Finnish melodeath superstars Children of Bodom have gone through several identity crises. Starting off as neoclassical melodic death metal, they had a lot of success. Their album Hatebreeder is indisputably a classic of the genre. But over time, they turned their sound into a more groove-oriented version of themselves with shred sections. This sound still had a lot of acclaim, as their fourth album Hate Crew Deathroll was also received very positively, even though some lamented the loss of their older influences. With their next few albums, they kept slightly changing their sound to be more accessible while simultaneously trying to capture their spark from their earlier days, but it never clicked, even though slog the way they had some great songs. After several disappointing albums, and the loss of famed guitarist Roope Latvala, Bodom are faced with their deciding moment. They could either pick themselves back up and make a comeback, or risk forever being written off. Thankfully, their ninth album, I Worship Chaos, is more the former than the latter.
What really makes a Bodom album tick? If we’re talking post- Hate Crew, it’s basically solid grooves, chantable choruses, angry one-liners from Laiho and cheesy lead sections. Well, I Worship Chaos has got all of those covered. Each song is full of memorable little licks, be it some aggressively-nod-inducing riffs, earworm melodies or just proclamations screamed by Alexi (who sounds angrier than he has in a while). But what’s really important isn’t just that these elements are thrown in to tick boxes, it’s that they all come together in a way that makes for an enjoyable listening experience. And that’s definitely the case here. Roope Latvala’s departure was definitely concerning as his lead playing was thought to be a big part of the band’s sound, but Alexi seems to be managing just fine without him. Perhaps the solos are a bit less intense, but there isn’t a noticeable drop in songwriting quality overall.
In fact, the album feels better written than several of its predecessors. Everything is in lockstep, riffs carry tension and resolution very well between each other, and they don’t feel tired. This is an especially impressive feat if one considers the fact that melodic death metal has been around for quite a while and the template has been “figured out” long ago. Even Bodom have contributed to that process in the past, and nine albums deep into their career, it would be easy for them to feel like there’s not much left to say (in fact many though that was the case even seven albums deep into their career, so in some ways I Worship Chaos is a resurgence of quality). Sure, Alexi doesn’t sound like he feels as rife with angry creativity as he did fifteen years ago, but he sounds a lot more invigorated than he did five years ago. The benchmark for success in melodeath isn’t necessarily innovation anyway, it’s polish. And polish is in abundance on this album. It’s hard to underline in words the specific tightness that makes this album tick. This isn’t something that one can identify on paper. It’s the feeling of genuineness and effort conveyed by the tone of the writing. To the careful listener, that the songs were put together not by haphazard cobbling of ideas that were left on the drawing board after a writing session but were carefully put together to ensure every cog clicks properly with everything else, is obvious, and that is when the heart put into the album is apparent.
Overall, I Worship Chaos is a polished, heartfelt album that makes it sound like Children of Bodom are enjoying their own music again; and fans should join in on that as well. The band are better than they have been for several albums, and new life has been breathed into their music. In a way, they’re back from the dead, telling us that we were wrong to write them off.
Children of Bodom- I Worship Chaos gets…