Monday, October 26, 2009

Again We Rise: Children of Bodom - Follow the Reaper

True to Iron Maiden's promise at Madison Square Garden in 2000, the decade that followed has seen a resurgence of metal that not only obliterated the specter of death staking the genre in the 1990s, but makes previous heydays seem puny in comparison. Metal in the 2000s was all about proliferation: new styles emerged, old ones regenerated, and - thanks to the Internet - exposure spread like a virus. To highlight all of that success , we're launching Again We Rise, an occasional feature that will celebrate the releases that rose above the voluminous crowd to become classics. Today, Children of Bodom's Follow the Reaper.

As one of the primary musical exports from a country that has generated metal microcosms typical of a population ten to twenty times its size, Bodom were already not so much torch bearers as marchers to the beat of their own unique drum. Be that as it may: with Follow the Reaper they were solidifying their position as the generators of a weird but wonderful thrash/black/power metal hybrid that was simultaneously baroque, bleak, and brutal - with a nice dollop of catchy on top to seal the deal.

Though the album features concert staples like "Hate Me!" and "Bodom After Midnight" that seem born as staples through their use the chanting masses hook that metal and punk acts have exploited for years, it does not follow this formula exclusively: unlike more recent albums, which seem to have followed this arc to its logical conclusion to the exclusion of any other exploration, Follow the Reaper embraces the variety that made this band so interesting and wraps it up in a fairly cohesive package. The title track opens with a quote from a piece of English literature, explodes into Bodom-standard high energy, and riffs through blackened classical forms. "Children of Decadence" splits time between the barely intelligible nihilism in the lyrics and a smoothly-flowing melody line that lives as a constant - if shifting - companion through the song, eventually emerging as one Bodom's better guitar/keyboard duets during the solo. "Every Time I Die" is one of Bodom's slower experiments in the vein of "Angels Don't Kill" and "Banned From Heaven," but unlike later efforts it notches down the speed without getting shmaltzy. "Mask of Sanity," the album's proggiest effort, resting as much on the syncopated keyboard line as it does on the high speed guitars and double bass, but still ties things together for the hooky chorus.

For nine tracks, Follow the Reaper generally moves from strength to strength and - even though it's Bodom and the production sheen starts to blend things together to the point of indistinguishability - offers a worthy effort made more potent by its creation in tough musical times. As the palaces burned, in Follow the Reaper Bodom continued to create music that would catapult them to fame and fortune - albeit with a slowly dulling edge - in the years to come.