Children of Bodom: What To Listen To

Children of Bodom were a pivotal band for extreme metal and left behind an amazing legacy. 1993-2019 saw the release of 10 albums, 2 live and 3 compilation releases but astonishingly managed to redefine how the genre was seen; offering up a sound that managed to escape genre classification. Alexi Laiho’s presence as a frontman, guitarist and vocalist brought a lot to to the band and their place in metal history. The ‘Wildchild’ gave a fun and playful attitude, whilst keeping the dark edge and powerful musicianship. They clearly had a lot of fun with their sound and here we look at every album released, chronicling how Children of Bodom made a difference to metal as we know it.

Something Wild is their first album and has that authentic raw feeling that builds up a lot of respect in the metal community; but it is an album that they felt was an attempt to follow their idols and as many first albums are rough around the edges. Bringing us songs like 'Lake Bodom', 'Deadnight Warrior' and 'Touch Like an Angel of Death', it's hard not to look at this album for its virtues. Influenced by black metal and classical music, as well as guitarists like Yngwie Malmsteen, this album follows on from classical arrangements and a lot of guitar and keyboard playing, but otherwise takes a dark and rough approach. It remains a bit of a well respected oddity; for real fans and shouldn't be a first time listen.

Children of Bodom seems to have been a band that peaked early, but really strong. Many fans credit Hatebreeder as the album to listen to, but like with a lot of metal music, the idea of the 'earlier albums are best' seems to apply here. Despite Something Wild's shortcomings, it established the Children of Bodom sound, though Hatebreeder perfected it. The jump isn't too vast, the production values are still rough around the edges, but the classical elements are downplayed for more of a standard metal sound. In spite of this more atmospheric, less produced and generally harsher sound, Hatebreeder gave so many staples of Children of Bodom's oeuvre. Genuinely hard not to mention them all: 'Warheart', 'Silent Night, Bodom Night', 'Bed of Razors', 'Black Widow', 'Towards Dead End' are amongst some of the incredibly impactful songs of the album.

With Follow the Reaper we continue the giants of their sound, it was a little more well produced, which lost a bit of the atmosphere, but there are incredibly powerful songs to boast: 'Follow the Reaper', 'Hate Me', 'Everytime I Die', 'Bodom After Midnight', 'Mask of Sanity' and 'Kissing the Shadows' shine out in an album that, again, is hard not to mention all songs. Many fans would then start arguing which was better, Follow the Reaper or Hatebreeder and it's a tough call, probably realised by the band as they honour this period with a live album: Tokyo Warhearts and a compilation album: Bestbreeder from 1997-2000.

But the three giants of Children of Bodom would continue in the practically perfect Hate Crew Deathroll. An album that doesn't want to stop, slightly more polished but embracing the fast and hard approach of their music. Is it still that black metal touch or is it more melodic death metal or neo-classical metal, with all these other influences as well? It's Children of Bodom sitting well-defined within extreme metal music and proving exactly what could be done with the genre. 'Needled 24/7', 'Sixpounder', 'Angels Don't Kill', 'Bodom Beach Terror', 'You're Better off Dead' and 'Hatecrew Deathroll' are a must try for fans of extreme metal, and the entire album marks yet another strong hit for a well developing piece of heavy brutality in metal. Again, fans were arguing over which of the three were best.

If they were not a huge fame within the metal world by this point, they were kings of the underground and just round the corner was a massive smash hit. Are You Dead Yet? marks a turning point for the band, but it first marked the band as warranting mainstream attention. Children of Bodom was a household name, even if they were too dark and too heavy for mainstream listeners. Let's face it, extreme metal rarely completely embraces the kinds of audiences of bands like Metallica or Slipknot. Are You Dead Yet? Isn't as consistent as many of the previous albums but there are songs that pack a mightily powerful punch: 'Living Dead Beat', 'Are You Dead Yet?', 'In Your Face', if not also 'If You Want Peace... Prepare for War', 'Next in Line' and 'We're Not Gonna Fall'. Children of Bodom knew they were on a high, again releasing a live album Chaos Ridden Years as commemoration of this time.

From here, whether they were aware of it or not, they were to fall into harder grounds. Metal was getting more and more heavy, and with big success comes big challenges. Blooddrunk was never a bad album but Children of Bodom (or any band) couldn't keep consistently releasing powerful albums, that each continue to push what is possible within metal. It just so happened that Children of Bodom now had their own selves to combat with. Blooddrunk might be overshadowed by its predecessors but it was with this album that they really knew where they wanted to be in production values and atmosphere. Their sound started to stay consistent and proved that they could churn out amazing pieces of extreme metal: 'Hellhounds on My Trail', 'Blooddrunk', 'One Day You Will Cry' and 'Banned from Heaven'.

Children of Bodom took a moment then, to look at the success of their sound and their love of music and their covers, to collect them all together. They had made many different versions of albums with bonus tracks and now, they were finally brought together for one album dedicated to this. Skeletons in the Closet is a strange album for exactly this reason. Much like Something Wild it is an album that is purely a particular sound that really hits at something with pure fans. It is their sound, which is easily recognisable, but thrown into many other sounds by other bands. As a cover album it was always going to be that experiment, and songs were always going to be fun, silly, hit-and-miss; but for those who love their sound, it would always be an interesting listen.

