To give you some context to this review, I was one of the few that actually praised the last couple of CHILDREN OF BODOM records. Despite the odd hatred for newer BODOM, I found the density of “Blooddrunk” and the raw almost off the cuff like elements of “Relentless” to be refreshing while never losing the heart of what BODOM built their music on. “Halo Of Blood”, the band’s eighth studio record (wow, has it been that long?), is more or less a return to form for the band. Less experimental with its overall sound, this latest record from the harsh melodic Metallers harkens back more towards what the band was doing on “Hate Crew Deathroll” and the “Trashed” EP then any of the previous three records.
Granted, this is still far from the strength of writing that these Finnish boys were putting out on “Follow The Reaper.” So if you are looking for the band to come back to that sound, then you better keep waiting. What BODOM does accomplish on “Halo Of Blood” is writing catchier and more melody driven music. The results make for an effective release that piles on memorable tracks and strong performances, the strongest that the band has done in years.
Perhaps the biggest pleasure that greeted my tender ears with “Halo Of Blood” was the return of strong keyboard lines in the music. Although they still lack some of that traditional tone from their early career or the excessiveness that ran on “Hate Crew,” Warman seems to be a more potent force for the driven melodies and added layers on the record. “All Twisted” brings back some stronger keyboard solos and “Bodom Blue Moon” utilizes them as a driving force throughout. This is definitely the best aspect of what BODOM has going here.
Beyond that, “Halo Of Blood” is a pretty strong record even for BODOM. The band seems to be firing on strong chemistry here, weaving the heavier riffs with a strong sense of guitar melody on “Waste Of Skin” and even pushing some of their denser moments out like the opening of the title track that features an aggressive blast beat. The band does incorporate one of their half-ballads on the record, this time in the form of “Dead Man’s Hand On You” with a pretty succulent atmosphere and an odd almost spoken word vocal delivery. If you are a fan of newer BODOM, then this portion of the album isn’t all that new, but the quality has taken a step upwards.
As a long time fan I enjoyed the last few records, but “Halo Of Blood” is the best the band has been in years. It’s catchy as hell with its stronger use of keys, the melodies still wrap with efficient delivery, and Alexi Laiho’s snarling harsh vocals don’t seem quite as forced as they did on the last few. Naysayers should still stream a few tracks before purchase to see if it’s a mind changer, but fans will definitely dig right in.
(Online May 26, 2013)