An EP is usually a fun little thing to look forward to. Seldom does a 14 minute three track release triggers both joy, anticipation and grief. ‘Paint the Sky with Blood‘ comes as a legacy of the late Alexi Laiho, while at the same time the man’s career and life cannot be judged on just these three songs. A quick recap to put the gravity of this release in perspective.
- December 2019 – The news that Children of Bodom disbands and that only Alexi Laiho and Daniel Freyberg will continue under the name Bodom After Midnight shocks both old and younger fans of the band. Quickly we realize that – just like everything else in the world – the COVID pandemic will slow down any new plans Laiho might be up to.
- October 2020 – Our editor-in-chief was lucky enough to attend one of the first (and now only) shows of the new Bodom after Midnight line-up with drummer Waltteri Väyrynen (Paradise Lost), bassist Mitja Toivonen (ex-Santa Cruz) and live keyboardist Vili Itäpelto added to the roster. There was a new energy on stage and the fact the group chose to play almost only songs from Children of Bodom’s prime days made everyone curious to new material.
- January 2021 – Not just fans, but the whole metal community is dismayed by the early passing of Laiho at the age of 41. Widely recognized as one of the best guitar players of his time he left this world way to soon.
- Current day – the world gets one more glimpse of Laiho’s songwriting skills as the only three recorded Bodom after Midnight songs are shared with the world for fans to enjoy.
Let’s see what Laiho and his new band have been working on behind the scenes in 2020.
Title track and opener ‘Paint The Sky with Blood‘ pushes the listener back in its chair from the start with some ferocious drumming of Waltteri Väyrynen and Laiho’s haunting scream captivating our attention. As the video clip for this track was released earlier, a lot of fans agreed the sound was a throwback to a lot of older work. The song has an energy that reminds of a snarling track like ‘Hate Me!‘ (‘Follow the Reaper‘) with a sound that would have fit perfectly on the ‘Hate Crew Deathroll‘ album. The interplay of all musicians would make almost make you forget that this is a new band around Laiho (and Freyberg with whom he was working since 2016).
What is missing in the opener, however, shows up in the second track ‘Payback’s a Bitch‘. Here we hear a keyboard vs guitar duel, a long time signature trick of Laiho and Janne Wirman in Children of Bodom. Keyboards are otherwise fairly absent on this EP. This is likely due to the fact that Bodom after Midnight does not support a full-time keyboard player, but rather used the services of Vili Itäpelto as a session/live musician. ‘Payback’s a Bitch‘ is very up tempo reminding of the ‘Follow The Reaper‘ album, be it with the thrashier hooks reminiscent of ‘Are You Dead Yet?‘.
The closing track is a cover of ‘Where Dead Angels Lie‘ by the Swedish Dissection, which first appeared on the classic ‘Storm of the Light’s Bane‘ (1995). Since Children of Bodom often chose to do an alternative cover with songs spanning from rock, punk or even pop, Dissection can be considered a very dark choice. While staying relatively close to the original, it does carry Laiho’s signature sound. A slower and crushing song which with its whispered sections and strong black metal influence reminds of Children of Bodom’s earliest work from the ‘Something Wild‘ album. For younger fans unfamiliar with Dissection’s work (and controversy) Where Dead Angels Lie might feel like a very different track than what we’re used from Laiho. For long-time fans of the melodic death metal genre this will feel like a fitting tribute to one the genre’s more controversial progenitors.
In conclusion, ‘Paint the Sky with Blood‘ is an EP that shows that Laiho was still in his prime musically and in fact even found fresh energy with his new band members. At the same time it’s also a sad realization that this is it. These three songs give a sense of what has been and what could have been, a worthy addition to Laiho’s repertoire and career. May the Wildchild rest/shred in peace.
Release date: April 23, 2021
Label: Napalm Records
1 Paint the Sky with Blood
2 Payback’s a Bitch
3 Where Dead Angels Lie (Dissection cover)