Alexi “Wildchild” Laiho passed away on December 29th, 2020, at his home in Helsinki, Finland. Almost a year has elapsed since this tragedy. The death of the 41-year-old ex-Children of Bodom frontman was announced on January 4th, 2021. Although the devastating news was quickly reported by major outlets like People and USA Today upon confirmation from Alexi’s label, it was slow to reach all his fans due to Covid-19. For example, Alexi’s acquaintance Bam Margera of Jackass paid tribute to him in late March. Nevertheless, the magnitude of the shock waves sent by the loss of one of metal’s most beloved figures was not diminished. Dave Mustaine, who brought CoB on tour with Megadeth, mourned: “I guess now the heaven heavy metal band has its lead guitar player.” (In his celestial lineup, Alexi would want his deceased friend and collaborator Tomni Lillman on drums.) Laiho was arguably the greatest guitarist of his generation. In 2008, he was presented with the Dimebag Darrell Shredder Award at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods ceremony. Dimebag’s partner, Rita Haney, stood onstage while Alexi accepted this well-deserved honor. (Unfortunately, however, GWAR’s Oderus Urungus, who presented the skull-shaped trophy, was an ill-chosen candidate. He not only flubbed Alexi’s name, but he also insulted the slain Pantera shredder’s late brother, Vinnie Paul, four years later.)
Children of Bodom split up in 2019, but Alexi had a bright future with his loyal rhythm guitarist Daniel Freyberg, Paradise Lost’s Waltteri Väyrynen on drums, and ex-Santa Cruz’s Mitja Toivonen on bass in Bodom After Midnight. The latter band was simply a continuation of the former. Laiho posthumously rocked the world with the 3-song EP Paint the Sky with Blood, which was released on April 23rd, 2021. According to the Bodom After Midnight’s members, they shot the video for “Paint the Sky with Blood” about 10 days before Laiho’s passing. Afterwards, the band wished each other a “Merry Christmas” and parted with the understanding that they would begin work on a new album after the holidays. Paint the Sky with Blood ends with a cover of Dissection’s “Where Dead Angels Lie,” which was a perfect choice thematically speaking for the EP: “A spell was cast and the sky turned red…” The classic song was written by the late “Maha Kali” composer and performer Jon Nödtveidt, who revolutionized death metal like Alexi. (Laiho told Petri Silas: “I have adopted the Hindu goddess of Death [Kali] as a kind of the guardian angel.” Taneli Jarva of the great yet defunct band Sentenced tattooed Laiho with Kali’s image.)
Although Alexi suffered from the long-term effects of alcoholism, which ultimately proved fatal, his ability to muster sufficient stamina to muscle through all tribulations until the very end remains both admirable and heartbreaking. Laiho courageously spoke of his struggles with alcohol and depression while maintaining unspoken personal boundaries on the subject. Pity was clearly not his aim, and he wanted to direct his fans’ attention toward CoB’s music. Alexi often stated that he had given up drinking while on tour in favor of adopting a more sensible attitude.
Alexi Laiho left behind his beautiful wife, Kelli Wright-Laiho, and his stepdaughter, Shelby, with whom he enjoyed living in Australia when his schedule permitted. Kelli had been the managing director of a heavy metal P.R. firm. Although the couple had a wedding ceremony, they were unable to legally marry because Laiho had not been granted an official divorce from his first spouse and ex-Singery bandmate, Kimberly Goss. (Alexi met Kimerbly at CoB’s “first important show,” which transpired at the Lepakko Halloween party in 1997. CoB was opening for Dimmu Borgir, for which Goss was the live keyboardist.) Their union lasted from 2002-2004. Alexi stated in his biography: “Kim needed a residence permit for Finland.” Goss, who currently resides in the United States, has since become a mother. Yet, Kimberly has been accused of abusing her status as “widow” to delay Alexi’s burial and more. Alexi’s sister, Anna, stated: “… Kimberly threatened him to take 50% of his money if he divorces her.” She has also made it clear that her brother wanted Goss to sign divorce papers at the time of his death. Kaaoszine published a post from Alexi’s friend Matt Fawcett in which Matt elaborates on the situation and supports the family’s position. On March 5th, Goss violated the Laiho family’s wishes by publicly sharing Alexi’s cause of death, despite the fact that Alexi was a private person and took care not to disclose his illness during his lifetime.
