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The virtuosic Hate Crew from Finland, Children of Bodom, have hit studio album number ten with their latest, and 'Hexed' is classic Bodom through and through. For me, compositionally, it harks back to the dynamic of 1999's sophomore outing 'Hatebreeder' and their fourth full-length offering, 'Hate Crew Deathroll'. It recaptures the raw energy of those two works, in a way that's just as exhilarating as when I first exposed my ears them all those years ago. Bodom idioms are present and rampant throughout - predominantly, it's their classic and potent fusion of death, power and thrash elements, all coloured with passages of neo-classical prowess and a few quirks thrown in for good measure.

While some would have you believe these Finns have been churning out the same thing, album after album, Bodom aficionados and connoisseurs would protest the contrary. Sure, they've established an aesthetic years ago that's unique to their own band, and styled much of their music around it. But this is a positive thing, for me. Wouldn't there be uproar if a Bodom album didn't sound at all like a Bodom album? And when said aesthetic is such an exhilarating, multi-faceted metal fusion in the first place, there's always been expansive scope that's inherent within their modus operandi for enough songwriting variance on each new album. 'Hexed' is no exception. There's progression (and progressive elements) to be heard. Just take a listen to the re-recorded, re-vamped version of 'Knuckleduster' that closes the album. Some will undoubtedly label this as regression, with the band re-treading old compositional turf, but it far excels the original version.

Of course, it's the new material that's worth getting most excited about, and Bodom deliver once again. In fact, I'd go so far to say 'Hexed' is amongst their finest work, and certainly a step above their previous two albums - 2013's 'Halo of Blood' and 2015's 'I Worship Chaos'. It all sounds more immediate, in your face, with a commanding set of songs, where breathtaking levels of musicianship bring some truly great songwriting to life.

It's all generally fast-paced and relentless throughout, except for the slower tempos of 'Hecate's Nightmare' and 'Soon Departed' - both fantastic tracks that don't merely present the Bodom aesthetic in a more sluggish way (as has been the criticism of when they've slowed down the tempo on some of their previous stuff). And shifts and transitions between all the different passages within each of the ten new songs is both seamless and skilled. The Finnish Hate Crew, once again, prove themselves masters at such. It's where bursts of refined virtuosity are blended with a fiercely aggressive sonic assault to utter perfection.

Vocalist/lead guitarist Alexi Laiho and keys wizard Janne Warman are both on fire in their performances. Just breathtaking. Phenomenal. New boy Janne Warman, ex-Norther axeman, contributes some pretty nifty rhythm guitar on what is his debut album for Bodom since joining the Hate Crew in 2016. And the ever-reliable rhythm section of bassist Henkka T. Blacksmith and sticksman Jaska W. Raatikainen provides songs with a solid backbone, meandering through all the changing time signatures and tempos with virtuosic ease. And "virtuosic ease" is perhaps an apt phrase to sum up the whole album, as nothing feels forced or stilted here, despite the widdle-fest it frequently becomes. But it's a widdle-fest that sees Bodom at the very top of their game. 'Hexed' has certainly bewitched me with its energising impetus.
Nuclear Blast
Review by Mark Holmes
8th March 2019
1) This Road
2) Under Grass and Clover
3) Glass Houses
4) Hecate's Nightmare
5) Kick in a Spleen
6) Platitudes and Barren Words
7) Hexed
8) Relapse (The Nature of My Crime)
9) Say Never Look Back
10) Soon Departed
11) Knuckleduster
"...where bursts of refined virtuosity are blended with a fiercely aggressive sonic assault to utter perfection."