Sound — 9
Say what you will about Alexi Laiho's vocals, the guitarist/vocalist and his group Children of Bodom have an amazing way of constructing a song. The band's latest release Blooddrunk not only excels in being a powerful and aggressive metal album, it comes very close to tackling the progressive precision you might hear on a Rush or Dream Theater album. When you combine that kind of impressive musicianship with some absolutely killer riffs and solos, it truly shows why the band was given a coveted spot on the 2008 Download Festival alongside the likes of Judas Priest and Motorhead. While the Finnish band displayed impressive work on 2005's Are You Dead Yet, the work on Blooddrunk shows both the band's diversity and overall strength in songwriting. From the opening track Hellhounds On My Trail, it's heavy off the bat, with an intro that feels straight-out thrash. Laiho had mentioned in past interviews that he was ready to put out a batch of extremely aggressive songs, and Hellhounds On My Trail was likely a product of that period. While the energy alone could drive the song, one of the highlights is undeniably the hyper-speed solo in which you hear both wah and a straightforward distorted sound throughout the course of it. The progressive element is heavy on Blooddrunk, and at times you'd swear you could be listening to a Dream Theater album. This is usually the case whenever keyboardist Janne Warman takes off on one of his crazy good solos (that uses a keyboard effect similar to Jordan Rudess' own), with the tracks Lobodomy and One Day You Will Cry being the prime examples. The guitar solos never really sound in the style of John Petrucci, but the overall compositions are Dream Theater-like, going on several twists in turns in tempo and style during the song. Of course, for as many moments as you hear the progressive side, you'll also get a heavy dose of straightforward power or thrash metal to match it. The mixing was one of the highlights of the album, with every single riff coming to the surface beautifully. You hear every note or beat, and pretty much no band member gets overshadowed. The vocals are the part the only part that gets a little hidden, but to be honest, that actually isn't the worst thing. While Laiho's distinctive growl fits in well with the songs, it will always take a backseat to the Laiho's own riffs or Jaska Raatikainen's tight percussive skills.
Lyrics — 7
Aggression and anger definitely play a prominent role in the songs on the new CD, but with a title like Blooddrunk that's probably to be expected. In the title track Laiho sings, Blooddrunk; I'll break or dance, let you decide and later Do you have something to blame in such short time? You are the one crying. And you can probably have a pretty good idea of what you'll be hearing lyrically with Smile Pretty For The Devil, Done With Everything, Die For Nothing, or Roadkill Morning. They're incendiary and might lay it on a bit thick at times, but you can't claim that Children of Bodom are lacking passion.
Overall Impression — 9
Although it's hard to get over the one-sided, growled vocals of some bands out there, Children of Bodom are putting enough down on the table elsewhere that they end up working successfully with the complex tracks. Laiho's vocals will never compete with his guitar skills, but it makes little difference on a strong album like Blooddrunk. There are moments on the album that recall everyone from Metallica to Iron Maiden to Dream Theater, and that's a huge credit to Children of Bodom. The chemistry among the band members is amazing, and the quintet has the skills to take on a career as a progressive band -- if they wanted to, that is. Children of Bodom's genre might be a little hazy right now, but it doesn't really matter if they are speed or power metal. The truth is that they recorded a solid, memorable set of 9 songs on Blooddrunk, and that genre-crossing sound seems to be working out brilliantly.