Markku Uula Aleksi Laiho was born on April 8th, 1979, at Jorvi Hospital in Espoo, Finland. (His birthday falls on the deathday of another one of Scandinavia’s most influential metal musicians, Mayhem’s Per Yngve Ohlin, who committed suicide in 1991.) In Petri Silas’ Alexi Laiho — Chaos, Control & Guitar, Laiho states: “All in all, childhood was the best time of my life. By far.” (The book is a first-person account as told by Laiho and shaped into a coherent and enjoyable whole by Petri Silas. The biography was first translated into Finnish in 2019, but English speakers can read the 2021 translated edition.) Alexi was brought up by a loving family. The Laihos travelled to countries like Germany, Hungary, Sweden, and Spain, where they had a villa. In his youth, Alexi enjoyed skiing, skateboarding, tumbling outdoors, venturing into abandoned buildings (like little Ozzy Osbourne), reading Donald Duck magazines, watching the Batman TV series starring Adam West, etc. As an adult, Laiho became an avid automobile collector with a special love for muscle cars. He was also a superfan of Jeff Bridges’ The Big Lebowski (1998).
In his “Post Post Scriptum,” Silas perfectly described Laiho as “an intense, cocky and stubborn artist… a quick-witted and almost shy private person distancing himself behind a veil of scathing self-irony.” Nightwish’s Tuomas Holopainen told Metal Hammer: “He [Alexi] was a wonderful personality. There was an innocence in him, a naivety when it came to music that I really respected.” (Nightwish recently paid homage to Alexi during a concert in Oslo.) Again, to quote Dave Mustaine, Alexi was “a very gentle spirit.”
Alexi was not only Children of Bodom’s vocalist and guitarist he was also the group’s songwriter, lyricist, and mastermind. Alexi has revealed in interviews that he wrote everything for CoB except the keyboard solos. Lyrical responsibilities initially belonged to Samuli Miettinen, whom Alexi met in elementary school, when Children of Bodom was still known was IneartheD. (On IneartheD’s third demo, Shining, which was released on Valentine’s Day of 1996, Samuli only wrote the lyrics for one song, whereas Jontte Livonen wrote the other two original tracks.) Alexi’s decision to include keyboards in CoB was inspired by Amorphis’ epic Tales from the Thousand Lakes (1994), which has been cited as an influence by Epica’s Mark Jansen, Volbeat, and many others. (In 2015, CoB released the split EP Tales from Lake Bodom with Amorphis, which featured CoB’s cover of “Black Winter Day” from Tales from the Thousand Lakes, Amorphis’ cover of CoB’s “Every Time I Die,” CoB’s “Suicide Bomber,” and more awesome tracks. This must have been a bittersweet moment for CoB, considering that Amorphis was the first band that Laiho saw perform live.)
In addition to what CoB borrowed from Amorphis, they set themselves apart from other metal bands with an idiosyncratic amalgam of flamboyance, flippant humor, punk attitude, speed, and bestial aggression. Another important decision on Alexi’s part was to opt for distortion on CoB’s bass, which was then uncommon in metal. Alexi told Silas: “I am certain that back in the late 1990s we were the only group in the world which operated in the realm of thrash, death, and black metal yet laced its songs with guitar riffs reminiscent of Jake E. Lee, not to mention choruses and melodies inspired by Mötley Crüe, W.A.S.P. and the like. A truly singular, one-in-a-million kind of mess.” Daniel Freyberg similarly told MusicRadar: “… he could put a black metal riff, a glam metal riff, a death metal riff and even a neoclassical lick in the same song, so effortlessly.” In doing so, Alexi purged the subgenres that he mixed, which even included power metal, of their tedious and “dorky” elements. CoB’s music is always refreshing.
