Album Review: CHILDREN OF BODOM Halo of Blood
Children of Bodom have never taken themselves all that seriously. For a band that is probably known to more random Youtubers for their novelty cover of "Oops! I Did It Again" than they are to actual metal fans, there's always been a certain tongue-in-cheek quality to the insouciant Finns. As the years went on and their discography began to bloat, however, the question that began to syncretise in the minds of their fanbase was: if Children of Bodom didn't take themselves seriously, why should we?
The cover songs were there from the beginning, starting with a run through of Sepultura's "Mass Hypnosis" that was included on the Japanese version of the debut album. Of course, during Bodom's ascent in the late 90's the metal scene was reveling in a seemingly endless deluge of tribute albums; for a time, labels like Dwell and Cleopatra seemed to put out nothing but tribute albums. And initially Bodom played it straight, serving up respectful melodic death tributes to metal classics such as "Silent Scream" (Slayer), "Aces High" (Maiden), and "Hellion" (W.A.S.P).
In 2003 the band paid tribute to their own early albums with a compilation entitled Bestbreeder, and queued up as track one was a newly recorded rendition of Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell". Since then the covers have been nearly all piss takes, and – coincidentally or not – the quality of the material started seeming a little more half-assed, a little less energetic, around that very same time.
The past 10 years has seen the Children of Bodom fan base polarize into two camps, the naysayers claiming that the band only had one album in them and have been rehashing that to diminishing returns ever since, and the loyalists hailing Bodom a modern day Motorhead or AC/DC, pumping out reliable comfort metal to an audience that was never really looking for change to begin with.
Halo of Blood won't settle that beef.
At least they're trying this time: the album is refreshingly free of bullshit, more or less a welcome digression back to their melodic death roots with an absence of metalcore breakdowns or clunky death 'n' roll rhythms. If anything, the diversions on Halo of Blood look further backward, as on the Priest-like "Transference" and "Dead Man's Hand On You", the latter a sort of funeral doom song played at a faster-than-usual pace.
In the end, "back-to-basics" is about the best compliment that can be paid toward this erstwhile comeback album. The lack of clunkers only elevates what actually is here by proxy, but taken on their own terms the 10 songs here don't really add anything essential to the discography. Still, there are no signs of cover tunes as of yet, so let's hope 2009's Skeletons in the Closet and the pair of obligatory new covers on last year's 15 Years of Wasted Youth comp have effectively douched the remaining schtick of this once proud band's system, and that it turns out Halo of Blood is merely the first shaky steps of Bodom finding their sea legs again.