May 8, 2008

CD Review: Children of Bodom - Blooddrunk

Children of Bodom released their first album way back in 1997, it was called Something Wild and proved to be a pretty big hit. It was not until 2005's Are You Dead Yet?, their fifth album, that the band began to make any serious in-roads in North America. But it is only now, with their sixth release, that I have had an formal introduction to them. Children of Bodom is a band whose name I have seen appearing more frequently around my haunts, and I cannot say why I never listened to them prior to this. Better late than never, right? Also, continuing their higher profile North American presence, they are part of the latest Gigantour incarnation with Megadeth, also featuring In Flames, High on Fire, and Job for a Cowboy. As for Blooddrunk? It is nothing if a very satisfying chunk of genre crossing metal.

The first intriguing aspect of Children of Bodom is their name. I was curious as to where it came from. So, a little research later I have found that it is derived from a notorious murder that took place in their native country of Finland. In 1960, four teens were brutally attacked, three killed, while camping at Lake Bodom. Reading the few details I found, it looks like, on the surface, a close relative to the Zodiac murders in San Francisco. Those murders are not quite an exact match, but they both went unsolved, although there was a confession to the Bodom murders in 1997, although it does not seem to be believed. In any case, it is definitely a dark source to draw a band name from.

The Children of Bodom sound is a mash-up of multiple genres, most notably melodic death and thrash metal. Looking over their history, the band has had plenty of genre tags laid upon them, from those I mentioned to power metal, speed metal, and neo-classical metal. Looking at the combination of genres, it begins to make the idea of taking labels this deep just a little bit ridiculous. Would it not be easier to just call them metal? Sure, it encompasses a lot, but so does the band. One listen to Blooddrunk and you will sneer, put your horns up, and hear nothing but metal, pure, simple, intoxicating metal.

I have not heard any of their other releases for comparison, but there is something that just draws me into this release. It is a wild combination of technical skills with raw energy that just works really well. I do not think this is a great album by any stretch, but it is eminently listenable. A good example would be the opening track, "Hellhounds on My Trail," which is easily one of the better tracks. It opens with an insanely fast guitar riff that takes you from 0 to 60 in about two seconds flat, before settling into a technically sound riff that surges forward with the help of driving drums, solid bass, atmospheric keyboards, and the blood-curdling vocals, not to mention the underlying melodic nature of the music. As if that forward surge was not enough, toss in guitar and keyboard solos and you get a package that is well worth your time and is sure to get the adrenaline flowing.

There are a number of tracks to focus on when giving this your first listen. The title track begins with a nice keyboard line that adds a melodic undercurrent to the pure thrash guitars. "One Day You Will Cry" has a great riff to lead you through a song that alternates the thrash with strong melodic portions. "Tie My Rope" has an old school thrash (with keyboards) feel that is sure to get your head banging. Now, I just love the guitars in "Done with Everything, Die for Nothing," besides having a great title.

The version of the album I received also includes a hidden track, a cover of Stan Jones' "Ghostriders in the Sky." Considering it's country music roots, it is interesting to hear this metal version. I am pleased to report that it works, it is pretty wild too.

Children of Bodom have crafted a fascinating collision of American inspired thrash with more European sensibilities involving black metal and melody. The sound defies classification by feeling at home in a few different areas, but in the end, the music itself, and not the labels, is what counts. There is a vibe reminiscent of 80's era thrash that makes the music seem familiar, while all of the other influences update it for the world stage, giving it stronger relevance in the modern scene.

The band is led by Alexi Laiho on lead guitar and vocals, not to mention primary songwriter. His leads are wild affairs, blended with complex rhythms, and tight work with keyboardist Janne Warman, while rhythm guitarist Roope Latvala gives the sound a fuller stage. At the same time, drummer Jaska Raatikainen and bassist Henkka Seppälä lay down a solid rhythmic bed. As for Laiho's vocals? Well, I cannot say they are my favorite, but they are pretty good, although I swear that he must be spitting up blood when he's done a set. His raw growl sounds as if his throat is being shredded.

Bottomline. Blooddrunk is a solid outing from a band I need to investigate more. The blend of American and European styles creates a potent sound that is easy to get into, exciting, and just a lot of fun to listen to. I am sure fans will want to add this to their collection, while newbies such as myself can get an adrenaline rush along with their introduction.


Track List:
01. Hellhounds On My Trail
02. Blooddrunk
03. LoBodomy
04. One Day You Will Cry
05. Smile Pretty For The Devil
06. Tie My Rope
07. Done With Everything, Die For Nothing
08. Banned From Heaven
09. Roadkill Morning
10. Ghostriders in the Sky (Stan Jones cover)


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