Finish metal band Children of Bodom's Hexed is their 10th studio album and their first in roughly four years following 2015’s I Worship Chaos. Having taken some time to gather and focus on a new direction proved worthwhile. This album sees a true revitalization of the group. As a result, it is more rhythmic and technically based than previous efforts. “I think maybe the one feature that I haven't heard in a while is more technical riffing, guitar riffing, where Alexi [Laiho] is pushing his abilities to their limits” said bassist Hennka T. Blacksmith.
Foregoing shred style for crisper guitar solos, it blends classical quality with the energy and gusto of modern metal. Vocals and instruments seamlessly glow together, as if they are having a conversation with one another. No single element overpowers the other. It is also Children of Bodom’s first record with guitarist Daniel Freyberg, who joined in 2016.
Hexed presents its ideals promptly. There is no easing into what this record has to offer. However, it does not feel rushed. There is a natural pace to this record, making it comfortable to listen to. Just not too comfortable for it’s or the listeners own good.
Right out of the gate, opening track “This Road” sets the tone with technical guitar riffs and rhythmic precision. It is delightfully upbeat but still heavy enough to grab you by the neck. It was inspired by years of touring and life always on the go, according to Laiho. “…I’m sure that every single touring musician would agree that at some point it just becomes a blur and you don’t even know what the hell’s going on," Laiho said in a statement. "You feel like it’s going to kill you, but you keep doing it no matter what. It’s kind of a drug because you can’t stop. I can’t. I’m going to do it as long as I live—there’s no other way.”
“Under Grass and Clover” and “Hecate’s Nightmare” offer differing but complementing melodies. First, “…Clover” resonates with symphonic overtones, soaring over thundering drum beats and Laiho’s prominent screams. In contrast, "Hecate's Nightmare” has a subtle approach. Underlying bells brandish an almost theatrical feel to the song, while not straying from its path.
“Hexed” is the consummate title track. Strong, energetic and ready to make you put your fist in the air. The blast beats are right on point here and it is just an enjoyable track overall. “Knucklebuster” is a uniquely titled song, and it isn’t without spunk either. Syncopated drums mingle with metronomic rhythms while carrying smoking guitar riffs. Some of the best guitar work is contained here. Laiho’s masterful skills are very present. If this is him pushing himself, he makes it sound so easy.
The only thing that feels a little lacking is the order in which the songs occur. The individual songs are well arranged, but as a collective, they begin to stagnate. As frequently happens with full-length releases, the very engaging or "hit" songs dominate the first half. Then when you get to the second half, it sort of blends a little bit. It's easy to lose focus on the individual elements in each song. It becomes more of a superficial listening instead of hearing the contents as they coordinate together. Maybe a little more consideration of this would have turned it further away from that slope. Some of these songs also have killer intros that really hook you in. Staggering them a little more may not have hurt.
Either way, it’s clear that Children of Bodom have hit a new stride. With a history of gradual but noticeable directional shifts, the band should be proud of it's newest venture. Hexed seems to have accomplished nearly everything that it set out to do. A rejuvenated style and sound was definitely the key. There’s no doubt that fans will be into this album. It may even bring in some new ones as well. Hopefully, this marks the beginning of a great chapter in the band’s career.