In conversation with Petri Silas, Alexi discussed his time with groups like Impaled Nazrene and The Local Band with Jussi 69 and H. Olliver Twisted. Silas’ biography explains how Laiho’s journey intertwined with the stories of many of the greatest Finnish and American bands. Occasionally, “Grandpa Laiho,” as he twice referred to himself, even tried to impart advice. We suggest buying Alexi Laiho — Chaos, Control & Guitar to learn more about everyone’s favorite frontman. In the meantime, allow these 10 facts from Petri Silas’ Alexi Laiho biography to blow your mind:
1. Alexi came from a musical family.
As a teenager, Alexi’s father, Heikki Laiho, was in a band called the Beggars. Heikki played keyboards, which might explain why Alexi was so close to his keyboardist Janne Wirman. Heikki’s group covered The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. As a prize for coming in first at a guitar competition, the Beggars were awarded a trip to the Soviet Union. (It seems that Heikki, who grew up in Lapland, went on to start his own advertising agency.) When Alexi was 6 years old, his interest in music peaked upon hearing Heikki play a recording of Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing.”
Alexi’s mother, Kristiina, has a classical music background. Her instruments of choice were the piano and the flute. She continues to sing in a choir. However, Kristiina suffered from hearing damage when a brass player honked his instrument directly into her ear. This even led to a temporary loss of balance. When Alexi turned 3, Kristiina became a secretary at Hewlard Packard.
One of the takeaways from Chaos, Control & Guitar is that Alexi benefited from the guidance of a cool older sister. Anna Laiho began playing the piano at the age of 5. She was a music aficionado, who introduced her younger sibling to bands like Kiss and magazines, such as Metal Hammer and Kerrang!. Anna eventually discovered death metal.
It is not surprising, therefore, that Alexi’s parents enrolled him in piano lessons when he was 5 years old (a year when he almost drowned) like Anna. Alexi studied the violin until the age of 12, seeing as his interest waned after his father gave him his first guitar, a Tokai Stratocaster, in 1990. (Note: Alexi has given slightly different dates in regard to his musical education elsewhere.) Music theory was very important to the virtuoso throughout his life. The influences that shaped Laiho’s art were as diverse as Mozart, all types of films, and even video games like Resident Evil, which he discovered later. Laiho developed a taste for everything from N.W.A. to Bon Jovi to Darkthrone.
Not only did Alexi come from a musical family, but his neighborhood seems to have been a hotspot for talent as well. His idol Jiri Jalkonen from the thrash metal group Stone grew up on the same street. Alexi used to play with Jiri’s younger brother. Another “coincidence” is the fact that Alexi’s skateboarding buddy Otto Tolonen became a famous classical guitarist.
See little Alexi below with his violin at a recital.
Watch Alexi and Janne give a cute interview about Christmas and their families:
2. Alexi first told his parents that he intended to be a musician during an important chat when he was 13 years old.
Sebastian Bach wrote: “One of the first times we ever hung out in Hollywood he [Alexi] went into great detail explaining to me that one of his earliest memories of loving rock n’ roll was when his big sister went to see Skid Row [and Guns N’ Roses] at the arena in Helsinki Finland & he was too young to go. He explained to me how it drove him completely insane that we were playing a show in his hometown and he couldn’t go, he begged and pleaded with his parents but they would not let him go to the show. He told me that he decided right there and then what he wanted to do for a living.” Because Skid Row and Guns N’ Roses played together at Helsingen jäähalli, or the Helsinki Ice Hall, on August 13th and 14th, 1991, on the Use Your Illusion Tour in 1991, this recollection fits the timeline of events in Silas’ book. (Jäähalli is also where Alexi saw Pantera and where CoB played their final concert.)
Luckily, Alexi’s parents supported his decision to pursue music. His mother even wrote sick notes, which enabled her son to stay at home and practice the guitar. Alexi soon enrolled at the Oulunkylä Pop & Jazz Conservatory. (When Janne was recruited to join CoB in 1997, Alexi did not initially realize that they had attended the conservatory together.) As a result, Alexi was able to perform at the Pori Jazz Festival. Thus, Alexi formed a trio called T.O.L.K. Although the Wildchild said that T.O.L.K. was active from 1994-1996, you can watch him shred with the band below in a video that is allegedly from 1997. (T.O.L.K.’s demo album was recorded by accomplished producer Kai “Hiili” Hiilesmaa, who has performed with KYPCK, The Skreppers, and the HIM side project Daniel Lioneye.)
