My relationship with Children of Bodom is very similar to the one I have with In Flames. Both were started at the same time (in 1999, when Hatebreeder and Colony were the respective current releases) and burned hot for a few albums before cooling off over the past few years. With both bands releasing new albums this year, it’s almost like the three of us have come full circle. The difference is, whereas In Flames completely disappointed me with A Sense of Purpose, Children of Bodom have merely let me down with Blooddrunk.
In this context, “letdown” means that for me, they have brought nothing new to the table, although many would argue this has been the case for years. After releasing two very similar albums in Hate Crew Deathroll and Are You Dead Yet?, I guess I was hoping that they might change things up this time. Alas, they have pretty much stayed the course. This is the same type of album as its predecessor — it sounds pretty good when I listen to it, and I even rock out a few times, but I still get the sense that I will have forgotten much of Blooddrunk six months from now. Things start out promisingly enough with “Hellhounds on My Trail,” which shows how effective the band can be when the guitars and keyboards work together rather than trying to out-wank one another. “Smile Pretty for the Devil,” as asinine a title as that is, actually works well with some strong lead work and keyboard fills. Then just when you think the band is out of tricks, the thrashy “Roadkill Morning” storms out and blindsides you with some blistering musicianship. Other than that, the material here is fairly unremarkable — enjoyable enough, but far from what this band is capable of.
What I have come to look forward to the most with each COB release is what covers they have recorded for different regional versions, b-sides, etc. Having in the past done everything from W.A.S.P. to Britney Spears, you never know where they’re going to go. Well this time around they’ve plunged right into the heartland of America for two country classics and one classic rock staple. The North American audience gets a surprisingly faithful (albeit metalized) rendition of “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” written by Stan Jones and recorded by countless artists, from Johnny Cash to Burl Ives to Me First and the Gimme Gimmes to Impaled Nazarene. The story of demonic cattle being chased by damned cowboys is pretty metal in and of itself, and COB scales back their usual over-the-top musicianship to create a haunting yet heavy version. On the flip side, Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s “Looking Out My Back Door” (the “Blooddrunk” single b-side and bonus track of the limited UK edition) really thrashes up the tune and even tosses in a banjo solo in the middle. As someone who grew up listening to CCR — awesome. The band’s Japanese fans get “I Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” originally by Kenny Rogers, which here is pretty straightforward and unspectacular. Perhaps if Jeff Walker Und Die Fluffers hadn’t already done it, I’d have a different reaction. Reportedly, a fourth cover version exists for this cycle, Suicidal Tendencies‘ “War Inside My Head,” but I haven’t been able to confirm it. Also, the “Limited red UK double LP” version includes their version of Slayer‘s “Silent Scream,” which was previously released on some versions of Hate Crew Deathroll.
So, Blooddrunk is what it is. Fans of the past couple of albums will love it; those who stopped paying much attention after Follow the Reaper will not, although they may love having a whole new album to shit upon. Advancing years and arena tours with Slayer and Megadeth seem to have caused Children of Bodom to stagnate a bit, and they need to do something soon to reverse that. Maybe we’re all just jaded because they were so groundbreaking when they first came along but have failed to progress over time, making their sound less exciting by comparison. They’re still young dogs capable of learning new tricks. The question is, will they do that, or will they just get drunk and curse a lot?