As many of you might have guessed from the “happy-as-hell”1 introduction to my 2018 top ten list, I’ve had some serious shit drop on me lately. And, to be quite honest, this has been the worst period of my life. Now, I’ve had to push the kind of “restart” button people have nightmares about. I mean, everything has changed. Yet, through it all, a strong group of family and friends have been there for me. Even the illustrious Steel-caged, Madam-chained, Huck-fucked, Ferrously-fecaled, Wvrm-romped, piss-stained noob hall that is AMG Headquarters. My friends and colleagues gave me the time to find a new life before I could mentally return to writing.2 I’m a little more broken, a lot less trusting, and a touch more cynical than before. Such is life. So, it’s only fitting my return would be alongside Finland’s Children of Bodom; a band that’s been giving the finger for years. Comebacks are never perfect and never as hyped as we all want them to be but, in an imperfect way, CoB and Doc are back. Yup, fuck you, world.
OK, that might have been clickbait. Or, perhaps, it’s the hype you ex-CoB fans3 put into your own heads when I say 2019’s Hexed is one of Children of Bodom‘s best. Not only is most of it enjoyable but Hexed has some of the band’s best dynamics. So, the artwork ain’t the best. And, sure, there is some filler. But fuck me, this is the first CoB album I’ve been willing to listen to on repeat since 2003’s Hate Crew Deathroll.
Before I could even make a judgment on this Finnish outfit that hasn’t done much to appease me in years, opener “This Road” hit me like a freight train. No pause, no melodic introduction, no fucking cares. “This Road” comes out swinging and, for the first time in a long time, I can picture “Wildchild” Alexi Laiho cussing and spitting into the crowd as 2004 Bodom opens for Iced Earth. The song has CoB ferocity without the overpowering, power-chord heaviness that has been plaguing the band for years. There’re bunches of single-note fretboard frenetics, as well as a mid-song transition that fucking crushes. And this is only the beginning.
Like a three-layer cake, “This Road,” “Kick in the Spleen,” and closer “Knuckleduster” are the heaviest numbers on Hexed. “Kick in the Spleen” has the chunkiest, deathliest riffs of the bunch and a great mix of key/guitar solo work and the closer is as classic CoB as “Hatebreeder,” “Sixpounder,” and “Bodom After Midnight.” “Glass Houses,” “Under Grass and Clover,” and the title track are sure to be crowd-pleasers with their headbangable moments and monstrous gang shouts. “Hexed,” in particular, has the kind of shouts you can’t help but pump your fists to. Not to mention a perfectly calculated bass outro—one of the many examples of a band digging deep.
Other forms of diversification come via the odd, spooky keys of “Hecate’s Nightmare.” If it wasn’t for Alexi’s screaming voice (and guitar), I would have thought that opening lick was Cradle of Filth. It ain’t the best song on the album4 but it’s a unique one. My favorite two, though, are “Platitudes and Barren Words” and “Say Never Look Back.” Both combine good riffs with catchy choruses and heavy melody. Both are building numbers whose choruses only get better as their four-plus minute runtimes run out. And both find Alexi’s voice re-energized.
I wasn’t fond of I Worship Chaos because it was too long and meandered around filler, lousy production, and a lack of motivation. Hexed gave me the ole “fuck you” with the longest runtime of the band’s career. Yet, with minimal filler and a shitload of energy. For years I haven’t been impressed with CoB‘s album dynamics. But, once again, fuck you ole Grier. Hexed turns out to be one of the best sounding records in the band’s discog. It’s clean, it’s open, and it’s as warm as a snuggly kitten. If you don’t like Children of Bodom, I won’t be able to convince you. If you’re a sworn believer in pre-2000 CoB, there’s a chance Hexed might feel you up. And, for those that have been Bodom believers for the last twenty-plus years, you’re gonna dig this. It ain’t their best but it’s damn good.