What a bittersweet metal moment, the release of Bodom After Midnight's Paint The Sky With Blood.
On the one hand, the three track EP serves as the next – and ultimately last – chapter of one of metal's true pioneering vocalists and guitarists in Alexi Laiho. The other side of the coin is the bleak reality of what could have been for a real-life guitar god gone too soon.
Recently dropped by Napalm Records, Paint The Sky With Blood serves as the final three recordings of the Children of Bodom founder and frontman before his untimely passing in December 2020.
Armed with an arsenal of relentlessly talented musicians in ex-Children of Bodom guitarist Daniel Freyberg, drummer Waltteri Väyrynen (Paradise Lost), bassist Mitja Toivonen (ex-Santa Cruz) and live keyboardist Vili Itäpelto, Bodom After Midnight was birthed from the ashes of C.O.B.'s demise in late 2019. The band would perform a small host of live shows in their native Finland, while recording two original tracks and a cover of Dissection's "Where Dead Angels Lie", before Laiho passed on December 29th.
Freyberg, in what was undeniably the most sombre string of interviews of his career, sat down with Metal Injection to reflect on the life and legacy of Alexi Laiho, the formation and progress of Bodom After Midnight, the influence of Children of Bodom on his own playing, his seminal metal favourites and more!
On Fan Reception & Internal Feel to the Album Launch
That's the right word, definitely strange. Yeah, obviously not the way we wanted to make Bodom After Midnight's debut release. But yeah, it was just bad luck and unfortunate events and we couldn't help that.
It's kind of a strange feeling. I realize and I've been seeing a lot of feedback and the feedback has been mainly positive and praising, but still it's kind of like you cannot enjoy that at the moment because of what happened. So it kind of feels strange. But of course I'm really grateful that people are liking the EP, but it's still hard to enjoy that feedback or even the release or EP yourself, if you know what I mean?
On the Influence of Children of Bodom and Alexi Laiho
Yeah, of course (I was a fan). I've been listening to them since Hatebreeder. That was the album that really made an impact to me. I think I checked Something Wild even before, but I wasn't really sure if I liked the band or not because it was such a different record compared to Hatebreeder, at least for me. Ever since Hatebreeder I've been a fan and yeah, it was a huge influence when I was younger.
Yeah, absolutely (Alexi was admired). At least in Finland, he was the guy that everybody followed. And he was a guy who really set the bar higher at the time. He kind of made me rethink what you can do with guitar.
On Joining Children of Bodom in 2016
With the guys it didn't take that much because we got along very well from day one. But yeah, with the material I think that took a little bit longer, especially because they wanted to add and change songs on the setlist more often than I was used to. So yeah, there were a lot of songs to learn and even when I got those down then they wanted to change the setlist and add a couple of new songs.
There was a time that I had to learn new songs during our tours. It took a while and I have to admit that they were trickier to play than I thought at first. Especially performing those songs on stage, it took a little bit more than I actually realized.
On Recording Hexed & Children of Bodom's Studio Sessions
It was like, working-wise, going back to the 90s. No demos, everything happens in rehearsal. Sometimes he sends us or sends me a riff that he would record with his iPhone or video. That happened like twice or something. But yeah, everything else happened in rehearsal.
At first it felt a little bit strange because bands usually don't work that way anymore. Songwriter's do full demos with programmed drums and whatnot and everything sounds perfect already before they start practicing the song. So you didn't know how the song's going to end up sounding until they were recorded and mixed. Alexi, I think he didn't sing at all at the rehearsal. We were just focusing on the music and when we got the song structures down, he would then start writing the lyrics. I guess he had some lines written here and there.
I kind of started to like that because there was like less fooling around with Pro Tools and you're probably going to focus on the wrong things if you're going to do demos beforehand. You're going to polish them to the max and start using time for that shit. But when everything was happening in rehearsal it was very efficient and everybody had to learn their parts right away. So there was nothing like, oh, I'm going to check this tomorrow. In a way I like that and it worked. But yeah, it was a different experience than I was used to.
On the Break-Up of Children of Bodom
I wasn't exactly in the middle because whatever those guys have they usually keep that to themselves. I was just like a bystander, so to speak. But yeah, it was absolutely sad to see that happening and the band falling apart. There was nothing you could do other than just watch. Obviously I hoped that they would find a way to keep continuing, but yeah, they didn't.
On Alexi's New Energy with B.A.M.
I think he found some new energy from the new lineup. He often said that he feels much younger, 20 years younger again. Yeah, he was totally excited and he just couldn't stop praising the new guys and how good they were playing. And I know that because when we played those shows, it was super easy to play with those guys.
It didn't feel at all that we were doing our first show. It felt like we have been already playing on tour together or something, but we rehearsed a lot before the show. So I was quite sure (fans would like it). I think they did because people, based on the feedback, were quite happy with what they saw.
On the Decision to Release Paint The Sky With Blood
Yeah, there was no question that we would release that. Absolutely, there was never even talk that we would hold this record. It was a no-brainer to release it because first of all, Alexi was super excited about it.
Everything was already ready and approved by him as well. And yeah, there was really no reason not to release it. Fans deserve to hear those songs and obviously we were excited with the material ourselves too.
On Chemistry/Freedom in the Studio with B.A.M.
Even though Alexi wrote the songs or riffs or melodies, he still kind of left us room to build something on the table. And actually the studio session was very easy because everything was already decided before the studio. There wasn't any second guessing in the studio. And the same thing with Hexed, everything was already written and agreed before we started recording. So in a way it was very easy studio sessions, both Hexed and Bodom After Midnight. So it was just executing stuff as well as you could.
Of course when Alexi writes guitar parts you have to follow that, otherwise harmonies or whatever doesn't work. But he also left a little bit room to add some details or make additional leads or whatever, drum fills. We were kind of tweaking those types of things, every one of us as a band.
On Future Plans for B.A.M. Members
That's been asked a lot lately, but we haven't really even got to that. I think we're going to need some timeout for now. But that being said, it's not really a reason why not, but we just haven't really decided that. Or maybe we can have a discussion in the future. But it's not in the plans right now.
On Early Metal Influences
The first that got me into hard rock or heavy metal as well as guitar playing was Guns N Roses. That was where it all started. Then came Metallica, Alice Cooper. Then I had some glam rock era. I listened to a lot of bands like Ratt, Mötley Crüe, but I think the band that got me into extreme metal was Dissection. Storm of the Light's Bane is still a very special record to me and I still listen to it frequently. Dissection and pretty soon came Death. Chuck Schuldiner was awesome.
I wish I could have seen Death or Dissection, but I missed them both. It's still hard to see guys like Chuck Schuldiner, Alexi or Jon Nödtveidt from Dissection. I think their music was really exceptional and very unique.
(Alexi) was super excited and excited to get this out. So I'm kind of happy that we can fulfill his last wish, even though it's bittersweet. But you know, it is what it is.