Rest in peace, Wildchild

I was just 15 years old; it was the prehistoric year of 2012, during the summer of which I was on a camping holiday in Somerset for a week. I spent the journey to the campsite listening to my old 8GB iPod Nano to keep myself occupied. By the time I arrived at the camp site I had almost completely run the battery down, so I had hardy any left for the rest of the week. As I was lying in bed that evening, I decided that I would use the remaining battery to listen to a few more songs before I went to sleep. Before I left home, I had been given an album called Are You Dead Yet? by Children Of Bodom – a band I had never listened to, nor knew anything about. To satisfy my curiosity I decided to listen to the opening track, Living Dead Beat. In that moment, my young teenage mind was completely blown away by the exciting riffs, maddening guitar solos and absurd keyboard sections. I can still remember thinking: “What the fuck? This is the best thing I’ve ever heard!” I never knew metal could be so aggressive and heavy, whilst simultaneously being infectiously catchy and melodic. I knew right there and then I had stumbled across something truly special. This is the most vivid memory I have of listening to any band for the first time; it was the moment when I experienced the music of Alexi Laiho for the first time, taking me on a journey that would change my life forever.

Alexi Laiho

I’m pretty sure everyone that’s been within the vague vicinity of me for the last decade or so knows what big a fan of Children of Bodom I am; they’ve been with me through every phase in my life good and bad since I discovered them 9 years ago. If you want to get an idea of how far back me and Bodom go, I used to draw a lot of their album covers during my early days as an artist to help me practice. Sure, most of these drawings aren’t that good because I was about 16 when I made them, but that’s beside the point. One time I even tried to learn the intro to In Your Face during my very brief attempt at actually trying to play guitar. Sure, I gave up when I discovered I was playing it in the wrong tuning and I’ve never played guitar since, but once again, that’s beside the point. COB were also essential in developing my music taste; if it weren’t for them, I would have probably never gotten into my other favourite bands like In Flames or At The Gates, which developed my music taste even further.

It’s obvious to say that when I heard of Alexi Laiho’s passing on the 4th of January, I was absolutely crushed. Alexi’s music has helped he through so many rough times, like the first few tough months of college when I was 16, or that massive identity crisis I had about 5 years ago. Even during last summer, I binged a load of COB and Alexi’s side project, Sinergy, when I was having a shit time. It seems that when I’m facing rough times, Alexi’s music helps me reconnect with myself and remember who I am, helping me to get back on my feet again. Because of this, the news of his death felt like losing a part of myself. The end seemed to come so suddenly for him; mere months before his death, Alexi’s new band, Bodom After Midnight, were in full swing – a new line up had been assembled, tour dates were scheduled and new music was underway. Hell, they even appeared to be teasing some kind of music video on the band’s Facebook page at the end of December.

In an attempt to find some kind of small silver lining to this whole unfortunate circumstance, I’m happy that Alexi got to play a few local live shows with Bodom After Midnight during the latter half of last year (thanks to the low COVID rates in Finland), at a time where real in-person live events are incredibly rare. I watched these live shows on YouTube shortly after they occurred and I was very impressed; the performances with the new line up were tight, the band appeared to be enjoying themselves, the setlist was great and at the time, Alexi appeared to be in good health. I was really hoping to see them when lockdown finally ends, but sadly it was not to be.

So, what do we do now? Alexi Laiho may be no more, but his music will be ingrained into metal history forever. I mean how many guitarists do you think picked up guitar because of albums like Hate Crew Deathroll or Follow The Reaper? Sure, we like to gush about albums like Heartwork or Slaughter of the Soul for pioneering the melodeath sound, but it was bands like COB that, in my opinion, took that sound to the next level and brought it to a new generation of young metalheads (myself included). So for now, the best way to honour Alexi Laiho’s memory is to put on your favourite Children Of Bodom or Sinergy album, turn it up and have yourself one hell of a good time.

RIP Wildchild you were one of a kind.

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