Children of Bodom: Skeletons In The Closet

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By Bill Adams

No matter how open-minded a fan of any given band might be, there are moment when one has to be skeptical about their output – particularly when that output is an album specially dedicated to covers. Think about it; why would a group decide to stop in its tracks and play human jukebox? Particularly in the case of any metal band that enters into such an undertaking (Between The Buried And Me leapt to mind before, Children Of Bodom does now), one has to ask why – “Why would this group choose to do a set of totally unlikely songs?” More often than not, suh albums have historically come off as sounding comical and novel at best and mawkish and fluffy as a box of baby ducks at worst but, no matter what, they only tend to be memorable in all the wrong ways.

Then there are albums like Children Of Bodom’s Skeletons In The Closet; a set that isn’t so boring or terribly formulaic as others of its ilk, but that’s really only damning with faint praise. There’s no doubt that some of these songs (most notably “Talk Dirty To Me” by Poison, Suicidal Tendencies’ “War Inside My Head,” “Silent Scream” by Slayer and W.A.S.P.’s “Hellion”) may have very likely formative volumes that focused the band into what they are – some of them are even surprisingly good takes as the band masterfully grafts its own growling sensibilities onto them – but this album would just be another Anatomy Of… sort of exercise were it not for those songs where the band lets its hair down and exposes its own will to be silly.

Does that lighter aspect of these proceedings redeem Children Of Bodom? That decision will get made on a fan-by-fan basis.

The not-so-serious tone kicks off right from the beginning with a cover of CCR’s “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” and, from there, Skeletons In The Closet will have listeners doing double takes with a continuing stream of oddball covers including Pat Benatar’s “Hell Is For Children,” Kenny Rogers’ “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” and Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell” not because they’re geared for grins (though they’ll get those), but because it’s obvious that the band has taken as much care with the strange choices as the ones that make perfect sense.

Of course, there some tracks here that are just par for the course. It’s no surprise, for example, that “Aces High” (pulled from the Iron Maiden songbook), “Mass Hypnosis” (Sepultura) and “Antisocial” (Trust/Anthrax) would be prime tribute fodder for Children Of Bodom because the styles of that source material mesh very well with that of the band re-making them; those are songs that no on bats an eye for because the band pours itself into them and works them out well. Singer Alexi Laiho snarls much like the originals call for and his guitars (along with that of Roope Latvala) pay respectable tribute. In these cases, the songs are presented such that it’s perfectly reasonable to assume the band may have been playing them in soundchecks for years; they’re hammered flat and flawless. More interesting are the partial steps outside the norm like “Rebel Yell,” “Talk Dirty To Me,” “Don’t Stop At The Top” and “War Inside My Head” where the band plays outside of its own box and injects far more melody (“Rebel Yell” is all about Laiho’s fantastic impression of Billy Idol) than one would expect from Children Of Bodom. These are the tracks that are more respectful than respectable, and the band produces stellar instrumental interpretations (check “(Ghost) Riders In The Sky” and “Anitsocial”) that play very close to the originals, but still have some COB in them.

The real surprises come when Children Of Bodom takes a stab at fare closer to the Top 40 mark but, rather than coming off (as so many metal bands do when they try something like this) as cheesy, overdone or insincere, the band manages to simply sound like they’re cutting loose and having fun. There’s no possible way, for example, to take the versions of “Oops… I Did It Again,” “Somebody Put Something In My Drink” and “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” seriously because listeners can actually hear the band laughing as they go along. Not exactly metal-infused renditions, these songs sound more like the originals might after having license plates riveted to them; still metal, but not very thick or very tight. While obviously very novel, these songs end up carrying the most interest because the band doesn’t bother to try and hide the fact that they’re goofing off, but still plays the hell out of those choices for shits and giggles. That lighter spirit is what makes Skeletons In The Closet worth listening to because they make the spirit in the rest most obvious; it’s all for fun. These seventeen covers showcase every side of the band, but the most recurring of the lot is that the band is obviously having fun as they pay tribute to the bands they respect, but treat the outrageous steps out with equally good humour.

(Spinefarm USA)

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Album review courtesy of groundcontrolmag.com

Sean Palmerston

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.