Children of Bodom. I think the last time I cared about a Children of Bodom release was when I heard the very disappointing Follow the Reaper which followed what was absolutely in my top 5 for 1999 the venerable Hatebreeder. Oh man, I not only loved the shit out of that record, I even saw them play an amazing show (with the exception of a bored Wirmen being a douche on the keyboards) at Milwauke Metalfest. And I defended the band’s honor against every old, grizzled metal dude on the extreme metal forum I went to at the time. They called them Children of Boredom. Unfortunately, I kinda started to agree with them after a while and the records that followed Follow the Reaper were progressively more and more embarrassing.
So you can imagine my surprise when I popped in Relentless Reckless Forever and wasn’t bored, or hell, even upset! In fact, I was entertained! There’s a feeling of old school Children of Bodom that kinda emanates from the depths of this disc and that feeling got me excited. The whole thing starts off with the pretty damn rad “Not My Funeral” which shows off what this band is known for: the guitars. And really, it’s the guitars that kept me interested for the whole record. The solos feel inspired, the interplay between the keyboards and guitars is reminiscent of the old days and the frankly, they give me some pretty serious guitar envy, and that was always the point of Children of Bodom, right? ‘Cause it certainly wasn’t the depth of the lyrics.
Which, by the way, are still pretty much lame. I mean, I can’t read them, but it’s not like Alexi Laiho’s lyrics have ever been high art. In fact, I think they’ve always been the opposite. While there are plenty of art rock rooted bands in the Finnish scene, Children of Bodom has always carried the flag of 80s thrash and vulgarity high. With songs like “Shovel Knockout,” “Cry of the Nihilist,” and “Northpole Throwdown,” I think you pretty much know what to expect. Mind blowing guitar and keyboard solos, pretty solid groove based riffing and writing and some angst-driven, macho bullshit lyrics from a dude who pretty much just wants to drink, fight and tour.
But, that said, these days even Hatebreeder doesn’t do it for me the way it used to. While there is some awesome stuff on here, and there is some awesome stuff on here, it doesn’t really launch itself beyond a very damn enjoyable record. I think it’s just too straight forward for me now that I’m old and more interested in more progressive, technical and extreme music. That said, the tracks “Relentless Reckless Forever,” “Shovel Knockout,” “Ugly” (which has the great orchestral blast keyboard sound which is so reminiscent of the old days) and “Not My Funeral” are probably the best on the album, and I would dare to say that there is a level of sophistication on this record that I’ve never heard from the band. The riffing on “The Cry of the Nihilist,” “Ugly” and “Was It Worth It?” is all pretty progressive and interesting, actually, which kind of caught me off guard. The record actually seems to get more sophisticated musically as it goes along and on multiple listens, it kinda reveals itself to be backloaded in that way.
So yeah, if you’re an old fan who’s been disillusioned with Children of Bodom, I suggest you give this record a listen. It’s a lot better than I’d expected and actually I’ve found myself wanting to listen to it and progressively raising the score as I was writing this review. And seriously, this band is still stupid good at their instruments, but I do really miss the neo-classical feel that the band had early on. It does really feel like it goes missing here and that’s a stinkin’ shame. Imagine if they could recapture that old flame? Fuck, now I’m getting nostalgic. And old.