Children of Bodom – I Worship Chaos
When a band drastically changes style midway through their career, fans are put in an awkward position. Some hope for a return to the group’s old ways, some accept the change with open arms and others completely disown the band for good. With no group is this more true than Children of Bodom, who, in their active 22 years, have taken fans on a rollercoaster ride of highs, lows and the obligatory “what the fuck are they even doing?!”. As a fan who was highly invested in their output for many years, I’ve been through the lot. I came to accept that Something Wild, Hatebreeder and Follow the Reaper were part of a golden age that wasn't going to be revisited – maybe as a way to cope with the averageness of Blooddrunk and the abysmally titled Reckless Relentless Forever. However, Halo of Blood, the band’s 2013 release, got me excited again. It swung with the verve of earlier releases but brought the formula up to date with the modern metal stylings that they nailed on an album like Hate Crew Deathroll back in 2003.
I Worship Chaos, then, was released with more anticipated ears at the ready than for years previous. The incredible yellow cover art and a title hinting at, if not a return to the beautifully twisted neo-classical of old, then at least a more urgent and possessed sound this time around, definitely got me interested. The truth of the matter is that Children of Bodom have changed, perhaps irreversibly, and for better or worse, their new record continues down a decade-long path rather than forging something new. However, as a long-time fan – there is a lot to love here, too.
Opener I Hurt (The new self harming device from Apple!) is about as good a thrash song as the band have ever written – equalling similar cuts from 2004-2006. The intro contains a catchy keyboard/guitar harmony riff and the chorus/bridge section inject some much needed melody into the song. It’s even a little bit Follow the Reaper. Follow-up My Bodom (I Am the Only One) [seriously…] does little to live up the high standard set by “Bodom” branded songs on earlier albums, though. There’s way too much reliance on the thrash beat from the drums here and it drags the song down into generic territory; a shame because the chorus is very memorable and features some great interplay between the keys and guitars as we’ve come to expect from the best Bodom material. Morrigan is the first of the album’s slower songs and easily its best, having more energy and direction than either Prayer for the Afflicted or All for Nothing. It’s rare for the band to have three slower cuts on a record and it’s reflected by I Worship Chaos’ longer than average running time of 45 minutes. The latter of those three has a truly stellar keyboard/guitar trade-off solo section to close it out, but apart from this, this trio of down tempo anthems add little to the album except for a welcome change of pace.
Suicide Bomber picks up the pace again and sounds like something right off of Hatecrew, bringing with it some high aggression thrash/black metal inspired riffs and arrangements. The song neatly switches between an epic chord-based pattern and some mosh-friendly thrash throughout the runtime, peppered also with some of the neoclassical flourishes of their early work. It’s easily one of their best tracks of late. Closer Widdershins stands out from the pack immediately through its angular, marching riffs and double bass drumming (which works so much better than the thrash style they seem to favour these days). There’s also more melody here and open spaces in the guitar playing really allow the keyboards to shine through. It’s arguably their best album closer in 10 years and I wish this had been the benchmark for the style of the songs before it.
With a new guitar player coming in, some bold cover art and a real statement in I Worship Chaos, the band don’t really ever deliver on the possibilities of this project. As a complete piece of work, it ebbs and flows – dipping in quality considerably and then coming back up for air in moments of true class. Perhaps I’m spoiled by the omnipresent back catalogue of the band, but it’s easy to imagine that, with a little more care, I Worship Chaos could be as flawless as its standout moments. The guitar tone, solos, and a handful of riffs are very strong; the writing style more urgent than the slump the band experienced in the late 00’s/early 10’s. However, Bodom have just come off the back of Halo of Blood – one of the high points of their whole career: a fact impossible to ignore.
In summary, if you’re a fan of the band, I Worship Chaos is very much worth your time, if not just for the exceptional moments it delivers. However, with only three or four truly excellent songs, Children of Bodom exemplify chaos without order rather than with the focus we had all hoped.
Words: Ben Armstrong