Children of Bodom's music has taken a dramatic shift since the Finnish metal act released 'Something Wild' in 1997. Part-way through those 16 years, Bodom drifted away from their heavily neoclassical sound to focus on big-picture melodic death anthems. Fans took a while to shift along with Bodom, especially during the 'Are You Dead Yet?' / 'Blooddrunk' years, but with Bodom's newest album, 'Halo of Blood,' the band succeeds in throwing every little nuance of their evolution into a single release.

'Halo of Blood' marks Children of Bodom's return to the massive riff. When 'Are You Dead Yet?' was unleashed in 2005, it seemed that Bodom had abandoned the art of writing instantly addictive lead riffs such as 'Needled 24/7,' 'Hate Me!' and 'Lake Bodom' (although the 'Are You Dead Yet?' tracks 'Trashed, Lost & Strungout' and 'We're Not Gonna Fall' boast incredibly catchy leads). 'Blooddrunk' (2008) and 'Relentless Reckless Forever' (2011) followed that trend, but almost every track on 'Halo of Blood' is branded with unique character through a huge main riff.

'Waste of Skin' opens the new Bodom release with a fun, full-speed-ahead lead reminiscent of 'Needled 24/7,' while the album's ultra-heavy title track blasts away with a simple neoclassical rush. The riffs don't stop there. 'Scream for Silence' opens with duel harmony more enticing than the majority of Bodom's work past to present, which is saying a LOT. Alexi Laiho & co. remain relentless with even more massive riffs kicking off 'Transference,' 'Bodom Blue Moom' and 'The Days Are Numbered.'

The album takes an experimental turn as 'Dead Man's Hand on You' begins, which Laiho opens with a shivering, low spoken word part that breaks about a minute in to complete the rest of the slow, persistent anthem. The quality of 'Halo of Blood' continues with each remaining track, coming to a close as the best record Children of Bodom have released in a decade.

'Halo of Blood' is much more than just a collection of great riffs. Alexi Laiho's gritty and sharp vocals act as a high point for the album, while the verses and choruses found in each of the record's 10 tracks keep 'Halo of Blood' moving at a steady pace. Structurally strong and bewitching music flows throughout 'Halo of Blood,' but Children of Bodom have never failed to deliver those sensibilities. 'Halo of Blood' represents a rejuvenated Children of Bodom, who have once again wrapped their foundation with brilliantly crafted lead instrumental parts. 'Halo of Blood' is truly an album where old school and new school Bodom fans can meet, shake hands and proceed to destroy everything within arm or leg's reach.

4 Stars