Children Of Bodom were the extreme metal band unafraid of being a good laugh. While their peers cloaked themselves in macabre imagery and delivered the bleakest of riffs, these Finns pushed the genre’s silliness into overdrive. Their lyrics were tongue-in-cheek, and a cornerstone of their music was the clash between Alexi Laiho's guitars and Janne Wirman’s keyboards, each exchanging lashings of neoclassical melodies. Tragically, legal disputes and Alexi’s 2020 death prematurely ended the Bodom journey, leaving behind ten albums to review and rank.
Here, then, is a considered appraisal of the Espoo’s kitsch metallers, ordered from worst to best.
10) Blooddrunk (2008)
Following Hate Crew Deathroll and Are You Dead Yet?, Blooddrunk was the final entry in Bodom’s “all-out extreme metal” trilogy. It’s also the nadir of that era. The riffs are archetypical thrash metal, the solos feel intricate yet devoid of pizazz, and the hooks aren’t strong enough to catch a goldfish. A flicker of the Bodom of old sneaks through in Tie My Rope’s bombastic keyboard line, but this is a far cry from the trend-bucking ingenuity they flaunted at the turn of the millennium.
9) I Worship Chaos (2015)
The follow-up to 2013’s Halo Of Blood has the opposite energy of its predecessor. That’s not to say it doesn’t have the guitar showmanship and theatrical keys; rather, it follows a revitalising album with songs that sound like Bodom being Bodom in their sleep. Despite the speed metal verve of Widdershins, the likes of Morrigan and I Hurt are the sound of musicians tiredly retreading familiar territory. There’s nothing bad per se, but there’s nothing mind blowing either.
8) Relentless, Reckless, Forever (2011)
Alexi ranked his band’s seventh album as their worst, but that’s a harsh assessment. It’s at least a step up from Blooddrunk, reintegrating quirks that had been forgotten since the Hate Crew Deathroll days. The duelling guitar and keyboard solos are back, even if neither sound as jubilant as they did during Hatebreeder and Follow The Reaper. Some classic rock rhythm work makes Roundtrip To Hell And Back infectious, too. Although not Bodom’s mightiest moment, Relentless, Reckless, Forever proved a return to form.
7) Hexed (2019)
Bodom’s final chapter sometimes slips into the apathy that defines I Worship Chaos, with songs like Kick In A Spleen feeling like a band painting by numbers. However, plenty of other entries lift themselves above the doldrums. This Road opens with galloping guitars and later explodes with keyboard solos. Glass Houses busts out some Van Halen tapping while Soon Departed is more plodding hard rocker than death metal smasher. Overall, this one’s the most middle-of-the-road Bodom album money can buy.
6) Are You Dead Yet? (2005)
Are You Dead Yet? doubled down on the aggro of predecessor Hate Crew Deathroll. This time, it downplayed not just the keyboards, but also Alexi’s athletic guitar style, changing lanes into more mid-tempo groove metal chugging. Even though it was Bodom’s least characterful album when it came out, it houses some of their simplest and most memorable choruses. Anyone who puts on Living Deadbeat should prepare to have the line “like the living dead, we’ll never die!” wedged into their brain forever.
5) Something Wild (1997)
Bodom were still perfecting their soundscape when they released their debut album in 1997. The pieces were all there – neoclassical licks, power metal keyboard solos and the odd stomping rock ’n’ roll drum beat – but also fighting for space was obvious Dissection and melodeath worship. Nonetheless, Something Wild offers some genuine highlights. Lake Bodom and Deadnight Warrior proved triumphant enough to become setlist regulars, and Touch Like Angel Of Death is an extravaganza of light-speed guitar soloing.
4) Halo Of Blood (2013)
Bodom’s eighth album is their late-game masterpiece. Picking up where Relentless, Reckless, Forever left off, it both revisits their earlier oeuvre and makes sense of that awkward thrash era. Damaged Beyond Repair ascends from open-string chugs to a victorious harmony and the title track is the Finns’ most blackened serving since Something Wild. Meanwhile, Dead Man’s Hand On You returns Janne’s keyboards to the limelight. It’s like someone cherrypicked the best of every prior Bodom album and tossed it into a blender.
3) Hate Crew Deathroll (2003)
After Follow The Reaper perfected Bodom’s extreme neoclassical metal, the quintet veered sideways. The six strings are king on Hate Crew Deathroll, relegating Janne to a backing role that only takes the lead for the odd intro and solo. Although some decried the shift, the songwriting lost none of its exhilaration. Sixpounder bludgeons with the furthest reaches of Alexi’s fretboard, Triple Corpse Hammerblow has an A-grade chorus and Angels Don’t Kill marches authoritatively with its groove metal drum work.
2) Hatebreeder (1999)
Bodom could have gone one of two ways after Something Wild: either taming their idiosyncrasies to become more at home in Scandinavia’s black metal and melodeath scenes, or amplifying their flamboyance. Thank God, then, that Hatebreeder did the latter, escaping contemporary trappings to inject Randy Rhoads- and Ritchie Blackmore-like virtuosity into extreme metal. Music so blistering had never embraced playing so neoclassical before, and Alexi’s guitar mastery on Silent Night, Bodom Night and Towards Dead End was a breath of fresh air.
1) Follow The Reaper (2000)
Follow The Reaper fucking nails it. Everything anyone could ever want from a ludicrous extreme metal album is lobbed out over nine songs and 38 minutes. Alexi’s neoclassical guitars and Janne’s keyboards are in perfect sync, each player melodic, technical and seamlessly segueing into the other. Also, the hooks, be they those cries of “Bodom… after midnight!” or the violin stabs that ignite Hate Me!, are all top-notch. Extreme metal may present itself as evil, but this masterstroke zeroed in on the silliness at its heart and cranked it up to eleven for the world to adore.