Children of Bodom is a Finnish band from the town of Espoo, which plays a hybrid of speed and melodic death metal, incorporating extreme vocals and blastbeats into their style, as well as keyboard arrangements and fast instrumental solos. A precise definition for their musical genre is discussed by fans and the specialized press alike.
The band was founded in 1993 by guitarist Alexi "Wildchild" Laiho and drummer Jaska Raatikainen under the name of IneartheD. Both musicians had known each other since childhood and shared interest for heavy and, especially, death metal bands such as Stone, Entombed and Obituary; together with bassist Samuli Miettinen, they formed the original line-up of the band that would later become Children of Bodom. IneartheD recorded its first demo - entitled Implosion of Heaven - on August of that same year.
Samuli was the main composer of the band's lyrics for the two years that he took part of IneartheD, but his family moved to the USA in late 1995 and it was not possible for him to remain in the band anymore. His last contribution to IneartheD were the lyrics of the songs from their second demo, Ubiquitous Absence of Remission. Alexi, who previously only composed the melodies of the songs, assumed the role of the band's lyricist. In this demo, keyboards were incorporated into the band's songs for the first time. In order to achieve this, both Alexi and Jaska played the keyboards separately, and subsequently mixed the recorded track with the other instruments.
At the time, Jaska played a French horn in a local big band, and during a rehearsal he met Alexander Kuoppala, a trumpet player and also a proficient guitarist. Hence, shortly after the recording of their second demo, Alexander was invited to join IneartheD as a rhythm guitarist.
The bassist chosen to replace Samuli was Henkka "Blacksmith" Seppälä, whom Alexi and Jaska had previosuly met at their school. Apart from playing the bass, Henkka also often doubles as the band's backing vocalist. Also, the band recruited a musician to specialize on keyboards, whose name was Jani Pirisjoki. Both musicians joined IneartheD in early 1996.
With this new line-up, IneartheD proceeded to record their third demo, entitled Shining. This demo didn't impress record labels more than the previous ones had, and none took interest in the band. Despite their efforts, their music got little exposure, with them managing only to play at local events. As a last resort, the band decided to record an independent, self-funded, album. Considering that none of the musicians had much money to begin with, that was an audacious move.
Alexi wanted to make use of the keyboards more effectively this time, and Pirisjoki wasn't fit for the task anymore, thus he was fired from the band - albeit not in a hostile manner - and a friend of Jaska's, a talented pianist called Janne "Warman" Wirman, assumed the role of keyboard player.
Janne was the component which was missing for IneartheD to assume the style which would later characterize Children of Bodom. With him, the band successfully recorded their first album in the year of 1997 and received a professional deal from it. Their debut - Something Wild - was supposed to be released by a small Belgian label, but Sami Tenetz (from Thy Serpent) got hold of a copy of their album through the hands of Alexander - both musicians worked for the same company at the time - shortly after IneartheD signed this contract, and sent it to Spinefarm Records' boss, who immediately got interested in signing them for a country-wide release. The later deal was much more attractive for the band, since the Belgian label was offering them close to no help, to the point where they would have to distribute and sell the album themselves.
For the band to be able to sign with Spinefarm Records, they were forced to change their name, since the contract with the Belgian label had already been signed under the name of IneartheD. The answer to that problem came as the bandmen looked for good names in their local phone book. When they stumbled upon Lake Bodom, they realized it was a name with impact; one which had an interesting story behind it. A long list of possible names involving the word Bodom was then made, and they settled with Children of Bodom.
The story of the Lake Bodom murders goes as follows: on the night of June the 4th of 1960, three teenagers were murdered by means of repeated stabbing with a knife while on a camping trip to the lake. There was a lone survivor named Nils Gustafsson, who was initially believed to be an innocent witness which happened to be on the wrong place at the wrong time. However, the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation exposed, in early 2005, that he was in truth the murderer. This has remained one of the most widely-discussed cases in Scandinavian history.
With the intention of promoting the upcoming release of Something Wild, the band opened one of the shows from the black metal band Dimmu Borgir in late 1997. Their success was such that a representative from the Nuclear Blast label shortly approached them with a contract for a European release, a deal which started on the subsequent year.
Something Wild was officially released in November of 1997, and for promotional purposes the band recorded a music video of the song "Deadnight Warrior". The video was directed by Mika Lindberg and had a slim budget of €1000, but managed to convey the band's style rather well. It made use of simple scenery, which consisted essentially of an outdoors location after a snowstorm. There the band played for a couple of hours at night, with an average temperature of fifteen degrees Celsius negative.
