Ladies and gentleman Children of Bodom are back and they are back big. Once lauded for their brilliant mixing of melodic death metal, power metal, thrash, neoclassical metal and black metal, the band moved toward a more singular melodic death metal sound on their last two albums, Blooddrunk and Relentless Reckless Forever. This change in style was something that did not sit well with the band’s die hard fans. Not to fear, the band has returned to the diverse style of their early years and has even taken things a few steps further.
Halo of Blood puts even more of an emphasis on black metal elements and tight thrash riffs. The songs are well written and played to perfection. Alexi Laiho’s vocals are the best of his career so far. They are more intense, harsh and controlled and definitely have more of a black metal influence to them. The neoclassical power metal style guitar solos on the album are nothing short of incredible. Jaska Raatikainen, Henkka Seppälä, Janne Wirman and Roope Latvala are all at the top of their game. The emphasis that the band once put on keyboards has now taken more of a back seat to the guitar work helping the amazing riffs to really stand out. The keyboards are certainly still present and well done, but instead of taking over the songs, like they have on occasion since the release of Hate Crew Deathroll in 2003, they subtly add to songs.
This is no doubt C.O.B.’s best release since 1999’s Hatebreeder. The album gets a high rating due to its many divergent sounds. Much like Dillinger Escape Plan’s latest release, no two songs are the same. The blending of all these extreme metal subgenres comes together perfectly. The album starts out with a perfect thrash riff and an amazing neoclassical lead guitar overlay from Laiho on the track “Waste of Skin”. Next comes what I consider to be the best track on the album. The title track “Halo of Blood” starts off with a black metal riff that will remind listeners of the best of bands like Immortal and Destroyer 666. The song then jumps into a great fast thrash riff helping to create an awesome blackened thrash song.
“Scream of Silence” is a straight melodic death metal track that brought to mind material from In Flames’ 1996 release The Jester Race. The riff is crisp. The guitar harmonization and growled vocals are done in true old school melodic death metal style. From here we go right to a very straightforward and punishing thrash riff that really makes “Transference” one of the best songs on the album.
Previously it was mentioned that the solos on the album are absolutely amazing. One could even go so far as to say that they are some of the best of 2013 so far. “Bodom Blue Moon (The Second Coming)” shows off the two best neoclassical power metal guitar solos on the album. They are placed perfectly on the track and the notes go up and down the guitar neck with the best combination of precision and speed.
“The Days Are Numbered” and “All Twisted” have that true signature Children of Bodom sound that we have all come to know. The band takes all the extreme subgenre sounds that they employ and combine them all into one track. These tunes will remind fans of many of the songs on Hatebreeder and Follow the Reaper. These tracks certainly remind us of the amazing innovation that the band had when they first arrived on the scene.
Next comes a truly innovative song that is probably the second best track on the album. During the first couple of listens, “Dead Man’s Hand On You” sounded like something that did not quite fit. However upon repeated listens came the realization of how different and well done the song is. An extreme power ballad (if there is such a thing) would be the best way to describe it. The harsh vocals are sung in an almost graceful way giving the song a very interesting dynamic. The lyrics are easily the best on the album and the musicianship is about as tight as a band can get.
“Damaged Beyond Repair” has a great combination of a fast thrash riff, black metal aggression and excellent melodic death metal guitar harmonization. This brings us to the end of the album and the addition of a new wrinkle into C.O.B.’s sound. “One Bottle and a Knee Deep” begins with an almost melodic metalcore type riff that then begins to mix with power metal and thrash. This certainly is an interesting combination that does not seem like it would be appealing. However, the sounds mix much better than one would think and it gives this very diverse album the most ideal finish.
I have no complaints about any of the songs on Halo of Blood. You can tell that the band put their heart and soul into the entire album making each song different and well done from start to finish. My only complaint would be that the album contains only ten tracks, unless of course you have the Japanese version with the two extra songs. One wonders why this is becoming such a trend in the metal community. Once again it felt like it was over too quickly and left me wanting a little bit more.
This is an album that should absolutely not be missed. Halo of Blood is one of those releases that is instantly appealing and does not take repeated listens in order for it to grow on you. The band clearly put their blood, sweat and tears into this record and gave the fans exactly what they have been clamoring for and then some. The record is both nostalgic and innovative giving C.O.B. fans the sound they love while adding new elements that only help to increase the appeal of the music. By all means make sure you take the time to pick this one up. It is truly one of the top releases of 2013.