Children of Bodom, a History Lesson, by Frank Clow

In this History Lesson feature, we’ll take a band that’s current and discuss it’s background and it’s influences, hopefully you’ll discover somethign awesome. This month Frank Clow talks about Children of Bodom.
I’m sure a lot of you Children of Bodom fans think you know everything there is about this band, which is why I’m here to share with you the interesting and strange life of Children of Bodom. First off, the band have released more material than some of you might realise, 6 studio albums, 2 live albums, 2 Eps and a DVD to date, the latest of which ‘Skeletons In The Closet’ was released on September 22nd 2009. Do you know the line up, well, the band consist of Alexi Laiho (guitar and vocals), Roope Latvala (guitar), Henkka Seppälä (bass and live backing vocals), Janne Wirman (keyboards) and Jaska Raatikainen (drums).

Originally they weren’t even called Children of Bodom. They started out in 1993 under the name of Inearthed, founded by Alexi and Jaska, influenced by death metal acts such as Entombed, Obituary and Carcass LINK TO THE CARCAS REVIEW). During the 3 years under this original name they released 3 demo’s and underwent a couple of line up changes, replacing ex keyboardist Jani Pirisjoki with Janne Wirman. They then released ‘Something Wild’ in 1997 under the name Children of Bodom, which they got they idea from a murder at Lake Bodom in Finland.
‘Something Wild’ was recorded between July and August of 1997 and was released November that year. The sound of the album is altogether a lot darker and more black metal sounding than any of their recent albums, Alexi Laiho claims that the band at the time were inspired by ‘a lot of black and death metal bands’ such as Dissection and Hypocrisy as well as classic rock/metal bands like the Scorpions, and that many other new bands in the scene were ‘trying to sound like Dimmu Borgir‘, leading to them wanting to do something ‘different.’ I have also included a sample of the original album art for this album, which has their original logo that was later changed.

The second album ‘Hatebreeder’ was recorded between December 1998 and January 1999 and released on 26th April 1999. This album features a more classical metal sound similar to that of Gamma Ray and Stratovarious with the black metal element still clear. Alexi’s vocal style also changed to that of the Scandinavian black metal sound such as Emperor and Mayhem. Alexi had joked in an interview that Hatebreeder was ‘too black metal for heavy metal fans, and too heavy metal for black metal fans’ (not confusing at all!!) The keyboards are also more present on this album, with elaborate solos, and a lot of songs starting with keyboard intros (such as Bed of Razors and Downfall.) This was also the first album to feature their new logo, which they still use to this date. In between the release of this album and their follow up, they released a live album called ‘Tokyo Warhearts’ which was also released the same year.

It sounded great as well, check this out –
The third album, ‘Follow The Reaper’ was recorded between August and September 2000 and released 30th October 2000.
The emphasis on the sound style-wise on this album is more focused towards the power metal genre than the previous album, although much of the black metal elements are still present in the keyboards.

Here’ the band with their title track –

Album 4; ‘Hate Crew Deathroll’ recorded between August and September of 2002 and came out on the 7th January 2003. In this album the guitars are more dominant and the keyboards are toned down, the sound of this album is more straight forward power metal with the black metal influences seemingly disappeared.
Some say its one of their more main-stream sounding albums due to Universal buying out Spinefarm Records in 2002, giving them access to better production equipment. This was also the last album to feature original guitarist Alexander Kuoppala.

‘Are You Dead Yet?’ is Children of Bodom’s fifth album, it was recorded between April and May in 2005 and released 19th September the same year. It was the first full length album to feature ex Stone and Watain guitarist Roope Latvala. Alexi has stated in an interview that he actually grew up listening to Stone and idolised Roope as a guitarist, and now he is actually playing along side him in his own band.
They covered the song No Commands by Stone around the time of writing ‘Hatebreeder’ and released it on the reissue of the same album. The power metal influences are more reduced in this album, leaving a more stripped down, simplistic sound. The keyboards were also lower in the mix in this album, but not as much as they were in Hate Crew Deathroll, their previous album.

Even a music video now to –

The name came from a drunken injury Alexi had obtained, he stated in an interview: –
“I came up with the new album title last winter (2004) when we were back home and I went out for a night of drinking. I got hold of some of the cheapest vodka and just drank and drank and drank, and one thing led to another, so we were outside having fun, and I climbed on top of a car, and slipped and fell off, and next thing I know I was in hospital. I had three broken bones in my wrist and lots of stitches, got kept in over night. So when I woke up the next morning I obviously wasn’t feeling too good. I looked in the mirror and said to myself, ‘Have you had enough? Are you dead yet?’”

