|Review: Children of Bodom - Follow The Reaper|
|Follow The Reaper|
Label: Nuclear Blast
Year released: 2000
Genre: Melodic Death Metal
Review online: February 2, 2008
Reviewed by: Larry Griffin
for:Follow The Reaper
Rated 4.23/5 (84.64%) (69 Votes)
Reputations are funny. Everyone seems to hate this band nowadays, but when you take a step back and look at things from a different point of view, you start to wonder how many of them have actually sat down and listened to Children of Bodom. I'm not going to claim that every bit of criticism against them is unjustified, as surely there are many things one can dislike about this band - from the stupid lyrics to the overly flashy musicianship (and sometimes lackluster songwriting) to the blackened yowl of Alexi Laiho's vocal terrorism on the mic; all "love or hate" sort of things - but a good deal of the shit being flung at Children of Bodom is due to the fact that their new albums more or less suck, and the general immature and juvenile image the band and their fans project. So they've pretty much dug themselves into a rut these days, as they now only make boring music and have a shitty, repulsive reputation that would likely ward off any curious newcomers (or even old fans) akin to the manner in which a flaming pile of dog feces would ward off an elderly couple on Halloween.
However, disregarding any pretenses one might have about Children of Bodom or Alexi Laiho, "Follow the Reaper" remains a quality album, albeit an overrated one by many. It has all the Children of Bodom trademarks, including the bat-shit insane, soaring lead guitar lines, the fluttery, hyper-melodic Power Metal synths, the hard-hitting, borderline thrashy riffs that come at you like fireballs from an apocalyptic sky, and of course Alexi's signature blackened screech, which you will either love or hate. Personally, I've always thought that a clean vocalist would make this band a lot less garishly unique, sort of killing the whole "freak show" vibe their music has about it, and if they started using clean vocals, they wouldn't stand out at all amongst titanic monoliths like Angra, Pagan's Mind or Hibria. The harsh vocals might be grating, but they go surprisingly well with the frenetic storm of melodies that the music thunders forth with. Who the hell really wants to hear these lyrics sung by clean vocals, anyway? The musicians here are all talented out the ass, though, every single one of them, and it makes this album a pleasure to listen to. It's mostly ear candy, yes, but it is very enjoyable music, and that is all that matters in the end.
The individual songs on this album are all fast and fun, with only the stomping, ominous "Every Time I Die" slowing down the tempo a bit. Standouts include the opening volley of the title track, which is more or less a perfect initiation to Children of Bodom to a new listener with its furious leads stacking on top of one another and the synths blaring away like the sirens of Hell in the background, the positively evil "Hate Me!" with its throat-tearing lead work and those creepy horror movie synths opening and ending the song, and the fantastic "Kissing the Shadows," which is probably the best song they ever wrote, standing head and shoulders above any song they've written since with a plethora of galloping riffs and luscious solos that will set you aflame. A downside is that a few of the tracks run together here and aren't as memorable, but even those have deliciously cool solos aplenty around every corner, so it's not as big of a deal as it would be otherwise.
What I like best about "Follow the Reaper", though, is the fact that it's more fun than a barrel full of monkeys, and then some. Compulsively listenable and with energy to boot, Children of Bodom have created an album that is both technically proficient and completely zany and enjoyable all the same, which is more than I can say for other instrumental wishing wells like Dream Theater, who haven't done anything exciting or enjoyable in years. Who cares if their lyrics suck without exception? Who the fuck cares if Children of Bodom wank a bit too much at times? They've written a collection of head-bashingly enjoyable songs with some of the coolest and most colorful melodies I've heard in ages, and if you like high-speed melodic Metal of any sort, then this album should already be on your shelf. Worthy.
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