So, what started with Blooddrunk continued with Relentless, Reckless, Forever. Not exactly that these were bad, but it was at a point where fans started looking elsewhere. This wasn't as powerful as the three giants and standards for extreme metal was getting heavier, whilst the Children of Bodom sound was a lot more consistent. This quickly became an album that just couldn't live up to the standard it had made for itself and often gets forgotten about or looked down upon for the wrong reasons. Forgetting that it holds tracks like 'Shovel Knockout', 'Roundtrip to Hell and Back', 'Relentless, Reckless, Forever' and 'Cry of the Nihilist'. Instead remembering how, songs like 'Was it Worth it?', got more attention due to the video. Again, music video selections for Children of Bodom does them a disservice. Perfectly serviceable but a part of the generic Children of Bodom sound that they have become known for. A sort of mainstream within the band itself, still the underground and true Children of Bodom, but almost a sign of the standard sound that they could so easily and impressively churn out.

Perhaps it was for songs like that, which started to make an impression on the band. They were not unaware of the love fans had for earlier albums and the difficult spot they found themselves in. New music not quite being all that they wanted them to be and for these reasons they started to look back on these albums without the same love that they did others, perhaps undeservedly. It did, however, bring forth the next few albums. Halo of Blood came with promises of bringing back a lot more of that atmosphere, that old sound. It starts to change up the general idea for something that is faster and at times a little heavier, but it recognises Children of Bodom's new challenges. As such, it isn't as consistent or as fun as it could be, it just takes itself a little too seriously. 'Waste of Skin', 'Bodom Blue Moon', 'Scream for Silence' and 'All Twisted' manage to scream out, but it is just that, it doesn't feel as fun as it could be. Again, 'Transference', the music video looks to the wrong areas, but it does at least sum up the album, it's a song that looks back to previous hits and modern approaches.

I Worship Chaos therefore manages to be exactly the same again. Children of Bodom are trying to recapture something, whilst they could never release music without their stylistic touch as proved many times with their missteps and experiments. It did leave the album as largely unremembered. 'I Hurt' and 'Morrigan' get a lot of attention for good reason, but 'Widdershins' and 'Suicide Bomber' shine through, Children of Bodom's better songs on the album. Much like Halo of Blood, I Worship Chaos wasn't largely focused on by listeners, but manages to sneak many amazing songs into the mix right beneath your ears. A victim of the times? Or, again, Children of Bodom being a victim of their own success? It's difficult.

It's also a time of nostalgia for many Metalheads and with Children of Bodom already having to look back on songs that were growing to be 10-20 years old already, it is no surprise that they couldn't ignore this. They had already honoured their career yet again with a compilation album Holiday at Lake Bodom (15 Years of Wasted Youth) but now, they set out to give their debut album a 20th anniversary tour. Given the respect it has, as a cult favourite, this was never going to misfire but it had an unexpected outcome. Children of Bodom's next steps was to recreate their magic by looking to this early neoclassical influence that was heavy on Something Wild but subtle on further releases. Hexed saw a return to these ideas and saw them finish on a stronger note than previous albums. It just somehow managed to be a bit more noticeable with such lessons learned with a combination of classical music and their signature extreme metal. So we have: 'Hecate's Nightmare', 'Platitudes and Barren Words', 'Hexed', 'Say Never Look Back', 'Under Grass and Clover' and 'This Road'.

Children of Bodom were once again back on higher ground. Their game has seen a step-up. It was never that their sound was dwindling, but they felt it and they were looking to recreate this earlier magic and they had got there. Hexed wasn't a Hatebreeder or a Hate Crew Deathroll or a Follow the Reaper. It wasn't a Are You Dead Yet? either, but it, like that album, asserted that they weren't dead, never were and wouldn't be so easily killed off. That their sound could endure and that they could offer up powerful songs even at their worst game. But, then, at the end of 2019, the band's members brought Children of Bodom to an end. This was unexpected and largely had nothing to do with the music but personal reasons or outside factors out of their control. It left behind a rather interesting career, where classical music and extreme metal could help to push and define metal music for everyone, not just the underground scene. A crazy amount of musicianship to consistently bring up such powerful music. But it is with this, that they would all separate and look to continue elsewhere, but the Children of Bodom chapter had finished.

If this wasn’t enough, 2021, January 5th, the announcement came in: Alexi Laiho had passed away. Shocked wasn’t the word. It seemed very few people knew that there were any health issues that could have brought his death at 41. He had, with his new band Bodom After Midnight, planned to release new material, which reportedly will be released posthumously: a few songs and a music video. Children of Bodom will never be again it seems. But Alexi Laiho and his bandmates have offered challenging and exciting music again and again: memorable, powerful and fresh. Their music will continue to live on in metal. It’s a sound not to be missed, completely C.O.B.


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Our Tribute to Alexi Laiho can be read by clicking here