Hexed is the eagerly-anticipated tenth studio album from Finnish melodeath legends Children of Bodom. Since the release of I Worship Chaos in 2015, CoB have celebrated the twentieth anniversary of their first album, and assimilated new guitarist Daniel Freyberg into a line-up which has otherwise remained consistent since the beginning of their career. So does Hexed signal a new musical era for the band?
From the frantic opening riff of “This Road”, which documents the group’s relentless touring life, this album announces itself as unmistakeably Children of Bodom. All their trademarks are here; high energy, thrashy riffs, intricate guitar work, catchy hooks, double-bass drumming, gang shouts, and gloriously cinematic key changes. Fans of old-school Bodom will be delighted that neoclassicism makes an explicit return in this release, which has strong echoes of Follow The Reaper and Hatebreeder. “Glass Houses” has Vivaldi all over it, while title track “Hexed” has some beautiful Beethoven-inspired scale passages. After I Worship Chaos experimented with some down-tempo tracks, this album is almost uniformly fast-paced. It only slows down during “Soon Departed”, a bleaker track which still moves but allows the band to take a breath from furious riffing and explore more heaviness.
The album ends with “Knuckleduster”, a revamped version of a track which originally appeared on their 2004 EP Trashed, Lost and Strung Out. This inclusion serves to highlight the band’s referencing and acknowledgement of their earlier work. However, there’s plenty of evidence here that Children of Bodom have not stagnated or retreated to their roots; quite the opposite. Alexi is still coming up with sparkling guitar passages and irresistible key changes, but there are also some sophisticated developments in his compositional style here, notably an inclusion of prog elements in “Platitudes and Barren Words” and “Hexed”. Alexi doesn’t hide his affection for pop music and rock n’ roll, apparent in the poppy opening to “Under Grass and Clover” and the bluesy chorus to “This Road” respectively. He even approaches – dare we say it – clean vocals on the chorus to “Platitudes and Barren Words” (but not quite).
See what life is really like for Children of Bodom on “This Road”.
The most unusual of the new track is “Hecate’s Nightmare”, which takes the band’s frequently-used imagery of scary movies and comic book violence to a new experimental level, with spooky music-box keyboards and Ozzy Osbourne-style riffs. Telling a horror story of two people who fall foul of the goddess of witchcraft, it works as an interesting setpiece in the middle of the album.
Hexed rings out with the inherent playfulness and reckless energy of the Children of Bodom sound. Fans can breathe a sigh of relief, because with this album the group have built on the strong foundations of their heritage and confirmed that they still have a lot more to offer than nostalgia.
Hexed Track Listing:
01. This Road
02. Under Grass And Clover
03. Glass Houses
04. Hecate’s Nightmare
05. Kick in a Spleen
06. Platitudes And Barren Words
08. Relapse (The Nature Of My Crime)
09. Say Never Look Back
10. Soon Departed
Run Time: 44:48’ Release Date: March 8, 2019 Record Label: Nuclear Blast Records