplifting guitar melodies Alexi Laiho was so well known for on Follow the Reaper and before, something which became a trademark of Children of Bodom later on. Hate Crew Deathroll, which comes right after Follow the Reaper, wasn’t as bad as Are You Dead Yet?, but it wasn’t as good as Follow the Reaper either. It was the stepping stone to a future which, at that point in time, was capable of leaning towards either the thrashier route or the more melodic path, and it unfortunately ended with the former taking place.
This is why it is so heartwarming and pleasantly surprising to hear that the band have harkened back to their older days on this latest record, for previously lost hope is shimmering into existence again and faith in the band’s quality of musicianship is renewed as well. That said, this is probably the most accessible CoB record to date, for much of the raw ferocity of the melodies heard during the old CoB days is gone and is increasingly being replaced by a kind of tameness only mainstream success can bring to any music act. This degree of pop sensibility can be detrimental to the expectations of long-time CoB fanatics, since many pop metal acts are usually considered as bands who have "lost their edge" and "aren’t metal anymore", but well… at least Laiho have not resorted to clean singing yet. As outstanding as this record is musically, there are no outstanding tracks simply because of how outstanding each individual track is on its own, resulting in the kind of record you can never cherry-pick candidates for your "Metal Songs to Sleep to on the Bus/Train" iPod playlist from (although “Pussyfoot Miss Suicide” stands out to me because of its, erm, attention-grabbing title). Nonetheless, it still bodes well for Finland’s solid reputation as one of the best metal countries in this world.
This album sounds so melodic and polished that it could very well be considered extreme hard rock if not for Laiho’s harsh vocals being the reason behind the "extreme" part. Expect to hear numerous bursts of rapid-fire, syncopated keyboard-cum-guitar motifs (a CoB trademark), a strong and utterly delectable presence of power metallish keyboards as it had been on Follow the Reaper, heaps of intricate riffing, catchy choruses (few melo-death bands pull this feat off as well as CoB), loads of shreddin’, more shreddin’, and even more shreddin’.
Oh, throw in the unsophisticated track titles (e.g. "Pussyfoot Miss Suicide", "Relentless, Reckless Forever", "Ugly"') and lyrical theme and what more could you ask for? You are talking about an ideal Children of Bodom record here.