On December 15, 2019, Youngsters Of Bodom performed their remaining present. It had been introduced six weeks earlier that drummer Jaska Raatikainen, bassist Henkka Seppälä and keyboard participant Janne Wirman – who had performed on each Bodom album since their 1997 debut, One thing Wild –had give up the band to “change path inside their lives”, leaving guitarist Daniel Freyberg and frontman Alexi Laiho to hold on with out them.
The present befell on the Helsinki Ice Corridor, a brief drive from the city of Espoo, the place schoolfriends Alexi and Jaska had fashioned Youngsters Of Bodom 26 years earlier. It was a bittersweet evening, however there was a be aware of rigidity too. Regardless of the diplomatic wording of the assertion saying the trio’s departure, the reality was that Alexi’s alcohol and substance abuse issues had pushed a wedge between him and his bandmates, prompting the splintering of the band.
“It was a bizarre, emotional factor,” admits Janne Wirman at present. “Proper earlier than we went on, I hugged Alexi and I used to be simply struck by the realisation it was the final time I’d ever play these songs. With how Alexi was at that time there was no assure he wouldn’t select to fuck it up on objective both, however he did nice. It was emotional, however I used to be additionally so relieved as a result of I had gotten so bored with Alexi’s issues.”
Alexi and Daniel carried on working collectively underneath the identify Bodom After Midnight, however the Helsinki gig can be the final time any of them performed as Youngsters Of Bodom. It was the tip of the street for a band who had helped put Finnish steel on the worldwide map and who, of their singer and guitarist, featured one of the crucial gifted and charismatic musicians of his era.
Simply over a 12 months later, Alexi was lifeless, his demons just too robust for his booze-ravaged physique. A recording of that remaining present has simply been launched because the dwell album, A Chapter Referred to as Youngsters Of Bodom. It’s the sound of a band in full flight towards all the percentages, and a reminder of simply how necessary and influential they – and Alexi Laiho – actually had been.
Nobody can fairly keep in mind who gave Alexi Laiho the nickname ‘Wildchild’. He might even have given it to himself. But it surely suited him completely. Born in Espoo on April 8, 1979, he was a musical prodigy from an early age. He started studying violin aged seven, however grew to become infatuated with the guitar after his older sister, Anna, launched him to such larger-than-life bands as Twisted Sister, Weapons N’ Roses and W.A.S.P. (the latter’s music Wild Little one inspiring that nickname).
Gifted a Tokai Stratocaster when he was 11, Alexi would spend nearly each free hour he had practising. He was obsessive about music, however in no way shy. Naturally charismatic, he had each a fast mood and daredevil tendencies that might see him exploring deserted buildings in his hometown of Espoo, or in any other case skateboarding or snowboarding whereas hanging out with native children. Jaska Raatikainen was a classmate of Alexi’s. The pair spent virtually all their time collectively, sharing the whole lot from first cigarettes to first beers.
“He was actually into guitarists like Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai, so he bought me into these issues and actually bought me into steel,” Jaska says. “Music was one thing he may talk with.”
Within the early 90s, Finland’s steel scene was small and insular. Bands equivalent to Stratovarius and Sentenced had made ripples elsewhere in Europe, however they had been hardly a match for the worldwide superstars Alexi was studying about within the steel magazines he borrowed from his sister. So he did what any cocky 13-year-old would do: he fashioned his personal band, Inearthed, to show that it may very well be achieved.
Alexi persuaded Jaska to affix Inearthed as drummer and, impressed the acute steel scene they had been discovering by underground zines and the tape-trading community, they recorded their first demo in the summertime of 1994.
“We made like 50 copies and it was an enormous factor in Espoo,” Jaska remembers. “Individuals began to speak about it as a result of we had been children and all the children, no matter what college they had been in, would dangle round over the weekend.”
A kind of children was Henkka Seppälä, who joined Inearthed on bass in 1995. He’d already heard about Alexi at college. “Alexi was super-charismatic, 13 or 14 years previous, carrying a cool leather-based jacket and cowboy boots, smoking cigarettes,” Henkka remembers. “However he was additionally hardworking. He would play for six or eight hours a day, and that’s when he was nonetheless at school.”
Between Alexi’s pure charisma and the sheer novelty of getting a gaggle of children play primitive demise steel, Inearthed packed out gigs at native youth centres, with phrase spreading additional afield. In 1997, when Alexi and Jaska had been 18, they determined to file an album.
