Maybe it’s a sign of my age, but upon hearing that Children Of Bodom were releasing a career retrospective I went through a brief moment of confusion trying to figure out how such a new band could possibly have enough songs for a compilation. Then it clicked, the Children have grown up and it is now a mind-blowing fifteen years since they impacted upon the public consciousness with ‘Something Wild’. Since then we have had no fewer than seven full-length albums, the most recent of which having been a particular monster, a covers album which was, if nothing else, fun and two live albums. In short, the band that had somehow stuck in my head as forever youthful, have, in fact, had a remarkable career and this special two disc set (one CD, one DVD) celebrates this career in fine style with everything from the cool reaper-styled artwork to the eighteen career-spanning tracks (plus two new ones to get the die-hards in on the act) serving to place a suitably over-the-top full stop at the end of this portion of the band’s career.
Despite their lengthy career, COB did not establish themselves immediately. The youthful rumblings of ‘Something Wild’, although with hindsight announcing the presence of a band who would become very special, gathered only mild interest with main-man Alexi Laiho himself dismissive of the album’s overtly technical trappings (Alexi had attempted to incorporate the playing style of his idol Yngwie Malmsteen during the recording of the album resulting in a densely layered affair indeed). The next two albums, the excellent ‘Hatebreeder’ and the equally impressive ‘follow the reaper’ saw the band developing both their sound and their position, with both albums charting outside of their native Finland, but it was ‘Hate Crew Deathroll’, released in 2003 to devastating impact, that truly saw COB arrive and so it is only right that it is that album’s title track that kicks off the compilation. Next up we fast forward to last year’s massive ‘relentless reckless forever’ for one of its standout tracks – ‘shovel knockout’ (the video for which also appears on the DVD) then back into the mists of time for ‘hate me!’ from 2000’s ‘follow the reaper’ – one of three songs that make the cut on this compilation with both ‘Everytime I die’ (the next track on this disc) and the album’s title track making an appearance, undoubtedly in deference to their position as fan favourites in the band’s live sets. It’s back to ‘Hate crew deathroll’ next for the evergreen ‘Needled 24/7’, one of the band’s many solid gold classics and one of the best extreme metal album openers you’re ever likely to hear. If for some reason you’re missing this from your collection or, even worse, you’ve never actually heard this track it’s something you must rectify immediately.
The only slight disappointment for the collection is that the two ‘new’ tracks transpire to be covers. Fans of COB will be no strangers to their band doing covers at the drop of a hat, but with almost every album (and certainly every re-issue) sporting covers, not to mention the archive clearing exercise of ‘skeletons in the closet’ gathering them all together, it is arguable that the world has had enough of COB-styled covers and would benefit far more from new material from the band. Nonetheless, covers is what you get, and ‘I’m shipping up to Boston’ (originally by the Dropkick Murphys) is both as fun and as cheerfully irreverent as COB covers invariably are. It’s back to ‘Hate Crew…’ for the frantic shred of ‘Sixpounder’ and then a trip to ‘Hatebreeder’ provides us with that album’s opening track ‘Warheart’ which just goes to show that even though those early albums were relatively ignored they still threw up their fair share of classics. ‘Relentless reckless forever’ then provides the brutal ‘roundtrip to hell and back’ and then the band unleash ‘trashed, lost and strungout’ (the video for which is sadly not included) followed immediately by ‘Living Dead Beat’, both of which hail from ‘are you dead yet’. ‘Something wild’ finally gets a showing with ‘Deadnight warrior’, although after the mind-melting material of ‘are you dead yet?’ it just goes to show that Alexi’s assessment of its troublesome technicality was more-or-less accurate and we quickly zip forward to one of COB’s finest moments in the monumental gang choruses of ‘Blooddrunk’, an album that astonishingly only gets one showing here (what? No ‘hellhounds on my trail’???). Following ‘follow the reaper’ we get the title track from ‘are you dead yet?’ and the always brutal ‘silent night, Bodom night’ which always goes down a storm live. A second cover arrives next in the form of ‘Jessie’s girl’ (Rick Springfield) which singularly fails to match up to the virtuoso material around it but things are soon made right with ‘in your face’ and ‘Angels don’t kill’ before the album ends on ‘Downfall’, the monumental closer from ‘Hatebreeder’.
With twenty tracks on offer it was always going to be the case that ‘Holiday at lake Bodom’ would gloss over someone’s favourite tracks, but even so it is hard not to argue that both ‘Hate Crew Deathroll’ and ‘Are you dead yet?’(four tracks each) are over represented at the expense of some truly blistering moments from the unfairly dismissed ‘Blooddrunk’, although that said, quite which tracks from those two records you’d leave off is a tough question thanks to their sublimely high quality. More questionable, perhaps, is the decision to include two new cover instead of new material proper – Bodom covers are always a mixed bag and it’s hard not to see them as in indulgence that the band have foisted on their fan base rather than two new songs to get particularly excited about. However, such is the ubiquitous quality of the Bodom’s output that this record does at least serve the purpose of acting like a custom-built live set-list. Whilst fans may have most or even all of these records, ‘Holiday at Lake Bodom’ does a good job of pulling together the cream of the band’s back catalogue (omissions not withstanding) and that’s not including the DVD which includes a music video and “candid touring and backstage footage from around the world” – a treat for long-time fans of the band no doubt, although live recordings such as those from Bloodstock included on the special edition of ‘relentless reckless forever’ might have been preferable. Overall, then, this is a fair quality package from a great band, although it could (and possibly should) have been better. If you, for some hard-to-conceive reason, have yet to discover the Bodom, or have notable gaps in your collection, then this is a sensible alternative to tracking down those early releases, if you’re a completist then you’ve probably pre-ordered this already no matter what any review might have to say, but for the fan who owns most of these releases, but does not feel compelled to explore further, this is probably something of a superfluous release which could have been rendered essential with just a little more effort. A mixed bag, then, but as a result of the package not the top-quality music that resides within – the Bodom are, and always will be, a very special band as this compilation so often reminds us.