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Halo Of Blood

Nuclear Blast (2013)
Rating: 7/10

Everyone’s favourite Finns return with their eighth studio album, Halo Of Blood. The album was recorded in Helsinki, Finland with engineer Mikko Karmila and producer extraordinaire Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy / Pain) overseeing vocals and keyboards. The album’s artwork was created by Sami Saramki, who was previously involved with the covers for the band’s albums Follow The Reaper (2000), Hate Crew Death Roll (2003) and Are You Dead Yet? (2005).

While the band have spent a lot of time thrashing it up on the last few albums, Halo Of Blood offers a better mix of the band’s powerful early works and their more recent (and more aggressive) work. The band give the songs a little more breathing room here which, in turn, allows for that classic, big guitar / traditional metal sound to seep back in to the mix.

Take ‘Scream For Silence’, for instance. It features pounding rhythms that keep the song grounded while the virtuosic lead guitars completely envelop you. Alexi Laiho’s lead work is complimented well but he’s screaming the vocals, sounding like the madman he did on Blooddrunk (2008) vocally. The sharp stuttering guitars and scale-bending leads (both guitars and keyboards) of ‘Bodom Blue Moon (The Second Coming)’ are aggressive as hell but they also manage to keep just enough of that classy, traditional metal edge that fans of their early work will be drawn back in quickly. The slower-paced ‘Dead Man’s Hand On You’ helps separate Halo Of Blood from the band’s other works. The screaming, but much darker vocal work is haunting in a black metal sort of way, while the music is slow and heavy, like a theme song to some sort of dark carnival.

If you are a fan of the band’s post-Are You Dead Yet? work, they’ve got you covered as well. The band rip through a number of songs at a breakneck speed, with superfast solos and powerful, banshee-like screaming. ‘Waste Of Skin’, ‘The Days Are Numbered’ and ‘All Twisted’ boast that sound and would have been solid additions to any of the albums from this era. They don’t really break any new ground, and after hearing so many songs on here that bring back the more anthemic music of the band’s early works, they almost feel ho-hum in comparison. I will say though that the title track is an excellent bridge between the dual personalities of Children Of Bodom. It features breakneck-speed riffing, but not for the entire song, and the strong in the mix keyboards and varied vocals (growly and banshee) really help it to rise to the top of the pecking order on this track list.

When all is said and done, I’d put this somewhere between Hate Crew Death Roll and Blooddrunk, but it’s not quite as dynamic or memorable as either of those albums. This is a good listen and a solid album but unless you are a diehard fan of Children Of Bodom, it’s not going to sound a whole lot different than their other albums to you. Diehard fans will notice the “old” sound coming back into the mix more though and will likely find this a lot more enjoyable and a lot more memorable than Relentless Reckless Forever (2011).

Mark Fisher