Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Album Review: Children of Bodom - Hexed

If like me you have a problem with guttural vocals, black metal shrieks or death metal growls then you probably won’t attempt to digest this new effort by Finnish extreme metal veterans Children of Bodom and it’s a shame because it’s a killer record replete with complex compositions and astonishing musicianship. In the twenty plus years since their debut, they have gone through several phases and experimented with different sounds like melodic technical death metal or more challenging, experimental material. On their new record Hexed, it seems that they have decided to streamline their approach and deliver their most straightforward record in a long time. In fact, vocals notwithstanding, this is probably the most “Rock” album they’ve released since Hate Crew Deathroll in 2003.

They’ve always been very indebted to classic metal bands as evident in some of their rhythms and harmonies but this time, the song structures themselves are of a more academic ilk and could even have commercial potential. For example, with more melodic singing and a slower tempo, Under Grass And Clover could have been recorded by a sleaze rock band from the eighties: the riffs, the vocal cadence and the gang-like chorus sound like they could have been a hit around 1988.

There are nods to Priest (The Speed Metal track Glass Houses), Black Album-era Metallica (the slow, heavy groove of Soon Departed), and Iron Maiden (the opening riff of Say Never Look Back among other examples) but thankfully the band retains its identity throughout.

Among the highlight of the album are opener The Road, which boasts a catchy chorus, killer riffs and cinematic keyboards over a punishing tempo, the gothic Hecate’s Nightmare, the guitar pyrotechnics of Relapse (The Nature Of My Crime) and epic closer Knuckleduster.

The overall tone is slightly less somber than on the previous album (2015’s I Worship Chaos) and the production is a lot clearer which lets the listener appreciate every detail and marvel at the virtuosity of the players. If the tempos are still relentless and the furious blast beats still drive every song, the hostility is balanced by more direct and concise songwriting, and one can’t help but wonder if that approach is a conscious or organic one.

But fear not: shorter songs and more hooks don’t mean that Children Of Bodom have gotten any less heavy or any less aggressive. In fact, it only adds more impact to the punch of a record that fulfils all of the promises that the band made over twenty years ago when they released their brilliant first record Something Wild.

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