Whilst I’m sure that bands try their hardest to produce the best music they can in the studio, it goes without saying that every band has a ‘weaker’ album. Whether its a stylistic shift or otherwise, a change in the bands line up, or an ill-fitting production, there’s always reasons for fans and critics to turn their noses up at a band’s latest offering. However, I want to look back at some of those maligned works and understand why these albums have been received poorly, and to determine whether it was judged harshly or unfairly at the time. Perhaps with the benefit of hindsight these albums can be given a degree of credit- and if not, then maybe there’s a way to improve them. I’d like to start proceedings by evaluating Blooddrunk by Children Of Bodom.The follow up to Are You Dead Yet?, an album that established Children Of Bodom at the forefront of modern metal, Blooddrunk initially received favourable reviews from sources such as Revolver Magazine for its thrash leanings. Despite this early praise, fans have been less than pleased with the results of the bands labours (see http://www.sputnikmusic.com/review/15770/Children-of-Bodom-Blooddrunk/ for further reading). In the interest of a fair review, I sat down to listen to the whole album myself (with my own purchased copy of the CD) to draw my own conclusions.
Straight away it was apparent that although this album isn’t flat out bad, it could really do with some major tweaks and changes. The most notable being that the band really needed to add variety to their song writing. Plenty of the songs begin to blur into one another as certain elements crop up in every song; mid-to-high tempo thrash riffs, flashy guitar and keyboard solos, frontman Alexi Laiho’s monotonous bark, and symphonic keys during the verses and chorus (and really just about everywhere). I know a lot of these features are integral to the ‘Bodom sound’, but they can’t just be readily recycled in every track to create a standard, generic formula.
The obvious culprit of being too repetitive is the solos. If you played them back to back one after the other, I wouldn’t have any idea when one started and another ended, or even what song it was from. Too much time is allocated in each song to a technical and obnoxious guitar and keyboard solo combination, with little regard to the context of the song. Ultimately, they feel forced and jammed into the songs for the sake of having a solo. The keyboard solos in particular feel very gaudy and irritating due to their high-pitched, almost whining quality. If half the guitar and keyboard solos were cut out from the album then that would be a major improvement- these could perhaps be replaced with parts that could showcase some style of rhythmic interplay (think of the bridge in “One” from Metallica’s …And Justice For All), or even the bass (which is almost non-existent).
Now there are some great parts to the album. In fact, each song does have a little moment of brilliance such as a great riff, killer drums, or a memorable chorus- its just that these moments are fleeting. Expanding on the nuances within the songs, and allowing them to breathe and develop, would hopefully give each track an individual quality which is lacking somewhat. In essence, I think that if each musician took a step back at times and allowed certain instruments to the fore at any one time, then certain songs (like Lobodomy) would feel less busy and jarring. Combine this with a more concise tracklist (by cutting the number of songs from 9 to 7), and you get a short but sweet album of great quality songs that have their own personality and memorable qualities.
What do you think? Is the album as bad as some have made it out to be? Do you think the improvements I suggested are misguided? Feel free to leave a comment and like the post to tell me what you think.
If you’re interested then you can read my track-by-track notes of the album:
- Hellhounds On My Trail- solid thrash opening, stomping drumming, solos are a little gaudy.
- Blooddrunk- mid-paced grooving, symphonic layering fits a lot better, catchy gang chants, keyboards are too prominent in the mix, guitar solo sounds better, keyboards are still gaudy.
- Lobodomy- busy and jarring opener, darker keys more fitting, dark melodies and upbeat ‘happy’ melodies don’t mesh, more guitar and keyboard solo gimmicks.
- One Day You Will Cry- a little ‘samey’, more solo histrionics, varied drumming lends propulsion to the song.
- Smile Pretty For The Devil- riffs are similar, first evidence of variety in the vocals, better attempt at a chorus, another guitar and keys solo combo.
- Tie My Rope- different use of keyboards in the opener, more interesting bouncy riffs, varied vocals (use of melody), even more solos.
- Done With Everything, Die For Nothing- recycling the keyboard accent, promising thrash riffs, different style chorus, misplaced mid-tempo verses with symphonies, too busy, STOP THE SOLOS.
- Banned From Heaven- openers a little formulaic, very familiar leads, nothing memorable.
- Roadkill Morning- thrashier ending to the album, keys are a little more restrained, guitar solo actually fits into the song, no more keyboard solos please, solo overkill.