PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Children of Bodom: Blooddrunk

On their sixth album, the Finnish metal greats remember to provide a little substance underneath all the flash.


Children of Bodom

Blooddrunk

Label: Universal
US Release Date: 2008-04-15
UK Release Date: 2008-04-14
Amazon
iTunes

Over the last ten years, Children of Bodom has become one of the most beloved metal bands Finland has ever produced. Led by flashy lead guitarist/vocalist Alexi Laiho, the band has earned credibility in the metal community by doing things the old fashioned way, building a strong, ultra-devoted fanbase from the ground up with a steady stream of albums and constant touring. In fact, Children of Bodom's underground popularity has now grown to the point that savvy major label bands include them on North American package tours, as their major drawing power provides a big boost to ticket sales. Whether on Slayer's Unholy Alliance Tour in 2005, or Megadeth's Gigantour this spring, fans of the energetic Finns show up in full force, plundering the merch tables, sporting t-shirts adorned with the trademark grim reaper artwork that appears on every album cover, and passionately chanting, "Bo-dom! Bo-dom!"

However, while Bodom's North American popularity has risen greatly in the last four years thanks to the increased exposure of high profile tours and major label distribution, their musical output has taken a bit of a downward turn at the same time. Bursting onto the scene with a frenetic hybrid of intense melodic death metal, speed-riddled thrash metal, and flamboyant power metal, the band's mish-mash of a signature sound was identifiable from the get-go, Laiho growling like a Norwegian black metaler while trading intricate lead solos with keyboardist Janne Wirman. Starting with 2003's Hate Crew Deathroll, though, the reliance on keyboard melodies and tight thrash riffs was downplayed in favor a more aggressive, crunchier guitar-dominated sound. The album was a massive success, the band's breakthrough record, and deservedly so, but metal fans being as stodgy as they tend to be (according to many, the longer a band goes on, the better their old stuff becomes and the less relevant the new material gets), grumbles of dissent could be heard beneath the cheers and accolades, which only got louder in the wake of 2005's Are You Dead Yet?, a slickly-produced yet hookless, often plodding effort that rang disturbingly hollow. Additionally, Laiho's soloing style, while technically dazzling, has always lacked the expressive qualities of peers Michael Amott (Arch Enemy) and Gus G. (Firewind), and the fewer memorable songs there are to back up those solos, the more Bodom resembles one long Guitar World-pandering toss-off.

So with the release of their sixth studio full-length, in spite of all the success in Europe and North America, Laiho and Children of Bodom still have plenty to prove, and to their great credit, they've come through with their finest album in a good five years. Considerably faster than Are You Dead Yet?, but even darker in tone, and with Wirman's synths sounding slightly more prominent, Blooddrunk will go a long way towards winning back those who thought Bodom had run out of ideas. Laiho's compositions often come off as sounding like they were written by a guitar geek with a major case of ADD, the arrangements sounding chaotic (as opposed to the more focused aggression of Arch Enemy), the frantically performed songs rarely clocking in at more than four minutes, and while nothing has changed on the new disc, the actual songs, when given some time to grow on the listener, turn out to have remarkable staying power.

We hear the band's renewed energy instantly in the opening seconds of "Hellhounds on My Trail", which kicks off with the classic Bodom intro of sharp, staccato thrash picking and keyboard stabs, the song kicking off into double-time verses highlighted by frenetic guitar/synth melodies which quickly shift into slower, more stately choruses. It's great to hear Laiho and Wirman feeding off each other as well as they do here; Wirman never gets enough credit for his work, as his ability to match Laiho's melodies and solos note for note is remarkable. The chugging "Blooddrunk", meanwhile, focuses on the muscular riffs of Laiho and rhythm guitarist Roope Latvala, the hardcore gang chorus silly, but effective, certain to become a live favorite. Conversely, "Lobodomy", the cleverest song title in a goofy running gag of each album containing a song with the word "Bodom" in it, goes for a much more gothic tone, Wirman's cascading synths adding appropriate atmosphere underneath Laiho's pinch squeals. "Smile Pretty for the Devil" and "Tie My Rope" both contain some of Laiho's catchiest riffing in years, "Banned from Heaven" is an effective mid-tempo respite from all the speed-fueled insanity, and the final minute of "Roadkill Morning" launches into a fabulous, Iron Maiden-esque coda that caps off the album nicely.

Like Arch Enemy and In Flames, Children of Bodom are at their best when focusing on their strengths, and not altering the formula too much. All those Bodom-chanting fans want the same thing: speed, energy, slick melodies, and sick solos, and they'll be thrilled to learn that, predictable as it is, Blooddrunk delivers on all levels. We'll hear plenty of more groundbreaking albums in 2008, but we won't hear as many as genuinely satisfying as this one.

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.