Sometimes I forget what Children of Bodom used to sound like. While they retain some of the elements from Something Wild and Hatebreeder, these Finns have almost entirely abandoned that cold-blooded power metal title. Mostly what’s different is the absence of those dense synths (which seem more prominent in today’s pirate metal bands than anything else) and the greater variation in Alexi “Wildchild” Laiho’s vocals (which ranged from his signature rasps to Mr. Lordi back-alley bully gruffs). Over the years, Children of Bodom transitioned to less keys, Laiho’s vocals have become full-on barks and rasps, and the music became a one-dimensional melodic-death approach.
Even though the impressive guitar work remains intact, the quality in their material declines a bit following 2003’s Hate Crew Deathroll. However, after their seventh – and final – release on Spinefarm Records (the tasteless Relentless Reckless Forever – sadly, I didn’t hear what Angry Metal Guy heard), the band was picked up by Nuclear Blast for 2013’s Halo of Blood, which was labelled by many as a “rebirth” and the resulting album was significantly better than its predecessor. And that brings us to this year’s I Worship Chaos. Honestly, I always look forward to new Children of Bodom material, even if it’s not what it use to be. But I swear I’m gonna stab someone if I hear another fucking Britney Spears cover.
“I Hurt” gets the ball rolling with a typical CoB bruising; administered from Laiho’s vox and guitars. As expected, you will also get a lot of “motherfucker” in this one. It’s a good opener and, while not overly impressive or original, it’s unmistakably CoB and one of the better tracks on the album. “My Bodom (I Am the Only One)” chooses “son of a bitch” for its arsenal, and even hints at some old-school key work (quite Eluveitie-like) beside Laiho’s signature fretboard frenetics. Other speedy numbers include the title track and “Hold Your Tongue;” however, one is helpful to the album and the other is not. The former is a short ditty that combines chaotic finger dancing and speed-metal double picking to get it off the ground. It’s quick and to the point. Gang-shout chorus, keyboard soloing, and a conclusion that provides you with ten seconds of the band fucking around in the studio all sound like fun, but this is the weakest song on the album and the playful attitude is a painful momentum killer. Thankfully, “Hold Your Tongue” does a fine job of recovering the mood even if it’s too little, too late. This is achieved with meaty riffs and a “shut the fuck up!” chorus. You really can’t go wrong with the latter bit.
On the flip side, I Worship Chaos also sports some standout melodic pieces in the form of Hypocrisy-like melodics of “Morrigan” and “Prayer for the Afflicted,” as well as the well-crafted “All For Nothing.” All deliver emotion-laden keyboard ambiances and vocal deliveries steering toward those of Peter Tägtgren. “All For Nothing,” in particular, is a stellar example of this and perhaps the best-written track on the album. Focusing on a riff straight from the melodic annals of Dark Tranquillity, the keys push it forward before the guitars take over. The result is a memorable one and the heart-wrenching chorus, guitar solos, and keyboard round it out nicely. Closer “Widdershins” combines the melodic and the crushing to gently beat the snot out of you. Chugging guitars carry this track to the finish line in a way that suits the overall direction of the album well.
At the end of the day, this is a pretty predictable CoB release. As with all their releases, I Worship Chaos batters you to death with butt-loads of clipping but the balance of instrumentation is good. Another issue is the fact this is their longest full-length yet (clocking in around forty-five minutes), which lacks that load-and-fire feel of previous releases. Overall, this is an OK album and should please most die-hard fans. For me, this isn’t to the level of material from their glory days and sits on the same level (or maybe a step below) Halo of Blood.