Sitting at a Philadelphia Flyer game this winter, some Finnish fans were excitedly watching the hockey and chatting amiably with anyone and everyone around them. It became hard to tell if they were more excited that Flyer Kimmo Timonen had just celebrated his 1000 game milestone or that the American sitting next to them (uh, me) was familiar with Children of Bodom. How could any self-respecting metalhead not have at least a cursory knowledge of CoB, a band that has been consistently reckless for more than 15 years?

Halo of Blood was advanced as a return to the band’s roots, whatever that means. Such a statement is usually a huge warning flag. In this case it means nothing other than drummer Jaska Raatikainen employing a blast beat on the leveling title track. (There’s been way too much debate over blast beats this year!) The best news? Said song isn’t even close to being the best on this 11 song disc.

Singer/guitarist Alexi Laiho has become of a six-string hero for good reason: he’s got undeniable speed mixed with a keen ear for melody. He seems to be able to spit out memorable riffs like Malmsteen rips out arpeggios. Part of his originality — or at least his way with memorable riffs is that he grew up influenced by 1980s hard rock as much as the more extreme stuff from which his band would take its cue.

The two-note theme to “Transference” is enough to easily lodge in your head and carry the strong tune to even greater heights. (His solo here is also extremely well thought-out). Apparent simplicity also carries “Scream for Silence,” the type of mid-tempo cut that suits Laiho’s shredded vocal pipes well. Lyrically it carries an all-too-true description of someone who experiences hangovers regularly. You may notice similar themes on “All Twisted” and “One Bottle and a Knee Deep” later in the disc.

“Dead Man’s Hand on You” is likely to be the song that grabs the most attention. Yes, it is by far the slowest thing CoB has ever done and it does smell somewhat as a grasp at a soundtrack (vampire show or movie, most naturally). It’s not a bad tune, per se. The spoken vocals are kind of silly but the rest of the track works.

If I’m making Halo of Blood sound soft, it really isn’t. “Bodom Blue Moon (the second coming)” is classic CoB, as is the opening “Waste of Skin,” which comes with Janne Wirman’s trademark knife-slashing keyboard fills augmenting the maniacal guitar work (Roope Latvala is the second ax-man in this incredibly-gifted tandem).

What is a Children of Bodom disc without some sort of either really goofy or really inspired cover song at the end? Here they go with the former and Roxette’s “Sleeping in My Car” is given a 1980s Hollywood rock party vibe. Not great, not terrible, just kind of there.

While Halo of Blood may not have anything as immediately awesome as “Blooddrunk” or “Living Dead Beat,” it’s one of the Finns most consistent efforts in a while. Hopefully, the native hockey enthusiasts love it, too. I’m sure they do.


Label: Nuclear Blast (Buy Halo Of Blood on silver vinyl)