How the hell have two years passed since Alexi Laiho and his troops of doom last smashed their way into the public consciousness with their stunningly heavy and yet incisively accessible ‘Halo of Blood’? Back with the sepia tinted ‘I worship chaos’, it’s clear that Children of Bodom have lost none of the fire and fury that has led them to the forefront of melodic death metal since they emerged kicking and screaming with ‘something wild’ all the way back in 1997. Nonetheless, there have been changes, most notably the departure of guitarist/vocalist Roope Latvala, although if this change has affected the band in any significant way, it doesn’t show. Put simply ‘I worship chaos’ is a stunning reassertion of all the facets that have gained CoB such a rabid fan base over the years, and whether you’re a long-time fan or a total newcomer, ‘I worship chaos’ will leave you dazed and broken with an immense grin pasted across your features.
Opening with ‘I hurt’ CoB grab the listener immediately by the throat with their patented mix of razor sharp guitar, raw-throated vocals and pseudo-orchestral swathes of keyboard. Like ‘halo of blood’ there’s an accessibility here, and yet for all the hints of melody, the extreme metal excesses are not blunted in the slightest whilst Aelxi remains a Faustian master of the fret board. Kicking off with a huge, juddering riff, ‘My Bodom (I am the only one)’ is a chrome-plated monster of a track that suggests that Bodom may actually have benefitted from being forced to record as a four-piece for the first time, as the uncluttered production lends a visceral sense of urgency to proceedings. Kicking off with a suitably epic introduction, ‘Morrigan’ is a track that emphasizes the bands melodic leanings, although for all that the music veers between death metal and a fantasy soundtrack, Alexi vocals remain a thing of white hot rage as they scratch and tear across the surface of the track. ‘Horns’ (surely the ultimate title for any heavy metal track) is a short, sharp kick to the softer regions with its gruelling riffs and blistering solos. Sensibly, Children of Bodom slow the pace for the next track, the dark, heavy ‘prayer for the afflicted’. Not only does the change of pace help to keep the pace of the album fresh and varied, it also makes the tracks that bookend it feel all the more furious by way of comparison, not least the brutal title track which proves to be a furious highlight of the album.
Refusing to slacken the pace, ‘hold your tongue’ kicks off with Jaska Raatikainen’s rolling thunder on the drums and then clicks into the sort of dark groove that CoB do so well, the guitars stabbing away in the darkness, only for the dark might of ‘suicide bomber’ to ratchet things up a notch with a tough-as-nails vocal performance that pushes the tolerance of Alexi’s acid-soaked vocal chords to breaking point. Varying the template with a melodic yet atmospheric piece, Children of Bodom deliver a surprise in the form of ‘All for nothing’, a mid-tempo piece that shows CoB pushing the boundaries with a piece that offers up some truly astonishing solo work that sees Alexi and keyboardist Jenn Wirman go head to head before the album concludes with one last adrenalin shot in the form of ‘Widdershins’. It’s not quite time to go home yet, however. As increasingly seems to be the case, a special edition of the album (housed in a handsome digipack and with a DVD documentary detailing the making of the album) offers up three bonus tracks. First up is ‘mistress of taboo’ (originally by the Plasmatics) which has a sleazy, punkish charm that’s all its own. It’s a great track, but you can see why it’s a bonus track and not part of the album proper as the feel is very different from the other material on offer. This is exactly what you want from a bonus track – the sound of a band cutting loose in the studio, and it’s worth buying the special edition for this track alone. Next up is the equally fun ‘danger zone’ (yep – Kenny Loggins!) which sounds like Jon Bon Jovi having a nervous breakdown in the studio after smoking cigarettes and drinking whiskey all night with Lemmy. Finally the special edition gives us a cover of the Amorphis track ‘black winter day’ which is delivered with a fair degree of seriousness in comparison to the brutalised cover versions that preceded it. It’s a fine selection of bonus tracks and nicely in keeping with CoB’s tradition of delivering brilliantly realised and surprising cover versions.
In the early days I enjoyed Children of Bodom, but all too often their albums felt cold, clinical and hard to love. Over the years the band have refined their sound to a sharp point and ‘I worship chaos’ is, to my mind, the pinnacle of their achievements. Blisteringly heavy and yet with an accessible edge, varied and yet cohesive, it is a brilliantly brutal album and one to which I will return time and again. ‘I worship chaos’ deserves to sell by the bucket load and looks set to see CoB reach even greater heights, all of which is utterly deserved. Already one of my favourite heavy releases of the year, Children of Bodom have really nailed it with this one.