That was simpler mentioned than achieved. Naively, the band signed a cope with small Belgian label Shiver Information. The one drawback was that Inearthed – now accomplished by rhythm guitarist Alexander Kuoppala and then-session keyboardist Janne Wirman – needed to fund the recording themselves. With solely sufficient cash to spend per week within the studio, they labored gruelling 16-hour days to get it completed.
The onerous work turned out to be price it once they bought a name from Spinefarm Information, a rising Finnish label based mostly in Helsinki. Jaska got here up with an ingenious resolution to chop ties with Shiver.
“I despatched them a fax telling them that the band had break up up,” he admits with a sheepish grin. “We modified our identify to Youngsters Of Bodom. It was ugly, however we couldn’t simply let it occur.”
Their new identify was a reference to the Lake Bodom Murders, by which three youngsters had been killed on the shores of a lake in Espoo in 1960. The case remained unsolved, although if the band had any qualms concerning the potential insensitivity of their new identify, they both didn’t present it or didn’t care.
The newly christened Youngsters Of Bodom launched their debut album, One thing Wild, in November 1997. An ingenious combination of melodeath and black steel with an underpinning of 80s bombast, it peaked at a powerful No.3 within the Finnish chart. Strikingly, fellow Finns Nightwish and Him launched their debut albums the identical month.
“Finnish steel was underground,” Henkka remembers. “Instantly there have been additionally bands like Nightwish and Him popping out. After that, you possibly can discuss this concept of Finnish steel – earlier than that it didn’t actually exist.”
Their second album, 1999’s Hatebreeder, carried out even higher, topping the Finnish charts. A Japanese tour adopted that summer time and gave them their first correct foothold exterior of Europe, and produced the dwell album Tokyo Warhearts – Dwell In Japan 1999.
“The crowds would lose their minds each evening,” enthuses Janne, who had been pressured to sit down out the band’s earlier European excursions to complete his remaining exams. “We had been just a few 19-year-olds from Finland.”
The band’s subsequent two albums continued their ahead march. 2000’s Comply with The Reaper noticed them including extra energy steel parts into the combo, in addition to making use of producer Peter Tägtgren’s synthesiser assortment. 2003’s Hate Crew Deathroll was their correct worldwide breakthrough, the purpose the place the UK and the US started to take discover of those wild Finns.
“There’s one thing magical and necessary about Hate Crew Deathroll,” Janne says. “We’d began touring the States, which opened up a complete new world. Now it felt like we had been actually a worldwide band.”
That rising worldwide success was rubber-stamped by 2005’s Are You Lifeless But? and an look on the North American and European legs of the 2006 Unholy Alliance tour alongside In Flames, Mastodon, Lamb Of God and headliners Slayer. It was an opportunity for the European band to take pleasure in some correct transatlantic bonding. “After the exhibits, Kerry [King] would ask us to hold with him and would pressure friggin’ Jäger photographs on us!” remembers Jaska.
Additionally they loved some surprising celeb consideration. At one present, they seen curly-maned soft-jazz saxophone botherer Kenny G watching them from the aspect of the stage. “It turned out his children had been followers,” says Janne. “He was the nicest man.”
One other unlikely fan was actor Rob Lowe. The St. Elmo’s Fireplace star caught Bodom on the Unholy Alliance tour, and namechecked them throughout an look on high-profile US speak present The Tonight Present the next night. “[Host] Jay Leno requested if there was anybody within the viewers who knew who we had been,” says Janne, “and somebody screamed one thing, so he was like, ‘Nicely, that’s one sick particular person at the least. I used to be similar to, fuck yeah! Greatest promotion we ever had.”
Because the band’s status grew, so too did Alexi’s standing as a figurehead. His distinctive model was quick establishing him as a guitar icon, whereas he made no secret of his urge for food for alcohol and the wild behaviour that got here with it. His tendency in direction of self-destructive behaviour first grew to become evident in 1998, when he was hospitalised after ingesting tranquillisers and whiskey. However because the 2000s progressed, it escalated till it started impacting on the band’s profession. At one level, he broke his arm whereas drunkenly dancing on prime of a automobile. Reveals had been cancelled in 2004, 2007 and 2008 after he suffered related alcohol-fuelled accidents.
“By the tip of that touring cycle, Alexi’s first issues with alcoholism began to emerge.” Janne says. “Everybody was partying, however over time there have been issues he was doing no one else would… like getting up and taking two photographs of vodka very first thing.”