Between ‘Are You Dead Yet?’ and ‘Blooddrunk’ they released a live CD and DVD called ‘Stockholm Knockout Live – Chaos Ridden Years,’ filmed at Arenan, Stockholm, Sweden, and contains a documentary, making of, deleted scenes, photo gallery and 7 official videos. In the documentary various members talk about the bands influences ranging from death metal acts like Carcass and Dissection, to thrash bands Slayer and Sepultura to 80’s bands like W.A.S.P and The Scorpions. These highly varied influences are very clear in the music.

Their sixth studio album ‘Blooddrunk’ was recorded between October and December 2007 and officially released on April 7 in 2008. They recorded a cover of ‘War Inside My Head’ during the recording sessions, but they didn’t release it on this album instead releasing it on their covers album ‘Skeletons In The Closet’. This album is considered more thrash metal than their previous efforts. Alexi stated in an interview that he felt more aggressive and as a result the songs on this album were a lot more thrash than those on ‘Are You Dead Yet?’ he also said that certain aspects would be more progressive, as heard on LoBodomy.
In 2009 the band released ‘Skeletons In The Closet’, a covers album consisting of songs the have recorded between 1997 and 2009, featuring songs from Anthrax, Slayer, Sepultura and also songs by artists you wouldn’t expect to hear, such as Britney Spears, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Pat Benatar. The album only contains four unreleased covers for the songs ‘Hell Is for Children‘ by Pat Benatar, ‘Antisocial‘ by Anthrax (originally written by Trust), ‘War Inside My Head‘ by Suicidal Tendencies, and ‘Waiting‘ by King Diamond, but the previously released songs are remixed.

As I write this, the band are working on a new studio album, which will be entitled ‘Relentless Reckless Forever’ and have announced ‘The Ugly World Tour’ during March – May 2011. The confirmed opening acts are pagan folk metal band Ensiferum, heavy metal band Machinae Supremacy and Viking death metal act Amon Amarth, who are playing the UK dates only.

Their genre is a very hot topic amongst fans and critics alike, as the band could be part of several genres such as Power Metal, Melodic Death Metal, Black Metal and Neo-Classical Metal, from the early black metal style to their more recent material which is edged more towards thrash metal. Alexi Laiho states that the band are just an extreme metal band, as the other labels are to restrictive. So, let’s just say it’s good metal and get over all this sub genre rubbish.

Alexi Laiho is lead guitarist and vocalist for the band, in an interview with Modern Guitar Magazine he speaks about his influences and musical taste: –
‘I was a fan of the band Stone. In fact, Roope Latvala, who also plays guitar for Children of Bodom, came from that band . I was a big fan of a lot of stuff you wouldn’t even think of. A lot of older bands from the ’80s, glam rock and metal, like Poison, Motley Crew, Twisted Sister, W.A.S.P., Skid Row, Guns ’n’ Roses. And I’m still into that kind of thing. And I got into more of the harder stuff, too, like Thrash, Anthrax, and Slayer. Then I got more into what they call death metal, you know, bands like Hypocrisy. Obituary is one of my favorites. And I got into a lot of black metal, too, a lot of Norwegian bands. I dig them all, you know. That’s the way it is. As far as guitar players, I have to mention Steve Vai, definitely. He’s one of my main influences.’

He also stated that around the time of recording ‘Something Wild’ he was really into Yngwie Malmsteen, which is possibly why the album is considered one of their most technical albums to date. Something a lot of fans may or may not know is that in 2002 he married ex Dimmu Borgir keyboardist Kimberly Goss, but due to touring conflictions they separated in 2004.. Just a bit of useless information for you there! He has also appeared on covers of guitar magazines Young Guitar magazine and Guitar World alongside two of his influences, Zakk Wylde and Steve Vai. He has been a special guest on several albums including the song ‘Downright Dominate’ from the ‘Metal’ album by Annihilator and also in his side project band Sinergy. He has a signature guitar available with ESP guitars and signature guitar strings with DR strings that are widely available in guitar shops and on the web.

When Alexander Kuoppala left the band in 2003 shortly after releasing ‘Hate Crew Deathroll’, they were forced to find a replacement, the only guitarist deemed worthy enough was ex Stone and Waltari guitarist Roope Latvala. He formed Stone a thrash metal band influenced by bands like Black Sabbath, in the mid 80’s and they have gone on to influence many Finnish metal bands including Norther and Children of Bodom, as Alexi states him as a major influence on his playing. He also uses ESP guitars and has a signature model with them, although he is known to sometimes use his old Jackson RR series guitars live every now and then.

