Roope Latvala of Finnish thrash metal band Stone joined Children of Bodom in 2003, after guitarist Alexander Kuoppala decided to leave. This was the only line-up change since the band changed their name from Inearthed back in 1997, but prior to the recording of this album in 2015, Latvala also left. Instead of trying to get someone else into the band in time for the album, it was instead recorded as a quartet for the first time. Given that all these guys were playing together for at least the last 18 years, and drummer Jaska W. Raatikainen and singer/guitarist Alexi “Wildchild” Laiho formed that band back in 1993, the loss of one member doesn’t seem to have phased them too much.
It was back in 2003 when I first came across the band. I had missed out on their first three albums, but ‘Hate Crew Deathroll’ and the opening cut “Needled 24/7” was an immediate hit with me. As for their version of “Oops I Did It Again” (which can be found on their 2009 ‘Skeletons In The Closet’), it is simply awesome and even my kids enjoyed hearing that one in the car. For some reason I don’t think their take on melodic death or melodic black metal has ever really gained the plaudits and attention it should have (although in fairness I do live at the other end of the world and music press is limited, to say the least). This is technical music, incredibly tight with very high note density, and keyboards that may be sat at the back providing a symphonic curtain for the music to be placed against or can be taking the lead in a very metallic manner.
These four guys basically grew up together, firstly in the same small community in Finland, and then on the road together and it shows. This is music which relies totally on everyone knowing their place and combining together to create something special. Laiho may not have another guitarist to play against but he can either trade licks with himself or Janne Warman who is always there when he needs him. I have to smile each time I play “Hold Your Tongue” as it reminds me so much of Slipknot in one sense, and not at all in another.
Melodic, metallic, over the top yet with commerciality, Children of Bodom are still one of the top acts from Finland and this shows why.