His private points fed into the band. Creatively, Bodom appeared to have hit a wall. Neither 2008’s Blooddrunk nor its 2011 follow-up, Relentless Reckless Endlessly, matched the vitality and brilliance of the band’s earlier work. The troubles about Alexi’s well being had been such that Jaska admits he even thought of calling time on Youngsters Of Bodom proper after Relentless…. When the band reconvened after a break, it appeared that Alexi was conscious of the issues his life-style was inflicting.
“Alexi bought up and mentioned, ‘Sorry guys, I admit I’m an alcoholic – it’s one thing I carry with me and I promise to not use alcohol whereas I’m working anymore,’” Henkka explains. “Jaska bought up with tears streaming down his face, as a result of issues had been dangerous with them for a very long time because of the alcohol. Engaged on [2013’s] Halo Of Blood was so cathartic for the band, it was like a brand new begin.”
Alexi’s choice to handle his alcohol points meant a lot of the Halo Of Blood tour cycle was accomplished sober, and relationships within the band mended. Sadly, it couldn’t final. Whereas the artistic type was carried over on 2015’s I Worship Chaos and 2019’s Hexed, Alexi had begun ingesting once more. Even then, his bandmates figured they might get by the problems.
“My final excellent, fond reminiscences of Alexi are working with him on the keyboards for Hexed, as a result of we might at all times work on these collectively, simply the 2 of us,” Janne says. “He got here to my home and was like, ‘Hey, do you thoughts if we do these periods fully sober?’ Clearly I very a lot didn’t thoughts! We had a good time collectively in that week.”
It proved to be a false daybreak. After the discharge of Hexed was delayed, Alexi departed for Australia to spend time with Kelli Wright-Laiho, a music publicist he had met in 2016 and married in 2017 – controversially, contemplating he was nonetheless legally married to his first spouse, Sinergy frontwoman Kimberly Goss. When he returned, his bandmates instantly knew one thing was fallacious.
“He was at all times a thin man, however now he’d misplaced a lot weight he seemed like a skeleton,” Janne says. “He’d try to play guitars, however he couldn’t play in any respect. We didn’t know what the fuck to do.”
“We had a sort of intervention on the finish of the [Hexed] tour, and Alexi bought so mad at us,” Henkka admits. “We informed him issues couldn’t go on like that. He was in such dangerous form that our tour supervisor needed to have each metropolis’s morgue quantity, simply in case we awakened and located him lifeless in his bunk. 2019 was such a shitshow.”
The band nonetheless managed to finish their touring commitments. Then, in November, got here the announcement that Jaska, Henkaa and Janne had been leaving. “You at all times surprise if there’s one thing you possibly can have achieved to stop what occurred to Alexi,” says Henkaa. “If I had spoken to him extra… no matter. However figuring out how cussed Alexi was, I believe he wouldn’t have listened to me anyway and doubtless simply kicked me out.”
There’s actually no suggestion of in poor health well being or rigidity within the band on the dwell recording A Chapter Referred to as Youngsters Of Bodom. Vibrant, electrifying and grandiose, the set covers nearly each period of Youngsters Of Bodom and stands as testomony to their artistic efficiency, mixing disparate parts collectively to create an unmistakable sound that has impressed numerous subsequent bands.
Though they’d initially agreed on ending Youngsters Of Bodom totally, Alexi shocked them when he revealed plans to proceed working with guitarist Daniel Freyberg, who had joined in 2016. Unable to make use of the Youngsters Of Bodom identify legally, Alexi’s new mission would in the end be known as Bodom After Midnight, the identify of a observe on Comply with The Reaper.
“It most likely wasn’t straightforward for Alexi,” Henkka admits. “For us it was the final present, however for him he was planning to hold on with a unique group. I’m joyful he pulled it off in addition to he did.”
On January 4, 2021, the information of Alexi Laiho’s demise was introduced. He had handed away per week earlier, however his household had held again the information. The official reason behind demise was reported as “alcohol-induced degeneration of the liver and pancreas connective tissue”. He was simply 41 years previous.
For the surviving members of Youngsters Of Bodom, there’s a shared sense of disappointment about how issues ended. “By that final present, I knew he’d die from his dependancy,” Janne says. “He wasn’t enthusiastic about getting assist and had informed me so.”
On the identical time, they like to recollect their good friend as he was, and for the whole lot he achieved. “Alexi’s expertise was so large that he impressed individuals to practise increasingly more, to succeed in his stage,” Jaska says.
“We knew nothing about something however we blew up and have become a world factor,” agrees Janne. “Our legacy ought to be that in case you consider in what you’re doing and don’t let anybody management you, even with music as bizarre as Bodom, you can also make it.”
A Chapter Referred to as Youngsters Of Bodom is out now by way of Spinefarm.