By Matt Hinch
Finland’s Children of Bodom have been shredding since 1997 (under that name anyway). In the process they’ve grown a reputation for being a highly technical outfit. A reputation well deserved as frontman Alexi Laiho is considered one of the best metal guitarists out there. It follows that you’ve got to have some chops to keep up. On eighth album, Halo of Blood, Laiho and the rest of the Children more than live up to that standard.
Now I can’t say I’ve been a CoB fan for very long. I heard 2008’s Blooddrunk and 2011’s Reckless Relentless Forever a few times though and had a pretty good idea what to expect on Halo. But I don’t think I expected to like it this much. As technically proficient as Laiho and Co. are, they can still write good damn songs. Laiho’s fingers may operate on another level but it doesn’t come at the cost of catchiness nor does the technicality overpower the songs. Even at his most dextrous (other than solos) the intense riffs still burrow deep. Not to mention the air guitarability. The majority of the tracks on Halo shred better than anything you could get at Staples. Wicked fast thrash riffs abound, added to by the drive of relentless percussion. That alone should be enough to get the hair flying but to bring in the definitively Finnish keyboards to round out a sound that is instantly recognizable as CoB is the ice on the lake. And to think Laiho is the vocalist too! Mainly on the screechy end of things, the fact that he can still rip the guitar to pieces while singing blows my mind every time.
“Transference”, the first single, demonstrates CoB’s sickly sweet guitar work, subtle but audible keys and balls out soloing. Follow-up track “Bodom Blue Moon” is a great example of the attitude of CoB. It’s the kind of metal that really fires up the adrenaline. It’s easy to move to, very thrashy and you can sing along. It’s songs like this that open up the fan base beyond the hardcore followers and brings people out to shows.
As stated, most of Halo just flat out shreds. However, the listener is given some breathing room with “Dead Man’s Hand on You”. The slowest track on the album it feels damn near lethargic in comparison. Starting with a bass/key heavy intro, leading into some epic feeling riffs and the always killer solos, it normalizes the heart rate before finishing off with three ragers. Closer “One Bottle and a Knee Deep” is especially sweet with blazing solos laying it all out, finishing the album with a band rather than a wimper.
Halo of Blood isn’t breaking down any new barriers for Children of Bodom but their powerful and thrashy riffage and technicality are presented fully realized. Their flair for the dramatic and intensity while remaining somewhat accessible is a formula fit for pseudo-mainstream success. Halo of Blood is just the latest example of their prowess. It’s CoB being CoB and there’s nothing wrong with that.