It actually takes several listenings of “Relentless, Reckless Forever” to appreciate everything that’s going on. That said, if the listener has the patience to get over the initial confusion of what he or she is hearing, the album’s petals will unfold into a blooming heavy metal flower.
At first blush, the album seems thin and subdued relative to Children of Bodom’s usual idiom. There are less blast beats, and much less double kicking on the whole. Even when those elements are present, such as the opening of “Shovel Knockout,” the production is such that the percussion is pushed to rear, with the exception of the snare drum. The resulting sound is a more brittle reproduction, with crunchy guitars screaming over the top of all the other instruments.
The other departure from most memorable Children of Bodom is that the musical pedal is not always to the floor on “Relentless, Reckless Forever.” As the album winds through the positively relaxed (by CoB standards) “Roundtrip to Hell and Back,” into the chuggy and snare dominated “Pussyfoot Miss Suicide,” the listener may start to think that Children of Bodom is mailing this one in. Where is the speed metal, where is the atmosphere? Don’t worry, it’s coming.
The album has just been gaining steam to this point, and then breaks into the title track, which on its surface seems just as unhurried at the previous two cuts. It is the sequence beginning with the title song however, where the listener begins to ascertain the true nature of the album’s soul. “Relentless, Reckless Forever” is a guitar album, which sounds obvious in light of Alexi Laiho’s known virtuosity.
That doesn’t mean that he dominates in the usual fashion, however. While Laiho’s solos are just as articulate and varied as ever, there is an added element of soulfulness that finds it’s way into this playing this time around.
“Relentless, Reckless Forever” has more pure groove than its predecessors, and at the same time, the production pays more homage to the thrash albums of old. In truth, there are a lot of parallels between this new Children of Bodom album and Annihilator’s “King of the Kill.” Listening to everything that takes place after the three-minute mark of “Ugly” is like listening to old Dave Mustaine demos, but with better production.
As the album rolls on, the guitars are asked to do more and more heavy lifting, particularly during the grinding drudgery of “Cry of the Nihilist.” The galloping riff on the back half of the song could have easily found a home on “Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying.”
Not to be outdone, the powerful, masterful sequence finishes off with the brooding, bombastic single “Was it Worth it?” which uses excellent pacing (again accented mostly by the snare drum,) and well-placed keyboards to put a new twist on old thrash sensibilities.
It took me probably four or five passes of “Relentless, Reckless Forever” to really see it’s beauty as an old-school thrasher with a lot of new school groove metal mixed in. Children of Bodom’s choice to let the lead and rhythm guitars do most of the hard work, rather than simply launching off a percussive platform was a no doubt a risk the band chose to take. It ends up paying off handsomely, as it lets the songs craft their own complete atmosphere, as opposed to being a collection of bright solos passively connected.
Have patience with this album, and you’ll end up with a highly enjoyable trip that may flood you with memories of thrash, groove and speed metal albums gone by.