In his regard to Alexi’s adventures at Tapiola secondary school, he first met Jaska Raatikainen when he was in 6th grade. The future CoB drummer, who was a French hornist at the time, was blown away by Alexi’s drumming skills. (By then, Alexi had already played the drums to the MacGyver theme song on a children’s TV show by the Finnish Broadcasting Company. He had also repeated this performance during an exchange program in France, where he also sang “Over the Rainbow.”) Although Janne and Alexi began by trying to work out songs by Metallica and Guns N’ Roses, they immediately became “Joined in death metal…” It was a blessing in disguise that Alexi, who also took inspiration from great Scandinavian bands like Entombed, could not afford to attend the renowned GIT in Los Angeles.
Alexi and Jaska founded IneartheD, which played with a rotating crew of friends. Alexi stepped up as the group’s vocalist because no one else assumed the responsibility. The fact that Alexi has no training as a singer paired with his Yngwie Malmsteen guitar skills qualifies Children of Bodom one of the strangest bands in history. Left to his own devices, Alexi eventually figured out a vocal technique that suited him. In 2019, Alexi informed the Iron City Rocks podcast that he had not blown out his voice since the ’90s. Yet, he confided that he was suffering from difficulties with his voice at the time of the interview.
3. IneartheD recorded their second demo under the kind watch of Jaska’s granny.
IneartheD recorded their second demo album, Ubiquitous Absence of Remission, in 1995 with Anssi Kippo, whose first facility was in a local church basement. Jaska’s father, Jukka, drove his son and Alexi to and from the studio. However, Jaska’s grandmother remained with the duo during the duration of their stay as a chaperone.
4. At the age of 17, Alexi became homeless after he was chased from his hometown by thugs.
Two amphetamine-abusing criminals began stalking Alexi in his hometown of Espoo. “I knew for a fact that [the] two of them had killed a person earlier and I had also seen them attack another dude, beat him and kick him in the head with steel cap boots when he was lying on the ground.” Alexi traced the reason for their behavior to jealousy over one of his girlfriends. One day, the lunatics held a knife to Alexi’s throat and threatened to kill him. The police refused to help Alexi.
Alexi fled Espoo under the pretense of moving in with his sister in Helsinki. However, because he did not want to be a constant burden to Anna, he sometimes crashed with musician Jani Pirisjoki, whom he first met at Oulunkylä. (We assume that the surname “Pirismaa” is a typo.) As another means of securing a place to stay while also scoring free beer, Alexi flirted with older ladies at sleazy bars. (Alexi has always preferred older women much like the Metalocalypse character Skwisgaar, who has been rumored to be based on Laiho.) This “toy boy” phase lasted from the time when Alexi was 17-18. Meanwhile, his friend secured him a job at a construction site.
It is significant that until Alexi’s contact with his attackers, he had viewed the world “through rose-colored glasses.” Afterwards, he resorted to self-harm, which included cutting himself. His anger, however, fueled his art. In Silas’ book, Alexi briefly discussed how he incorporated hobo aesthetics into CoB’s visual presentation. Considering this, it should come as a surprise that CoB was once sponsored by the clothing brand Affliction. Alexi’s individualistic sense of style has led to Avril Lavigne comparisons and memes.
Watch these funny clips of Alexi in which he takes his skills to the streets of Finland:
5. Children of Bodom had a ritual that involved driving to the Lake Bodom murder site.
Children of Bodom played their first show in 1997. This was also the year in which their debut album Something Wild was released. (The album, which was recorded in 7 days, ensured that CoB were invited to the Emma-gaala. However, the hard-partying group wound up at the police station after attending the prestigious music awards event.) Because CoB knew that the radio show Metalliliitto would air one of the songs from Something Wild, Alexi, Jaska, and rhythm guitarist Alexander Kuoppala drove to Lake Bodom to listen to the weekly show. This became a ritual thereafter.
Alexi had grown up 10-15 miles from Lake Bodom, where an 18-year-old male and two 15-year-old girls were brutally murdered in 1960. The case, which left one surviving victim, was never solved. IneartheD only became known as Children of Bodom to avoid a slave record contract with a Belgian company on the advice of Ewo Pohjala of Spinefarm Records. Alexi believes that the pairing of the words “Children” with “Bodom” was subconsciously inspired by the horror movie Children of the Corn (1984). However, Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Sea” may have been a factor. The name certainly possesses a “Die Young” mystique. It is just distasteful enough to be effective.
