Sound — 9
Children of Bodom started in Finland in 1993 under the name Inearthed. After several unsuccessful demos they undertook the recording of their first full length album and caught the interest of Spinefarm Records, but changed their name to Children of Bodom to avoid legal entanglements with their previous label, Shiver Records. In subsequent releases the band had a tendency to tweak their sound, adding keyboard and different compositional elements, but having most often been associated with death metal or melodic death metal. In 1997, after opening for Dimmu Borgir, the band caught the attention of Nuclear Blast records which began their entrance to an international stage. Since then Children of Bodom have become a "household name" to the international metal community and have released numerous successful albums, including a cover album in 2009 called "Skeletons in the Closet." Their album, "Blooddrunk," released in 2008, is the one that caught my attention and I've listened to them since shortly after that release. The current lineup is Alexi Laiho on lead vocals and lead guitar, Roope Latvala on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, Henkka Seppala on bass guitar and backing vocals, Janne "Warman" Wirman on keyboards, and Jaska Raatikainen on drums and backing vocals. Alexi and Jaska are both founding members, and Roope is the newest addition having joined in 2003 after Alexander Kuoppala left because he said the touring lifestyle no longer worked for him.
"Halo of Blood" is Children of Bodom's eighth full-length studio album and contains 10 tracks, clocking in at just under 42 minutes. The overall mixing and production on the album is perfection, with driving bass and the guitars maintaining the essential rawness and power to convey the aggression of the songs. The drums are precise but still have an organic feel. The album opens with the track "Waste of Skin" with a riff syncopated with the drums that builds into an instantly classic CoB track. The title track, "Halo of Blood" comes in like 3 minutes of pure aggression from the first note until the last. "Transference" is one of the most melodic songs from the album and probably some of the most successful use of keyboards on the album. "Bodom Blue Moon (The Second Coming)" has a frenetic almost schizophrenic vibe to it and is well placed in the middle of the album, forcing you to lean forward and start listening fresh to the album. The track "Dead Man's Hand on You" is a great slow-burner type of track with a creepy feel and the most vocally dynamic. The album closes with "One Bottle and a Knee Deep," which is probably the most interesting track on the album for me, having a weird metal pirate shanty feel to it and also containing the most memorable guitar solo.
Lyrics — 8
Alexi Laiho has made small changes to his vocal style throughout his career, and with the release of "Halo of Blood" he periodically uses slightly cleaner vocals than he has on previous releases. He still uses death metal screams, but lets his vocals clean up occasionally. The rest of the band does a great job backing him up on vocals. In several places on the album they use "gang vocals" for parts of the lyrics. The lyrics to most of the album are loosely narrative while remaining abstract and pretty interesting, though it always takes me a couple of listens to pick all of them up. From the song "Transference," here are some of the loosely narrative but abstract lyrics I'm referring to: "Dragged in the light/ Like nothing was wrong/ Pulled towards where I don't belong/ I hear the fallen angels/ Sing my requiem/ Take a step/ Cross the line/ Have a thin/ Glance back and you're living in sin/ It hurts so bad/ Like a war within/ Looking at the blade/ Aiming at my eyes/ Staring to where the evil call my lies/ Keep a promise/ If you ever will/ Don't say a word/ Just kill, kill, kill!"
Overall Impression — 8
"Halo of Blood" was a fun album to listen to. There is a fair amount of variety on the album including some really interesting keyboard use to help make songs sound "epic." While Children of Bodom have been predominantly labeled as "melodic death metal" I've always thought of them more as thrash metal with elements of power metal and this album is a good argument for that, from my point of view. Really, the vocals are the main thing that give Children of Bodom that death metal label. My favorite tracks from the album are "Bodom Blue Moon (The Second Coming)," "Transference," "Dead Man's Hand on You," and "One Bottle and a Knee Deep." Overall, this album stacks up fairly well with their previous releases and I think it will be seen as one of their best releases, at least rivaling with "Blooddrunk," in my opinion.