Described as a down-to-earth joy and humble human, Children of Bodom frontman Alexi Laiho brought an unmatched level of grace and humility to one of Rock’s most grotesque subgenres.
Dead at the age of 41, Laiho was one of metal’s most beloved trendsetters. Known for taking his neoclassical training and translating it into groundbreaking death metal, his band’s sudden break-up in 2019 dismayed longtime fans, who saw COB growing and becoming the best version of themselves just before it all ended.
Their last album, 2019’s Hexed, was a standout piece of work that featured some of Laiho’s best guitar work. We look back at some of the band’s best moments and mourn the far-too-soon departure of Death Metal’s “Wild Child.”
Recorded while Laiho and his bandmates were just 18 years old, “Needled 24/7” remains one of COB’s most impressive songs. Enmeshed with sprightly guitars, guttural screams, and a surprisingly infectious lead melody, “Needled 24/7” took the Finnish death metal band and propelled them to fame in the States. The track’s ever-changing pacing and the crunching guitar solo at its halfway mark keep listeners on their toes and showcase Laiho’s multifaceted talent with the electric guitar.
Longtime fans of COB will no doubt place “Hate Me” near the top of their reverential lists. The pacing of the track is absolutely mindblowing, with Laiho driving it all forward with the raucous energy of a freight train engulfed in flames.
Interspersing grinding black metal drive with a handful of more traditional rhythmic guitar solos courresy of Laiho himself, the band’s live performances of the track have gone down in infamy, as they show the group’s ability to not only play with different genres but also switch between different sounds simultaneously. The devil is in the details, and “Hate Me” is nothing but intricate detail.
Angels Don’t Kill
Labeled by many as a “death metal ballad,” “Angels Don’t Kill” was COB’s first slow record and remains far more consumable for death metal newcomers than some of their grungier work. Regardless, it moves with an unfurled aggression and still finds Laiho shredding away on his guitar at its peak moments. Not to mention the song’s charged up second-half is melodically dense and surprisingly uplifting. “It got us a lot of female attention,” Laiho said of the track. “Which is always a good thing.”
I Worship Chaos
The beauty of “I Worship Chaos” is that the song very much musically embodies its thematic material. The song is carried by menacing synths, and the guitars remain cracky and merciless as they bounce off the walls. Regardless, it’s all still somehow streamlined behind Laiho’s gurgling screams. All crammed into a brief 3-minute run-time, “I Worship Chaos” is a harrowing metal track that’s just as chaotic as implied.
Another track that is far gentler than a majority of COB’s catalog, “Morrigan” is full of rich melodies that are interwoven with tough guitar work and pounding drums. It’s structurally sound and super catchy, but while many may consider “Morrigan” the band’s softest record, it doesn’t take away from Laiho’s power as a songwriter and guitarist.
Dead Night Warrior
Insanity ensued whenever COB performed “Dead Night Warrior,” and for good reason. The song is devoid of much structure and in turn is absolutely pulverizing. It’s one of COB’s hardest outings and devolves into utter chaos by its end. With that said, that midway synth breakdown is still as smooth as velvet.
Are You Dead Yet?
The band’s most popular track, “Are You Dead Yet?” is a slow and jarring song that traverses into unpredictable territory as Laiho’s gnarling growls lead the way. The chorus is super catchy and makes the raucous energy of the track digestible for newcomers. Additionally, it showcases some of Laiho’s best guitar work and always caused seriously aggressive moshing at their live shows.
Another fan-favorite, “Downfall” is one of COB’s best songs, and it encapsulates everything they do so well, showcasing their meticulous control of melody, their unmatched shredding on the guitar, and their versatile use of pacing. Flexing the band’s neoclassical chops, “Downfall” is a relentless death metal anthem that squeezes your throat and doesn’t let go.
Bed Of Razors
A massively underrated track, “Bed of Razors” is a song whose guitar riffs slowly slink into your brain and refuse to leave. It’s a harrowing track that capitalizes on Laiho’s insatiable appetite on the guitar, as he plucks along with the unilateral focus of an orchestral conductor. “Bed of Razors” shows Laiho in full control as he drives the song forward with relentless anguish and power.
Under Grass and Clover
One of the band’s newer tracks before their break-up in 2019, “Under Grass and Clover” sounds almost optimistic and features electronica sprinklings that heighten Laiho’s matured screams and grumbles. The track’s bright melody was a rare sight for longtime fans of the band, but the song’s change was refreshing and showcased a band that had matured with the times and was always striving to grow and transform their sound.
Led by a Laiho at peak performance, later tracks like “Under Grass and Clover” carry emotional weight, and in light of his passing, they show just how multifaceted and talented the 41-year-old was at keeping our attention.