Thursday, 19 November 2015

Children of Bodom's 'I Worship Chaos' - Album Review

After a couple of fairly average albums, Finnish melodic death metal masters Children of Bodom returned in 2013 with their eighth album Halo of Blood (see my review of that album here). While 2008's Blooddrunk and 2011's Relentless Reckless Forever had their moments, they failed to match up the band's classic early output. The band built their solid reputation on a combination of black metal style vocals, heavy melodic death metal riffs, and the neo-classical virtuosity displayed in the interplay between lead guitar and keyboards. Halo of Blood showed that Children of Bodom could sound inspired and exciting again, and mixed the best of their flashy early albums and the more straight ahead sound found on 2005's Are You Dead Yet?. I was really hoping that the band's follow-up album would continue to build on the good work created on Halo of Blood and, I am glad to say that, I Worship Chaos has done just that. In many ways it is the perfect sequel to Halo of Blood, and builds upon what that album started and runs with it. The mix of the band's old and newer styles has been refined somewhat here, and the production remains strong and clear. Peter Tägtgren produced Halo of Blood, but for I Worship Chaos the band decided to produce the album themselves along with Mikko Karmila, who has worked with bands like Amorphis and Warmen in the past. This album also sees the first line-up change in Children of Bodom since 2003. Long-time rhythm guitarist Roope Latvala left the band earlier this year, and has not yet been officially replaced. Antti Wirman (Warmen), brother of keyboardist Janne Wirman, has been playing live with throughout the year, but a long-term replacement has yet to be found. As a result, I Worship Chaos is the first album in the band's history to be recorded as a four-piece, with Alexi Laiho handling all of the album's guitars as well as, of course, the vocals. This has not made a huge difference to the overall sound of the album, as Laiho's riffs and solos always dominated the band's sound anyway, with Latvala there to back him up. Laiho's guitar riffs are as razor sharp as ever, and he really shines throughout the album. The rhythm section of bassist Henkka T. Blacksmith and drummer Jaska Raatikainen are as solid and relentless as ever, and add the excellent foundation for Laiho and Wirman to add their melodic touches too. An interesting fact about this album is that it was recorded in an old warehouse, instead of in a professional recording studio, to help add to the album's ambiance.

The album gets underway with I Hurt and some spooky atmospherics that soon gives way to a big guitar riff that is reminiscent of the band's early work. Wirman's keyboards swirl around the riff, giving it a fine sense of melody, before a crushing riff heralds the start of the song's verse. This song is a thrasher, with Laiho spitting out the verse vocals over a frantic riff backed up by some excellent drumming. The song's chorus is slower, with gang vocals over a muscular riff that is quite infectious. Guitars and keyboards mix well throughout, matching each other and creating the big sound that the band is known for. My Bodom (I am the Only One) starts with staccato rhythms that are a good basis for Laiho's rough vocals, but the song soon picks up and transforms into a more fluid beast with big ringing chords and powerful bass guitar. The song's chorus is quite anthemic, with big stabs of keyboard and catchy vocals from Laiho. There is a short keyboard solo thrown in for good measure, but the song's last section is the best. Laiho lays down a massive riff while Wirman's keyboards dance above it adding plenty of melody. This section culminates in a great guitar solo, that forgoes the usual speed for precision. Morrigan, the album's single, is a great mid-paced rocker with an amazing opening riff that sees the unity between Laiho and Wirman once again which also acts as the song's main verse pattern. While most of Children of Bodom's best songs are the fast songs, they also do the mid-paced songs well. This is one of their best examples of this in my opinion, and the discordant chorus helps to ram this home. After the second chorus, the song drops out and leaves Wirman's keyboards to dominate, creating a haunting but melodic atmosphere. Horns is another fast song, and opens with a blast beat that morphs into an excellent thrashy verse with some extremely catchy guitar work. This is a straight ahead metal song, nothing else, but it works well the keep the energy of the album flowing and on a high. There are no real pauses for the band to catch their breath, the song is relentless. There is an excellent keyboard and guitar duel at the end of the song too, that manages to match the speed set by the rest of the song. Prayer for the Afflicted definitely feels like a break after the furious Horns. It is one of the band slower songs, which can often be quite hit and miss. This one falls somewhere in the middle, but is certainly more hit than miss. The keyboards create a wall of sound that works well as the slow guitar riffs churn over above them, and there are a few little instrumental breaks that add some much needed melody. Laiho's voice has never sounded that great in slower songs, but his howls during the choruses actually sound great. This is not a bad song at all, but lacks the spark of the other four previous songs.

The album's title track is another furious metal song, with a snaking guitar riff and Raatikainen's driving drum beat. There is a definite old-school vibe here however, as they keyboards really dominate the whole song, with plenty of stabs of dramatic strings and take emphasis away from the rest of the band. I like this, as keyboards became a little underused in the band's sound in recent times, so it is great to see Wirman back in a big way. Keyboards are what makes the band stand out from the rest of the melodic death metal crowd, so they are very important. Hold Your Tongue is another solid mid-paced rocker, with some great downtuned guitar patterns in the verses, that speed up as the song reaches the chorus. This is quite an anthemic song, with a good punk attitude and a classic rock-style chorus that would see plenty of fist pumping live as the crowd sung along with Laiho's lyrics. It also contains an excellent guitar solo that shows the best of Laiho's skills. As Children of Bodom move forward, his solos have improved. They contain much more melody than in the past, and are not just exercises in speed. After a fairly low-key intro, Suicide Bomber really kicks off with a fast, grinding riff that nods to the band's extreme metal influences. There are slower, keyboard-led sections that act as a good contrast to all of the heaviness of the rest of the song. This is a surprisingly melodic song, that has an almost bluesy solo from Laiho, and a keyboard solo that would sound at home on most power metal albums. It is probably fitting then that Laiho's vocals are as snarly as they are, and helps to create a heavy atmosphere even when the song slows down. All for Nothing is another slower song, with a gentle keyboard and guitar intro that sees Laiho whispering the lyrics in a rather uncharacteristic way. This does not last for long, but the song never really picks up any real speed, and chugs along at a slow pace for the majority of it's length, apart from a short burst of speed in the middle. This is probably as close to a ballad as Children of Bodom get to making, and it does work rather well. I would say this song is better than Prayer for the Afflicted, and has some excellent keyboard soloing throughout. The album's final song Widdershins is a fitting album closer. It is a dirty, heavy song that includes all the hallmarks of the band's sound. Big keyboards cut through the mix, and Laiho's gruff vocals are at their very best. There is even a guitar/keyboard duel that sounds like it could have come from one of their earlier albums. The song fades out on a huge, doomy guitar riff; and the spooky sounds from the album's intro return as the album ends - bringing things full circle. Overall, I Worship Chaos is another good album from the band that continues the good work started on Halo of Blood

The album was released on 2nd October 2015 via Nuclear Blast Records. Below is the band's promotional video for Morrigan.

No comments:

Post a Comment