LOUDER FEATURES: Something Wild – Tribute to Alexi Laiho
Like many, I reacted with shock and disbelief at last week’s news that Alexi Laiho had passed away at age 41 as a result of unknown long-term health issues. Known primarily as the lead singer and guitarist for Children of Bodom, Alexi was a unique figure in the world of heavy metal; instantly recognisable by his trademark ESP Flying V guitar, black nail polish and distinctive shrieking vocal style which gave Children of Bodom their sound.
Born in Espoo Finland in 1979, Alexi Laiho founded a death metal act known as Inearthed, who would later distinguish themselves from the many death metal acts operating in the Scandinavian metal scene at the time by adding keyboards as well as elements of black, power and neoclassical metal, eventually changing their name to Children of Bodom in 1997.
Their debut album 'Something Wild', released later that year when Alexi was just 18 years old, was certainly aptly named after the band’s bizarre blending of style delivered at a blistering pace. Through the next decade, the band released the quality albums 'Hatebreeder', 'Follow the Reaper', 'Hate Crew Deathroll', 'Are You Dead Yet?' and 'Blooddrunk' with remarkable consistency; constantly refining their sound which blended the furious intensity of extreme metal with anthemic choruses, catchy riffs and technical brilliance from Alexi and keyboard player Janne Wirman, whose duelling solos became the band’s signature over the years.
Indeed, it was as an undisputed guitar hero that Alexi Laiho will be remembered by many. During the Bodom glory years, he graced the covers of many guitar magazines, including as the winner of Total Guitar’s 2011 Greatest Guitar Ever edition as voted for by the magazine’s readers. Bearing in mind that Bodom rose to prominence during the late 90’s and early 00’s, when nu-metal was king and guitar solos were being consigned in the minds of many to the scrapheap of the previous century, it is no exaggeration to say that Alexi Laiho was one of the most influential metal guitarists of the modern era. And if you don’t believe me, just take a look at the number of heartfelt tributes from metal musicians in the last week.
It was not just with his riffs and solos that Alexi Laiho brought back the exuberance of rock and metal years gone by, however; he also lived the rock and roll lifestyle to the fullest. Nicknamed “Wild Child” by his contemporaries for a reason, Laiho injected a sense of fun and playfulness to go alongside the macabre and brutality of the death metal genre. This refusal to take himself at all seriously was expressed through his light-hearted stage persona as well as Children of Bodom’s many cover versions of the types of songs their peers would never consider (Britney Spears’ 'Oops I Did It Again' probably being the most famous example). It was this blend of classic influences with modern innovation and of joy and heaviness that Children of Bodom were for me, and for so many others, such a vital gateway band into extreme music. Alexi Laiho’s influence will live on long after him and he will be remembered as one of the greatest guitar players metal has ever seen. RIP Alexi Laiho.
Children of Bodom's latest album, 2019's 'Hexed', is out now- stream the record here: