Sunday, July 15, 2012

Children of Bodom - Relentless Reckless Forever

 Ballistic Venereal Sofa

Bodom is one of those bands that really got me to where I am today.  Back in 2003 they were practically the first band to utilize some semblance of harsh vocals that I enjoyed, and as such opened the doors for essentially the entirety of extreme metal for both me and legions of like minded kids who have surely become valuable additions to the metal scene.  I realize how over the top silly they are and how utterly devoid of integrity they've become, but there will always be a warm spot in the cold, shriveled, black stalactite that once existed as my heart for this merry band of naked, drunken Finns.  Ever since Are You Dead Yet? the band pretty much seemed to lay down and accept their fate as the cool thing for the stereotypical Hot Topic malldwellers, churning out uninspired and stupid(er) music at a slower pace than before.  And this, 2011's Relentless Reckless Forever, stands as the band's seventh full length, and probably the one with the least hype surrounding it since their inception.

But why?  For their immense popularity, it seemed strange that nobody seemed to bat an eyelash at the prospect of a new album.  Was Blooddrunk really received so poorly that all the enthusiasm had been sapped out of fans?  Was their steady decline over the last few albums becoming apparent even to the new fans introduced to them in the second phase of their career?  For my money, I'd say it probably had something to do with the fact that their (unfortunately) trademarked silly cover song this time around was going to be Eddie Murphy's "Party All the Time" and that the short teaser promo for the album featured a dull chugging riff and people kickflipping flaming skateboards.  Children of Bodom has become so absurdly disconnected with their original fanbase that it's almost on par with the likes of Metallica or Genesis at this point.  Musically they really haven't changed significantly since the beginning, it's the same distinctive melodic death/power metal mixture they helped make popular along with Kalmah, Skyfire, Norther and the like.  However, this fact doesn't change that the  music just feels different somehow.

Perhaps it's the spirit of the music itself.  Dating waaaaay back to the Inearthed days almost twenty years ago, back when Alexi Laiho actually was a little girl instead of just a grown man who looks like one, the band was fueled on raw emotion.  The music was more restrained back then, but the band was serious about its craft.  Through the years, even after becoming one of the most insane and over-the-top bands to gain popularity until Dragonforce became a household name, they kept their quality of songwriting very high.  Melodic power metal with bombastic keys and cartoonishly overdone leadwork, layered over a harsh, high pitched rasp belting out the most juvenile and underdeveloped lyrics imaginable.  And despite the inanity of the lyric work and the complete and utter lack of restraint, the musicianship was so high, the songs so catchy, and the performance so entertaining that the flaws seemed practically nonexistent.  Since those happy, happy times, the band has since started to add more and more melodeath elements to the leads and riffs, tuning down further and focusing more on chugging sections, with the once prominent keys being relegated primarily to the background.  Maybe it's easier for Janne to drink while performing with these newer songs and that's why he keeps it up, despite his talent being so above and beyond the level he's been playing at lately.  Relentless Reckless Forever just continues the direction they've been going.

And after three long paragraphs I realize I'm only just now actually touching on the album at hand, and maybe it's because the history lesson is necessary because, to borrow a Walkyierian pun, history lessens.  On its own, this album isn't anything special, but it isn't anything offensive either.  It's just there, doing its own thing, not really bothering anybody, but when you remember where the album came from and the pedigree behind it, it's just intensely disappointing.  I ragesploded really hard on Blooddrunk four years ago, but really in hindsight the album isn't anything worth getting bent out of shape about.  I could blame myself for being 17 years old and stupid and overreacting to a predictably disappointing album, but in reality the album was a lame and inconsequential release from a band that used to put out some of my favorite music fairly consistently in their prime.  It's basically the '90s Mercyful Fate in that regard.  And that's the same problem with Relentless Reckless Forever here, there's just nothing here.  It's by far the least aggressive output from the band, with the only highlights in that department being "Shovel Knockout" and "Northpole Throwdown".

Good lord, I guess I should address something that anybody who read that last sentence is surely thinking about, I don't have the slightest fucking clue what kind of mushrooms these guys were on when they thought of the lyrics and song titles for this album.  Lyrics were always an afterthought with Children of Bodom, with Alexi making up a majority of them on the spot in the studio.  The lyrics and vocals were never the highlights nor the focus of their music, so it was one of those things I kind of let slide because the high energy melodeath/power metal was so much fun.  But now that the songwriting has taken such a hefty downturn over the past seven years, I can't help but hold them accountable now.  It's just... my god.  Five year olds have put in more effort than this.  It's just lazy and dumb.  "Pussyfoot Miss Suicide", what does that even mean?  "Roundtrip to Hell and Back", we knew it was a round trip by virtue of the fact that you came back.  "Was It Worth It?", I dunno Bodom, you tell me.  Are the new fans and the money really worth your old fans and credibility?  You know what?  That was a silly question, credibility doesn't buy you a nice house.

As I've said a few times throughout this stream of consciousness garbling, the music isn't necessarily bad here, it's just dull.  "Pussyfoot Miss Suicide" rides on a catchy melodeath riff that stands well enough on its own that I don't feel the need to lament about the lack of keys on the track, the title track possesses one of the few moments of old school Bodom in the solos, and "Northpole Throwdown" is a welcome hearkening back to the balls out theatrics of the first few albums that made me fall in love with the band in the first place.  But with that said, I can't tell you a damn thing about "Ugly" or "Not My Funeral".  The entire album is this dull, grey slab with a couple of standout moments here and there.  There are a few lowlights with the primarily low melodeath riff based songs like "Cry of the Nihilist" and "Was It Worth It?", but overall the entire album tends to run into itself.  The band was always at their peak when they essentially just played frantic power metal with insane leads, so when they slow it down or focus on the newer melodeath qualities like they've been so fond of doing on the last three albums, the whole thing just seems to fall apart.  It's a shame too because their talent is still there, they're just entirely out of ideas at this point.  Perhaps it's time to put the band on hold for a time and focus on side projects or maybe just take some time off.  Go ice fishing or... sauna shopping or whatever the hell you do in Finland.  Maybe they're just burnt out and they need some time to recharge, I'd certainly recommend they try.

Also the "Party All the Time" cover can fuck itself with dynamite.  "Funny" covers are useless and only serve to remind old fans how vapid you've become.  Knock that shit off already.


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