I’ve had a love of music for as long as I can remember, but certainly not the kind of music my mother liked to listen to. I always leaned towards heavy metal and have enjoyed many bands, but there’s one group that I’ve always wanted to see and never had the chance to; Children of Bodom.
While texting with one of my friends, Jeremy Saffer, an amazing band photographer from Massachusetts, I brought up the recent death of Alexi Laiho, the vocalist for Children of Bodom, who we both admired. Saffer’s only words were “Bodom was one of my all-time favorites. This sucks. Alcoholism kills.”
Alexi Laiho, born Markku Uula Aleksi Laiho, was born April 8, 1979 in Espoo, Finland and died December 2020 at his home in his home country. He was considered one of the best (and fastest) guitar players in the world. The name Children of Bodom came from Lake Bodom in Finland, found in his hometown and the site of four unsolved murders in 1960.
They were one of Finland’s best-selling artists, the original group had been together for almost 20 years and was made up of Daniel Freyberg (guitar), Henkka Blacksmith (bass guitar), Janne Wirman (keyboard), Jaska Raatikainen (drums), and Alex Laiho (lead singer and guitar).
In 2019, Children of Bodom disbanded and a new band was created, called Bodom After Midnight, that included Laiho and Freyberg from the old group and new members Mitja Toivonen and Waltteri Väyrynen. Bodom After Midnight only recorded three songs and a music video prior to Laiho’s death. These songs and the music video will be released posthumously on April 23, 2021 with an EP called Paint the Sky with Blood.
Laiho was married twice during these 20 years and that would be a story in itself. Somehow, the singer didn’t divorce his first wife before marrying his second and I’m sure they will be in court for some time figuring that one out!
Children of Bodom had a variety of styles in their sound and words had to be created to describe all of them. They were labeled neoclassical metal, melodic death metal, black metal, melodic death metal, etc. The band made 10 studio albums over their 20 years together. Their first album, Something Wild, was released in 1997 in Finland and to the world in 1998. For a first album, it was well-received by fans and critics and the band started touring the world in 2003 and never stopped. They did 491 concerts over 19 years, averaging about 25 a year. This took them away from home and family a lot so, like many young metal bands of the past, their downtime was sex, drugs and rock and roll.
However, this is not a lifestyle that can be maintained forever.
Their 9th album was released in 2015 entitled I Worship Chaos, but three days before it was dropped, Roope Latvala (guitar) left the band. The group, now a four-piece band, left Laiho doing all the guitar work. Before Latvala left, the group started trying to reinvent themselves but Latvala didn’t want the same things and decided to leave. Because they were trying to give themselves a new sound, I Worship Chaos wasn’t recorded in a commercial studio but instead in a warehouse that allowed them to experiment with sound. Also Laiho, who usually wrote the music before the lyrics, decided to switch it up and wrote the lyrics before the music.
But this is when Laiho’s alcoholism started to rear its ugly head. He found that he couldn’t deal with the hangovers and had stomach ulcers and was spitting up blood. Knowing he had to cut down or stop drinking, he did his next 10-week tour completely sober. He felt great but felt isolated from the rest of the group who continued to party hard. However, his bandmates were supportive of his sobriety because they, and others, had been worried about him for a long time.
The last album Children of Bodom released, cut in 2019, is called Hexed. It was released on March 8, 2019 and the band officially disbanded in November 2019. By this time, Laiho’s health was deteriorating. Upon his death, however, no one commented what had killed him. It isn’t hard to see that whatever it was, was accelerated by his prolonged use of alcohol, if that wasn’t what killed him in the first place. Although his last years were sober, the damage had already been done.
I think that young metal bands still feel they need to idolize the use of drugs and alcohol in their music and in their lives until they start getting older and wiser and see what that lifestyle has done to them. He joins the likes of Bon Scott of AD/DC, John Bonham of Led Zeppelin, Brent Mydland of the Grateful Dead, The Rev of Avenged Sevenfold, Paul Gray of Slipknot, and many more. I only wish that Laiho could have gotten to the other side earlier before it was too late. He will be missed.