Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New Bodom LP has a message to deliver to naysayers

Over the course of the previous decade, few metal bands did a better job of capturing the attention and imagination of their fan base than Children of Bodom.

By combining elements of melodic death metal, black metal and power metal, throwing in homages to neo-classical metal, and featuring brilliant melodic guitar solos and dizzying keyboard runs, it's easy to see how the Finnish quintet were able to catapult their way to superstardom.

The first two albums were raw and jagged slabs of melo-death with an emphasis on power and speed metal.The band displayed its influences proudly by showcasing covers of Sepultura's Mass Hypnosis on their 1997 debut Something Wild and Iron Maiden's Aces High on the followup, 1999's Hatebreeder.

Bodom's third album, Follow the Reaper, propelled the band to a new level. Their sound became much tighter, cleaner, and more polished. For the first time, their aggression was tightly focused and packed into a powder keg of an album. The scythe was firmly entrenched into our public consciousness.

Hate Crew Deathroll, proved to be an even faster and more intense effort, which saw Bodom begin to pay tribute to the classic thrash metal sound. But after that, things began to change.

Their 2005 effort, Are You Dead Yet? and its followup, Blooddrunk, featured a drastic departure from its predecessors. Bodom began going for a slower, simpler approach and tinkered with everything from the tuning of the guitars to experimenting with an industrial element.

Not to mention the neoclassical elements have almost entirely been scrapped.  These changes have left many fans feeling cold. Will Relentless Reckless Forever do anything to sway them back into Bodom's pocket?

In short, probably not. The so called signature sound that defined Follow the Reaper and Hatebreeder is long gone and it's obviously not coming back. If you're hoping to hear that from this record you'll be sorely disappointed. 

One of the main consequences of opting for a more stripped down sound is that Bodom has lost much of what made it unique. The band that once wielded the scythe so menacingly now just sounds like an average heavy metal band, though not necessarily a bad one.  

Relentless Reckless Forever is still certainly heavy as hell, features great instrumentation, and prominently displays the ear splitting shriek of vocalist/lead guitarist Alexi Laiho. You can even get a clear sense of the band's melodic death metal roots from time to time.

"Not My Funeral," which easily ranks as the album's standout track, gets the album out to a rollicking start with great melodic guitar leads to be found throughout, especially in the chorus.

Bodom also manages to remind me of something that I miss hearing - metal that actually has good guitar solos. You can usually count on Liaho to lay down solos full of melody and feeling, and the "Not My Funeral" solo stands out as one of his best.

"Shovel Knockout" is a great moshing tune surely designed to crank the intensity up a notch at live shows. The instrumentation here is really stands out here, as the keyboards and guitars work together in perfect unison.

There are some riffs that remind me of Soilwork, but the best comparison I can make, oddly enough, is to "The Man with the Machine Gun" from the Final Fantasy VIII soundtrack. Don't believe me? Listen to it yourself.

Other tracks of note include "Pussyfoot Miss Suicide," which contains a nice catchy chorus and a rather curious lyrical theme, which pokes fun at girls who threaten suicide but are only doing it to be melodramatic and aren't really serious.

Cause that happens all the time, right?

The title track is perhaps the hardest hitting song on the album, and another for sure highlight, while "Was It Worth It" throws in some catchy hooks. But the lyrics, which hail the party life, sound like they could have been lifted straight out of a Kesha song.

Contrary to what you might expect, the closer, "Northpole Throwdown" doesn't actually involve a fight between the elves and Santa, but it is the fastest and thrasiest track on the album. Bodom attempts their best impression at a Dyers Eve/Damage Inc. type track here.

And if you have the Japanese verison of the album, you also get to hear Bodom's exclusive cover of Eddie Murphy's "Party All the Time," another satirical cover coming in the vein of "Oops I Did It Again" and "Somebody Put Something In My Drink." Although at this point it has gotten old.

Overall, this isn't Bodom's best album, but there are still some positives.  They dropped the grimy industrial sound that was so prevalent on the last two albums, which is easily one of the most welcome changes.
Relentless Reckless Forever isn't immune to having a few weak tracks, but as long as you're not expecting a return to the days of old there's no reason you shouldn't find something to like.

Score: 75/100

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