When the news of a new Children of Bodom made the rounds, a few birdies kept chirping in typical nit-picking fashion about how this band never learns and how they should have quit while they were still ahead in the game. “Halo of Blood” pricked my interest because, for one, Children of Bodom has been one of those initiatory bands for me, and two, Alexi Laiho made it known on an interview that “Halo of Blood” was all about going back to the roots that defined the Children of Bodom sound prior to “Relentless, Reckless Forever”. I also had the opportunity to interview them before they release the album. You can read up here.
“Waste of Skin” pulls the lid off “Halo of Blood” and how. Right off the bat, the band exhibits all the signature Bodom elements that one usually looks out for on their albums. The band has thankfully retained all of its good “Thrash” –y qualities and rounded them off with their penchant for melodic lead-work and tasteful keys: Exhibit A- The intro to “Scream for Silence”. “Transference” would be one of those tracks for me that define the “Bodom” sound. Half the charm of a Bodom album is made of Alexi and Roope’s mad guitar chops; them Neo-classical shred-skills are what won fans over in the first place. Again, this also provides somewhat of a solid base to the opinion that he may not be the best Metal vocalist or guitarist out there, but Alexi “Wildchild” Laiho can execute them near-flawlessly in unison. “Bodom Blue Moon” marks the return of another recurring feature in CoB albums, a track about Bodom itself. Another surprise that awaited me on the album would be the track “Dead Man’s Hand On Your Shoulder”. This takes a detour from the standard CoB sound, and not in a negative way: The Funeral- Doomy chorus was not bad at all. Another personal favourite would be “Damaged Beyond Repair”, because if that intro riff isn’t a throwback to the old CoB sound when they produced tracks like “In Your Face”, then I don’t know what is. Also, this track is plenty evidence that Alexi Laiho can still teach a thing or two to most of the vocalists out there right now. The album also features two covers, Roxette’s “Sleeping In My Car”, and Loudness’ “Crazy Nights”. Even though I have never much cared for the band’s quirk of eccentric covers, this time I sat up and took notice and with good reason. The Roxette cover is probably better than anything on the “Relentless, Reckless Forever” album.
While “Halo of Blood” cannot be touted as the best or even the second best record in CoB’s kitty, it definitely packs enough good solid Melodic Death Metal to make up for the blunder that was “Relentless, Reckless Forever”. The shitstorm that fans kicked up when the previous album was released was predicted by many to be the final nail in the Bodom coffin. While most of this was harsh criticism that fans ranted, was just for the sake of critiquing, some of it was justified. The Death ‘n’ Roll meets Power Metal sound texture fell through because, let’s face it, no one’s going to buy that the same band that produced “HateCrew Deathroll” and “Relentless, Reckless Forever”.
“Halo of Blood” is a WIN for me due to two reasons:
1. The band has made a stellar comeback that rivals compositions from “Blooddrunk” and “Are You Dead Yet?”
2. The band does give more than two hoots about how the fans perceive them and their sound.
I would not have cited the abovementioned second point had it not been for the fact that the response towards Children of Bodom is twofold: Either the listeners hail them for what they once were or they mock them for the band’s tongue-in-cheek style of pulling material out their… (Read: Covers). While most would find a Roxette cover to be the bone of contention for ruined palettes, I feel most fans who have grown to love CoB for what they are would welcome this quirk of theirs with open arms, and not to mention, ears.
Children of Bodom clearly knew which way they were going to go with the response they received to their previous record. “Halo of Blood” marks the return of one of the bands that define Melodic Death Metal for me. While the album does not achieve anything genre-bending, the band has clearly pulled out all stops and played to its strength. While most pundits would suggest, again, that they should quit while they are ahead, I’d hold firm ground with the belief that I am more than ready for the next chapter in the Chronicles of Bodom.