Bass player Henkka Seppälä (birth name Henri Samuli Seppälä but also known as
Henkka T. Blacksmith, the ‘T‘ stands for his nickname, ‘Torso‘) has been in the band since 1996, replacing Samuli Miettinen. He grew up listening to bands ranging from Poison and Guns n Roses, to Sepultura and Pantera, to more extreme music like Dissection and Cannibal Corpse. On the Children of Bodom official website, Henkka lists his influences as: Tom Araya from Slayer, Billy Gould from Faith No More, Steve Brunner from Suicidal Tendencies, Paulo Jr from Sepultura, David Ellefson, original bassist for Megadeth (who has recently rejoined Megadeth) and someone who I didn’t expect, Joe Principe from Rise Against who plays along to tracks by Anthrax to keep up stamina. Hennka is the only member not to have any side projects and is also the 3rd member to have a signature model with ESP guitars.

Janne Wirman replaced Jani Pirisjoki before recording for ‘Something Wild’ started and has been a member ever since. He was originally supposed to play a few shows with the band but they grew to like him more. On the documentary for ‘Chaos Ridden Years’ Alexi Laiho says: –
“But it was the first time I saw the guy drunk, and that’s when I knew he was the f***ing man.”

His main influence is Jens Johansson from the band Stratovarious, who is famed for being the pioneer of ‘shred keyboard.’ He is also influenced by virtuoso guitarist Steve Vai. Jens crafted a lead sound for Janne, a Korg Polysix emulation patch. Janne has had very bad experiences in the past with sponsor deals, Roland Scandinavia and Korg promised him equipment that he was told he would receive but never did. Janne says of the equipment he uses on the official Children of Bodom website: –
‘A lot of various stuff from various brands. None of the manufacturers are sponsoring or endorsing me so Im not going to advertise any of them for free anymore.’

Last but not least is drummer Jaska Raatikainen, he is the co founder of the band alongside Alexi Laiho. His musical influences are Paul Bostaph currently with Testament, Gene Hoglan ex Death, Strapping Young Lad and current drummer for Fear Factory and Kai Hahto ex drummer for Rotten Sound and currently with Wintersun. He has a side project called Gashouse Garden that he founded in 2003 with Norther guitarist Kristian ‘Kride’ Ranta. In 2000 he replaced Sinergy drummer Tommi Lillman after he injured his leg. He had 3 days to learn 10 fairly complex Sinergy songs, which he managed very well. The ‘Suicide By My Side’ booklet has a dedication to Jaska for ‘saving our tour.’ Keeping with the playing with different bands theme, he also played a couple of cover songs by Death – in tribute to mastermind Chuck Schuldiner, with the Finnish melodic death metal band Norther. Jaska is currently endorsed by Pearl drums, Meinl cymbals and Pro Mark sticks.

Where did this sound come from? Let’s have a look at the more extreme sound of their influences and talk about the Swedish death metal band Entombed, who date back to 1987 when they had the name Nihilist. Nihilist/Entombed pioneered the Scandinavian death metal sound, which differed to the sound of American death metal by drawing on hardcore punk and crust punk rhythms and vocals. Entombed’s have been influenced by bands such as Autopsy, Slayer, KISS, The Misfits, Motörhead and Discharge.

Children of Bodom’s more melodic influences range from various artists such as Alice Cooper, W.A.S.P and The Scorpions; more hard rock and 80’s rock bands. Im going to talk about The Scorpions, of whom Children of Bodom covered the song ’Don’t Stop At The Top’. The Scorpions are probably best known for their song ’Rock You Like A Hurricane’ They formed in 1965, but didn’t release their first album ’Lonesome Crow’ til 1972, and since then they have released 18 studio albums, 4 live albums and 12 DVD/VHS. They reached commercial success in 1979 with the album ’Lovedrive’ which some critics consider the pinnacle of their career. In 2010 they announced that ’Sting In The Tail’ would be their last album before they retired, the tour is scheduled to finish in 2012/13. The scorpions were influenced by rock bands such as Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, but listening to their early stuff, there are easily some Jimi Hendrix and Leslie West influences in Uli Roth and Rudolph Schenker, as its quite bluesy and psychedelic in their first few albums.

As a huge fan of Children of Bodom myself, I’m quite biased when I say I think that they are possibly one of the best bands in metal at the moment. The way the combine aggression and the melodic passages of certain songs is subtle but well used, not many bands can pull it off as well as they do. Also as a guitarist myself, Alexi Laiho has always been a great influence on me, particularly his ‘Hatebreeder’ era playing: lots of sweep picking, combination of fast paced and slower paced playing showcased in the song ‘Bed of Razors’

Here’s a little snapshot to see what you think –

Check em out and give your opinion on Altopedia