Here’s the thing: there are three types of bands in this world; those who evolve and prosper; those who evolve and perish, and those that do what they do, do it well, and never falter. Children of Bodom have made a twenty-five year career of the latter, and with Hexed, they show no signs of slowing down.
Before jumping into the album, let’s just take a moment to appreciate the fantastic cover art. I love when a discography feels like it flows together, and there’s really no better example of this then looking at all ten of CoB’s albums and the reaper that adorns each one. Here we can see a formidable, medieval art-styled cover with a purple color-scheme. The reaper here is near-faceless and holding a castle in his hand; perhaps putting a hex on all those unlucky kings and queens within. The iconography here could be a veiled commentary on the state of the world; as if to say that perhaps the majority of the population is under the hex of things like social media and nefarious world leaders.
The album proper opens with This Road, and in typical CoB fashion, this one is a ripper with a monstrous sound, but it’s not the album’s stand-out track, it’s a warm up to get you back into shape since Hexed is the first new album in four years (the previous album, I Worship Chaos was released way back in 2015). This is Children of Bodom back in full form. The songwriting here is predictable, but predictable in that you know you’re going to hear fast-paced, sweeping riffs, big choruses, and Janne Wirman is probably going to have something to say with his keyboards in there somewhere as well (he does).
Tracks like Under Grass and Clover, Kick in a Spleen, and Platitudes and Barren Words carry this idea forward. They’re fast and tight; the riffing and overall guitar work are extraordinary. With this being Daniel Freyberg’s first studio album with the band, this can only be a sign that all is well within the castle of Bodom. Platitudes has a bit of a Wednesday 13 vibe, which actually was a bit of a surprise, while the title track Hexed could easily exist on albums like Something Wild or Hatebreeder. The band have not forgotten their roots; they’ve expanded upon them.
The stand out track on the record is Glass Houses, with it’s signature descending and ascending main riff, this one is a short and sweet kick in the ass, and it’s perfectly positioned as the third track on the record, where it serves to really get things moving. If this doesn’t have you bobbing your head, then just wait for the solo/bridge section which is both optimally housed within the track, but also features a dichotomy with the surrounding bars of the song that maybe shouldn’t work, but it does, and to great effect.
Hecate’s Nightmare, Soon Departed, and Knuckleduster depart from the pure sonic chaos of the more expeditious tracks, and slow things down, but that’s A-OK, because CoB can do slower, drudgier material just as well as they can do breakneck.
There’s just enough of an evolution on Hexed that it feels new and fresh, but it’s unmistakably Children of Bodom at the helm. Main-man Alexi Laiho seems to be incapable of running out of dynamic riff ideas, and it’s really a shame that more bands out there can’t do what Children of Bodom do half as well as half of them would like to. This is the anti-Metallica; there is no Load or Re-Load here folks; there’s only pure melodic death metal. Hexed is high-octane, catchy, and another fun ride with these talented lads from Finland. It’s all here: the dueling guitars and keyboards; those orgasmic moments when all of the instruments sync into a marvelous mass of sound (like if The Blob didn’t eat you but was instead a tone shower), all of the sweep picking you could possbily want in a CoB album, and those excellent men’s chorus-style backup vocals. This is the definition of a band that knows their strengths, knows what works, and leverages that knowledge to deliver a consistent, quality product time and time again.
If you’re already a fan, this is a blind buy; you can’t go wrong. If you’ve never heard Children of Bodom, check ’em out. You can start anywhere in their discography and you’re not likely to be disappointed; so you may as well get Hexed, available now via Nuclear Blast.