Well, here I am, again, reviewing another Bonehunter record1. It’s felt like anywhere from three years to ten since I reviewed the band’s 2015 debut, Evil Triumphs Again. Yet, it feels like it was only yesterday that I reviewed their follow-up record, Sexual Panic Human Machine. This is most likely due to the band’s progression from Bone(d)hunter on their debut to Bone(r)hunter on Sexual Panic Human Machine. I mean, the 0.5-point improvement between these two records shouldn’t go to their throbbing heads but this Finnish trio did hint at some originality with Sexual Panic. But, an album glistening with bear dick only goes so far before our HR-friendly Grier gets bored. Now, it’s with hesitation that I grab the newest outing, Children of the Atom. But, thank the Lord, there’s no bear shaft in the artwork. And no three-to-four-word title that reads like an illiterate caveman telling his cavewoman what mood he’s in. Yet, I hold my breath for what’s to come. And I wonder: will Children of the Atom be quantum mechanical or will this new record be a Bohr?2
After throwing the switch, the hum of the Bonehunter machine warms to ready with “Initiate the Sequence.” Once warm, the true opener, “Demonic Nuclear Armament,” appears with some eyebrow-raising moments. It may still be Bonehunter3 but the subtle melody in the chorus, as well as the entire final build, is a pleasing touch to the band’s black/thrash sound. It’s something that they’ve hinted at in previous releases without being able to execute it. Hell, even if the rest of the album belongs in the garbage fire in my backyard, this song’s combination of building melody and black/thrash energy was worth the listen.
But the journey carries on through the similarly executed “Children of the Atom” and closer “Devil Signal Burst.” The first opens with soft guitars and a popping bass that gives way to thrashing distortion. But, while other tracks on the album move with the jarring motion of Satan’s personal locomotive, the title track pads the rails with black, melodic cushions. This also includes the chorus, which is one of the catchiest on the album. Along with the opener, “Children of the Atom” contributes to the mood of the album by building and building to a shocking conclusion. Shocking in its delivery of black metal melody and a smooth, rasping chorus that molds like a rubber glove to a charred fist. With every lulling moment of “Devil Signal Burst,” you think it’s come to an end. But it won’t end. Instead, it evolves—ascending to a summit Bonehunter has never been. It tears its way through thorns and fire to an ascension soaked in passionate solos and guitar leads.
But this type of songwriting is few and far between for the album. The rest of the record includes classic, chaotic pieces, like “Sex Messiah Android” and “Black Star Carcass.” These are the trve Bonehunter numbers. Absurd titles whose choruses are no more than the two or three words in their titles. Each with venomous vocals that spit black tar at the guitars, making the strings stick and buzz. “Spider’s Grave” and “Cybernetic Vampirism” are similar in their chaotic approach but both conclude in a way that makes me think of Motörhead‘s “Overkill.” After cruising through three-quarters of their runtimes, they shift up to a gear that I didn’t expect and power through the last quarter with a renewed energy: solos, leads, groove, and all.
Buried along with the soothing melodies and the conscious songwriting detail of “Devil Signal Burst,” “Children of the Atom,” and “The Reek of Reaper’s Scythe,” you can also expect a killer cover of Spiritus Mortis‘ “Man of Steel.” Why? No fucking clue. But it’s a perfect addition to the album’s tracklist. That said, I can say in confidence that I actually enjoy this album. I’ve never hated these guys but I never thought they had this in them. There are still some weak moments throughout, and it does take a few spins to find all the strong ones, but the band continues to improve album after album. So, as a reward, here’re another 0.5 points for ya, gents.