Back in 1960, Lake Bodom, situated near Espoo in Finland would become synonymous with an almost Friday The 13th style massacre, as four teenagers who were camping near its shore, were brutally attacked in their tents. Three of them died with multiple stab wounds and blunt force traumas, while only one survived with severe but non-fatal injuries. The survivor in question, Nils Gustafsson has faced charges in the years that have passed, but there has never been enough evidence for a full conviction, and the case remains unsolved. History lesson over, and though while not a well-known cold-case here in the UK, metal fans will instantly recognise the name and make the connection to one of Finland’s finest melodic death metal exports; CHILDREN OF BODOM. The Finns have been peddling their extreme yet elegant metal, inspired by those killings, since the mid 90’s and here still in 2019 they’ve released their 10th studio album “Hexed”…let’s cast our ears upon it, as it tries to cast it’s spell upon us…
The album open’s up rather impatiently if I’m honest with “This Road”, and what I mean by that is for once there’s virtually no introduction or build up; it’s straight into the fucking riffs and there’s no messing around here. It’s classic COB with Alexi snarling his way around every syllable while the subtle keyboards sift between the relentless onslaught of crunching guitar and percussion. There IS melody here but it’s minimal, almost an afterthought, and in places it stylistically takes on an almost SLAYER-inspired tone; an unforgiving start this. If you WERE looking for more melody mind you then “Under Grass And Clover” has you covered as the synths are FAR more prominent…the track is incredibly up-beat and it’s got a great, simplistic instrumental hook, while the track as a whole takes on a more power-metal sound overall…it’s a definite album highlight.
“Glass Houses” continues the pummelling with more frantic fast-paced metal delivery amidst Alexi’s traditionally raspy vocals…the title track utilises more of that old-school trash metal influence in both its intro and general delivery, somewhat alternating with spats of almost symphonic metal. “Platitudes And Barren Words” is a genuinely superb piece of catchy, synth-driven metal; arguably as accessible as this album gets especially with some of Alexi’s less-aggravated vocals being on offer, while “Kick In A Spleen” provides one of the most equally specific yet random song titles I’ve ever come across…I mean, why the spleen? Who’s spleen is it exactly? And if anything, why not use a knife or other instrument? Let’s be honest a spleen is a pretty fucking obscure target! Why use your foot?! We’re talking Chuck Norris levels of precision here!
The rest of the album is pretty much by numbers and it’s hard for that to not come across as derogatory…while a lot of bands over time find themselves applying a copy and paste formula from album to album, depending on their longevity of course, a lot of them become stagnant. COB do have their style and aside from the recording and production quality here compared to their early days, their writing style is more or less the same, they have their little niche…BUT…such is with COB, their style IS very much their own and distinct in its own right, and few bands manage to blend the same level of chaos and charm as these feral Finns. “Hexed” doesn’t exactly leave the listener entranced, but it’s undeniably a quality metal album from start to finish. Now that that’s listened to, who fancies a camping trip in Espoo? I know of this beautiful lake…