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Metal - Released March 8, 2019 | Nuclear Blast

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Metal - Released March 16, 2018 | Nuclear Blast

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While Children of Bodom are used to personnel shakeups, the departure of longtime guitarist Roope Latvala before the recording of I Worship Chaos posed a challenge. A member since 2003, he was an integral part of the band's sound. This left vocalist/guitarist Alexi Laiho handling all six-string chores alone for the first time, making this COB's debut as a quartet. It was recorded in a converted warehouse rather than a conventional recording studio, and delivers a more spacious sound. Laiho and bassist Henkka Seppälä tuned half a step lower for each song, resulting in a much darker, heavier attack. Opener "I Hurt" is classic COB with a knotty, technical death metal riff, labyrinthine scalar flights, and piercing melodic interludes. The band's characteristic mastery of rhythmic syncopation is heard best on "My Bodom (I Am the Only One)," with drummer Jaska Raatikainen adding counterpoint as he alternates between martial cadences and blastbeats and the whole tune crisscrosses time signatures. The new bottom-end string throb is most punishing on "Horns" and "Suicide Bomber," insanely tempoed, blackened thrashers heavier than anything COB has recorded in a decade. Keyboardist Janne Wirman becomes more integral to the mix. He adds force to the band's classic melo-tech death metal charge, and provides utterly seductive, sinister atmospherics in these new songs. He can either create swirling chordal backdrops -- as on the crunchy, doom-tinged "Prayer for the Afflicted" -- or powerful, fleet, single-note exchanges with Laiho -- as on the glorious "Morrigan." The latter is a medium-tempo groover and a clear single. Its riff is fueled by an infectious guitar hook as the drums alternate between pronounced swing and double-timed frenzy. It contains a chanted chorus and spiraling crescendoes. This passes for a stadium rock anthem. "All for Nothing" is an outlier even in COB's loopy catalog. It has an Iron Maiden-esque guitar and bass riff, with eloquent acoustic piano lines and transcendent melody atop thundering drums. Laiho delivers a screaming extended solo followed by one from Wirman on synth as they trade lines to take it out. The songwriting on I Worship Chaos is impressive, as if the quartet format forced COB to focus on delivering tunes of real substance before anything else. The performances are equally inspired -- the material is so good, it challenge the musicians to pull it off. This is the sound of a grown-up COB; it may not be as unhinged as their earliest records, but it's nearly as misanthropic. This band still has very sharp teeth, a nasty disposition, and a dark, even malevolent sense of humor. ~ Thom Jurek
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Metal - Released March 8, 2019 | Nuclear Blast

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Over 22 years, Finland's Children of Bodom have established a global reputation as one of the hardest-working high-profile outfits in extreme metal. Their initial popularity began with the release of 1998's Something Wild and was cemented by 2003's classic Hate Crew Deathroll, as CoB established a trademark technical death metal sound rife with classical and hard rock melodicism. The next 12 years, beginning with 2005's Are You Dead Yet? through 2015's I Worship Chaos, were filled with experimentation and restlessness; the band utilized thrash, dissonant tunings, and progressive riffs filtered through punishing heaviness. It resulted in records that were more diverse, true, but sometimes lacked the firm imprint of the band's established persona. Hexed marks the beginning of a third era for CoB. Here they seek to integrate the band's classic sound with their 2010s experiments. It also marks the recording debut of second guitarist Daniel Freyberg (Norther). Hexed kicks off with the anthemic "This Road," a pummeling orgy of power riffs, swinging snares, and kick drum grooves that feels as if it would have been at home on I Worship Chaos until its chorus wheels around on an intense but hooky riff. By contrast, first single "Under Grass and Clover" finds keyboardist Janne Warman engaging in a majestic duel with Alexi Laiho and Freyberg. Jaska Raatikainen's double-timed blastbeats, a chanted chorus, prog keyboards, and six-string lines buoying Laiho's snarling lead vocal place this track in the classic CoB pantheon. "Glass Houses" follows with the hallmarks of the band's classic sound intact and offers a blazing Laiho solo that charges the barriers and the trace influence of Vivaldi in its chromaticism. "Hecate's Nightmare" is filled with adorned, proggy, atmospheric keyboards, jagged squeals of pinch harmonics, a plodding tempo, and a squalling, effects-laden dual guitar solo. "Kick in the Spleen" commences with a slow power riff, but soon explodes into brutal thrash, bellowed gang choruses, technical death breakdowns, and more, making for an exhilarating three-and-a-half minutes. "Platitudes and Barren Words" is a forceful, hard-hitting track with a gorgeous melody, staccato guitars, and swirling keyboards amid fat, groovy drumming. The title cut, despite Laiho's carefully scripted inclusion of knotty prog elements, is actually somewhat nondescript (Beethoven-esque chromatic passages notwithstanding). Closer "Knuckleduster" is a direct nod to the past: It's a redone version of a cut from the 2004 EP Trashed, Lost and Strung Out. It fits perfectly here with its call-and-response contrapuntal guitar parts, keyboard flourishes, and thudding tom-toms. As a whole, Hexed may be CoB's most diverse and expansive-sounding album to date, ranging between their roots sound and adventurous experimentation. The synthesis approach found here makes for a compelling, deeply satisfying outing. ~ Thom Jurek