I find myself wondering how exactly you would worship chaos. It’s not like having regular services at an appointed place would be in the spirit of the thing, and chaos by its nature is sort of hard to identify when it’s happening. Sure, they might just throw a waterbomb filled with petrol and snakes into a meeting of the electoral college or go chase butterflies about in the Amazon and call it a day, chaos sown, but it’s hardly worship. If you wanted to properly worship the universal force of unpredictability you’d drink something to cloud your mind, turn up two hours late to somewhere that’s definitely not a church and barge into other worshippers, knocking each other about like a sack pine cones in a washing machine until the lights came back on, the music stops, and everyone goes home, though preferably not their own.
Sign me up for life.

At least, that’s the attitude once and (hopefully) future greats Children of Bodom are channelling with this, their ninth and latest. Disappointingly, it’s not particularly chaotic, being absolutely short of Weird Al style parody, sensual alligator mix-tapes and educational calligraphy diction. Instead they’ve done possibly the least chaotic thing possible and made exactly the kind of hard, punchy and musically complex album you’d expect from a band as well loved as they are. Wusses.

Despite this embarrassing lack of nerve, this is what fans will expect, a brilliant continuation of “Halo of blood” that, while not packing the punch of “Hate Crew Deathroll”, is certainly superior to “Relentless Reckless Forever”. If all this sounds like gibberish, what it means is that they’ve been more exciting, they’ve been more powerful, but not in a long long time. Perhaps it’s something to do with the loss of guitarist Roop Latvala but the new four-piece setup just doesn’t fit. Perhaps they’ll grow into it or find a new artist to replace him, but this is the strange pubescent middle period. There are flashes of what made them great; “Widdershins” stands out as the perfect example of what Children of Bodom are all about, combining furious punchiness with melodic softness to perform the musical equivalent of a clubbing murder with a sack of soft, fluffy baby seals. Their lyrics are as ludicrous as ever, favouring the angry yelling and simple, direct insults over anything more thematically complex. It works at conveying a sense of genuine fury, CoB’s trademark, and fans will be glad to know it hasn’t changed, but there’s no arguing it doesn’t feel a little overdone nine albums in.

In short, this is a good album. Not great, probably not all that memorable, but certainly nothing that’s going to make you wish you could forget.

Then again, I’m one of the misbegotten few who enjoyed the synth in “Round-Trip to Hell and Back” so apparently I don’t know jack shit.

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