My history with Children Of Bodom was an interesting one. I discovered the band when I came across a promo copy of ‘Follow The Reaper’ on sale at a long-defunct record shop in Colchester. I was mesmerised and instantly fell in love with the content, which was heavy and extreme, but catchy as hell. I loved the flamboyance of the music, the carefree attitude, the mix of competing styles, and the musical prowess demonstrated by all concerned, particularly frontman Alexi Laiho.
As time went on however, I became a little bored with the output and a little resentful that the Finns were headlining shows that I felt should have been headlined by the bands relegated to the support slots. This feeling was short-lived though and died the moment I had the pleasure of meeting Laiho at a press junket for 2008’s ‘Blooddrunk’. Although just a little tipsy by the time I got to interview him, his personality shone through. He was a lovely guy; genuine, animated, and passionate, with a wicked sense of humour. You couldn’t fail to like him and fall back in love with all things Bodom.
To hear of his passing at such a young age at the tail end of last year was a shock and caused me genuine sadness. And, on a selfish level, it meant that we’d not ever hear his distinctive musical talents anymore, albeit with new band Bodom After Midnight after the disbanding of Children Of Bodom in 2019. Or that’s what I thought until a couple of months ago when it was announced that an EP would be released under the Bodom After Midnight banner, entitled ‘Paint The Sky With Blood’.
The EP has finally made its way to my ears and I’m delighted to be able to review it now. ‘Paint The Sky With Blood’ is a fourteen-minute three-track release that was recorded last year. It features two brand new tracks and a cover of Dissection’s ‘Where Dead Angels Lie’. Joining Laiho on this EP, envisioned to be the opening of a brand new chapter in his musical journey are guitarist Daniel Freyberg who followed Laiho from Children Of Bodom, drummer Waltteri Väyrynen (Paradise Lost), bassist Mitja Toivonen (ex-Santa Cruz) and live keyboardist Vili Itäpelto.
I have lost count of the amount of times I have listened to these three songs, often back-to-back, over and over again. I liked the music to begin with, but I like it even more now I’ve digested it and let it marinate for a while.
The first of the three tracks is the title track and let’s be honest, it’s a bit of a rip-snorter. I can’t be the only one who has detected a strong ‘old school’ Children Of Bodom vibe, because the similarities are there for all to hear. You get the fast-paced riffs, whist Waltteri Väyrynen beats seven bells out of his kit before settling into a driving rhythm for the verses, punctuated by frenetic blasts as the pace quickens from time to time. The bass dances in and out of the song with playfulness, whilst Laiho’s distinctive growl is there, front and centre. The chorus really lets out the melody too, in a way that will get lodged in your brain long after the song is over. The keys are ever-present, but a little more subdued than early Bodom; nevertheless, they add a sparkle and depth. The lead solos are magnificent as you knew they would be from Laiho and Freyberg.
The second of the two original songs is entitled ‘Payback’s a Bitch’ and it’s stylistically quite different from its predecessor. The song begins with the sound of a man panting before a bruising, groovier riff kicks in, heavier than anything heard in the opener. In fact, it’s a heavier, more direct track overall in my opinion. The melodies are a little less obvious despite being present, whilst the keys are, if anything, more dominant. This culminates in a brilliant lead solo interplay between guitars and keys; as flamboyant as you’d expect, but also very melodious too, jinking back and forth with smoothness and the devil-may-care attitude that so attracted us to Laiho and Children Of Bodom in the first place.
The final track, the cover of Dissection’s ‘Where Dead Angels Lie’ is absolutely magical too. It’s one of my favourite tracks from the Swedish kings of melodic blackened death metal. It feels a little too apt that it’s a song written by a band whose existence was cut short by a band member’s death, covered years later by a band just before the same tragic fate would befall them too. To say it’s an emotional listening experience is putting it mildly to say the least. As for the song itself, it is a pretty faithful rendition of the original, with all the dark malevolence present and correct, even down to the whispered vocals in the mid-section. And yet, you can still hear the Bodom After Midnight trademark sounds, such as an extra wailing lead guitar note, and the ever-present keys to add a little more atmosphere here and there. The most important thing to say is that both the original and this version give me goosebumps.
All too quickly, it’s over and the title track begins once again. And, if truth be told, I have a hard job stopping it. I never thought that I’d be this moved by a release like this, but I am. The talent of Alexi Laiho is something that will be sorely missed by many of us. And whilst we’ll never get to hear anything new by the mercurial frontman ever again, I am ultimately delighted that we have this EP. I believe that I and many others would buy this release regardless of the write-up us reviewers give it, so I won’t be issuing a score this time. Instead I’ll just end by confirming that ‘Paint The Sky With Blood’ is a fitting tribute to a special musician, the likes of which we may never encounter again.
The Score of Much Metal: N/A – A score is meaningless.