2021 is off to the worst possible start for heavy music fans, with the awful news arriving yesterday of the passing of Children of Bodom frontman Alexi Laiho at the age of 41.
In a career spanning nearly twenty five years, Laiho and the rest of Children of Bodom single-handedly re-wrote the melodic death metal rule book, combining elements of tech, power metal and especially classical music with their brutal metal sound.
Laiho was the centrepiece for a slew of legendary records that the band produced, with Hatebreeder, Follow The Reaper and Hate Crew Deathroll widely considered essential listening for any fan of heavy music.
While Laiho’s passing leaves a huge hole in the music world, his work in Children of Bodom will live on forever. Here are ten of our favourite tunes that serve as a testament to Laiho’s creative genius.
Rest in power Alexi Laiho.
‘Angels Don’t Kill’ (Hate Crew Deathroll, 2002)
Children of Bodom made their name as neoclassical melo-death virtuoso’s on their first three LP’s, but by the time this 2003 cut rolled around they had swapped mixolydian scales for slams. This track was the rare exception, slowing down the furious tempo for a menacing death-march, complete with synths that wouldn’t sound out of place in the Dark Souls franchise.
‘Children of Decadence’ (Follow The Reaper, 2000)
Follow The Reaper was the album that properly broke Children of Bodom onto the biggest metal stages in the world, with thousands of lost thrashers latching onto the band’s signature brand of flashy melo-death. This deep cut from the record showcased Laiho and co. at their creative best, a six-minute topsy-turvy riff fest with vintage duelling between the guitar and keyboards. Imagine if this made it onto Guitar Hero.
‘Dead Man’s Hand On You’ (Halo of Blood, 2013)
Hearing clean guitar and piano in a Children Of Bodom song might be confounding to some, but the atmosphere established from the get go in this ballad-of-sorts is otherworldly, with the band dipping into an ambient abyss so rarely explored across their other works. The product is one of the group’s most hard-hitting and underrated pieces – especially now.
‘Follow The Reaper’ (Follow the Reaper, 2000)
Children of Bodom rang in the new millennium by dropping their career defining record, with the title track taking the melodic death formula, injecting it with steroids and taking it for a joyride without a care in the world. Marrying their love of thrash metal with unashamed fantasy-like soundscapes and classical leanings, courtesy of keys player Janne Wirman, many have tried to copy the genius of this piece and failed miserably.
‘Needled 24/7’ (Hate Crew Deathroll, 2003)
If there was ever a statement of rage to define a band’s career, then this is it. The track that opens the band’s fourth LP wastes no time establishing the fact that Children of Bodom had traded their early neoclassical leanings for straight up, punch-you-in-the-face aggression, and they didn’t give a flying fuck if you cared or not. Add this to your workout playlists right now.
‘LoBodomy’ (Blooddrunk, 2008)
Blooddrunk was Children of Bodom’s heaviest moment, with the band submitting completely to the power of the riff. It’s a good thing then that the riffs were really good, especially on this monstrous cut that swings between pulverising new-wave thrash and total groove metal goodness. It’s a shame that this wasn’t rolled out live more often.
‘Platitudes and Barren Words’ (Hexed, 2019)
By the time Bodom’s tenth and final album Hexed rolled around, it felt like the train had left the hype station. Still, Hexed rewarded those fans who had stuck by them over the years, returning to Bodom’s roots that thrilled the metal world originally. This track has all the goodies of vintage Bodom, from the traded solos to the creepy synth textures. They still had it, even at the end.
‘Rebel Yell’ originally by Billy Idol (Bestbreeder from 1997 to 2000, 2003)
Bodom gifted us with a number of weird and wonderful covers, ranging from Iron Maiden to Britney Spears. However, it’s this take on Billy Idol’s anthemic classic that takes the cake, from the wonderful re-creation of its iconic synth lines to Laiho’s barked chorus. To be fair, this can’t be vocally too far off what Idol himself does live these days.
‘Red Light In My Eyes Parts 1& 2’ (Something Wild, 1997)
Something Wild hit like a bomb in 1997, a time when the ‘shred’ side of metal had been cast onto a burning heap of denim jackets and studded belts. From the black metal atmospherics and riffs, to the wonderful sampling of Mozart’s Confutatis (from his work Requiem Mass) this showed that from day one, Children of Bodom was metal chamber music at its best.
‘Shovel Knockout’ (Relentless Reckless Forever, 2011)
By 2011, Bodom had become a somewhat darker beast, but there was still that sense of free-spirited fun about their stuff, wonderfully evident in this raging adrenaline hit. Relentless Reckless Forever trimmed the fat off of Bodom’s sound, and while some saw it as a backstep, this track shows that it just made them more refined.
Rest in Peace Alexi Laiho.