Children of Bodom's first European tour began in February of 1998. They played together with bands such as Hypocrisy, Covenant and Agathodaimon, but suffered from the absence of Janne, who was concentrated on finishing his studies. He was replaced by Erna Siikavirta - a female pianist who is a friend of the band's and who currently plays with the theatrical band Lordi - for the duration of the tour.
Months later, the band recorded two new songs, entitled "Towards Dead End" and "Children of Bodom". The later was included in a compilation by Spinefarm Records, which after being released remained on the top of Finnish charts for eight consecutive weeks. In late August, the band played the song "Forevermore" live for the first time, during a show in Russia. On a later date, this song was renamed to "Downfall".
Their second European tour happened in September of that same year, but once more Janne was not able to perform with them. Alexi's then-girlfriend Kimberly Goss (from Sinergy and ex-Dimmu Borgir and Therion) assumed the keyboards this time. By the end of the tour, Kimberly invited Alexi to join Sinergy, which at the time was still in its early stages.
The second album - Hatebreeder - was recorded between the end of 1998 and the beginning of 1999. It was originally entitled Towards Dead End, but while on studio the members of the band opted for the former title. To create anticipation in Finland, the Downfall single was released two weeks prior to the album. It was accompanied by a new music video, once more directed by Mika Lindberg. The Hatebreeder album ultimately made it to the top of the charts of many European countries.
In July of 1999, the success of the Downfall single and of the Hatebreeder album allowed Children of Bodom to schedule three concerts in Japan with Sinergy and the veterans from In Flames. During two of these concerts the live album Tokyo Warhearts was recorded, and in it the band managed to seamlessly reproduce and at times improve on their songs, a notable achievement for a band with only two albums recorded previously. Under their request, no overdubs were used on the release version of the concert.
For their next release, Children of Bodom decided to make use of Peter Tägtgren's Abyss studio in Sweden, instead of the Finnish Astia studio from Anssi Kippo, in which they had recorded all of their previous releases, including the demos from IneartheD. The band wrote eight new songs for this album, and while on the studio decided to include an extra track, which was hastily composed and whose lyrics were improvised by Alexi; that track would eventually receive the name of "Kissing the Shadows". The band gave the album the name of Follow the Reaper and recording sessions took place between August and September of 2000; the album saw a worldwide release in early 2001. A music video for "Everytime I Die" was recorded by Finnish director Tuukka Temonen shortly after.
In February of 2002, Children of Bodom began writing songs for their upcoming album, entitled Hate Crew Deathroll. Recording ensued during the month of August, and the album was released on January of 2003 in Finland. It remained on the top of the Finnish charts for a total of three weeks and subsequently became the band's first golden album, even though all of their albums eventually reached this status, with the exception of Follow the Reaper, which reached platinum status.
In September of 2002, Children of Bodom played a short concert at Spinefarm Record's annual festival in Finland, accompanied by bands such as Norther, Kalmah and Moonsorrow. At the party thrown after the festival, Alexi stored his guitars on a place he thought to be safe and proceeded to drink with his friends until late in the night. On the following morning, when he woke up, he found that his custom shop Randy Rhoads Jackson guitars had been stolen. He later signed a deal with ESP Guitars in order to get his guitars replaced.
Children of Bodom's first world tour began in 2003 and lasted until late 2004. The tour had many sold-out concerts and marked the consolidation of the band in North America, but was also accompanied by an unexpected announcement: Alexander decided to quit Children of Bodom for personal reasons, without giving previous warning and right in the middle of the tour. Griffin's guitarist Kai Nergaard was invited by Alexi to replace Alexander, but did not accept the offer. Thus, Alexi's bandmate from Sinergy, Roope Latvala (founding member of Stone, one of the bands which started the heavy metal movement in Finland) assumed the guitars as a session player, until a more permanent solution could be found. This formation was introduced in Moscow on the 16th of August.
After successfully finishing the world tour with Roope - who then assumed a permanent position in the band's line-up - Children of Bodom proceeded to record the single Trashed, Lost & Strungout. It has been announced that their upcoming album is entitled Are You Dead Yet?, and is scheduled to be released on the 19th of September, 2005. According to Alexi, this album has a style which differs from the previous ones, but keeps the band's general characteristics intact.
Children of Bodom's symbol is the Grim Reaper, and they often refer to themselves as the Hate Crew.
Alexi Laiho - Vocals, lead guitar;
Roope Latvala - Rhythm guitar;
Janne Viljami Wirman - Keyboards;
Henkka Seppälä - 5-string bass;
Jaska Raatikainen - Drums