6. Children of Bodom did not want their cover of “Shot in the Dark” to be released.
Everything that Alexi did was magic. Everything, that is, except for CoB’s cover of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Shot in the Dark.” The cover is confusingly awful. Children of Bodom told their record company that the song was not fit for release. Nevertheless, it appeared as a Japanese reissue bonus track for Follow the Reaper (2000). CoB fans know what a huge influence Ozzy Osbourne and his guitarists had on Laiho, who cited Jake E. Lee’s (yes, he wrote it —) Bark at the Moon (1983) as one of his favorite albums during interviews. Alexi even modeled the body of his ESP signature guitar after that of Randy Rhoads.
Even fans who have not read Silas’ biography know the anecdote about how Alexi turned up to a Guitar World cover shoot in 2005 with Zakk Wylde, another one of his Ozzy Osbourne heroes, and Steve Vai, an idol whom he had yet to meet, with his wrist in a fuchsia due to drunken shenanigans. In 2009, Alexi was voted “Best Metal Guitarist” by a readers’ poll in Guitar World. In 2010, Zakk Wylde and Alexi shared a second Guitar World cover.
CoB are known for their abundance of odd covers. They have covered everyone from Eddie Murphy to Kenny Rogers to ABBA. Do you agree with the band’s original verdict regarding “Shot in the Dark,” or do you think that it hits its target?!
7. Joey Jordison invited Alexi to join the Murderdolls.
Alexi Laiho had been told that he and the late Joey Jordison of Slipknot were doppelgängers. After Blooddrunk (2008), CoB hit the road. The group supported Slipknot on their All Hope Is Gone World Tour. Upon meeting Joey, Alexi discovered that not only did they look alike but their personalities also aligned. Joey invited Alexi to play on the Murderdolls‘ second album, Beyond the Valley of the Murderdolls (2002). Although Alexi’s participation was not possible due to his schedule, it the sophomore effort turned out to be a killer album. (Alexi made a hilarious confession about how he felt after CoB finally finished touring Blooddrunk: “The comedown was so hard that I turned quite antisocial and basically just wanted to slouch on the sofa watching Seinfeld DVDs [like Fenriz] and munching popcorn.”)
Over the years, Alexi considered many other opportunities for collaboration that never came to be. For example, when looking for a new guitarist to replace Roope Latvala, the band phoned Arch Enemy’s Christopher Amott. Ultimately, CoB hired Daniel Freyberg for the position instead. CoB was also tempted by the possibility to enlist the legendary Pantera producer Terry Date for Relentless Reckless Forever (2011). However, Date was not sure that he was the right man for the job. An exciting union that actually materialized was a supergroup lineup of Alexi, Robert Trujillo, Greg Puciato, Dave Lombardo, Daron Malakian, Shavo Odadjian, and Mike Clark for a cover of Metallica’s “Battery” in 2009. Unfortunately, the occasion was tragic, seeing as it was it was for two-day charity concert to raise money for the hospital bills of the late Chi Cheng of Deftones’ Chi Cheng, who was then in a coma.
Laiho knew how to party with the best of them. View Metal Injection’s list of 10 of Alexi Laiho’s finest moments, to hear the Wildchild elaborate on how CoB hazed Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe. The “100 Guitars from HEL[sinki]” event at the capital’s Senate Square is also included in the hyperlinked article. In this video, Alexi’s friend, tour buddy, and The Local Band collaborator Samy Elbanna of Lost Society can be seen among the participants performing the music that Alexi not only composed but also assumed a role in executing.
8. Alexi only needed to trash one hotel room to learn his lesson.
When it turned out that Dimmu Borgir and Sentenced could not make it to a show in Greece, CoB became angry that their upcoming gig would be cancelled. The “Hate Crew” bought “vodka, Jameson whiskey, airsoft guns and a huge amount of ammunition.” The band of miscreants went on a rampage but failed to confine their destructive activities to their hotel room. CoB escaped from the hotel just as the police arrived. Each group member later received a bill for approximately $3,000. This single experience of having to pay for his crime was enough to make Laiho stop trashing others’ property. Sebastian Bach recalls similarly becoming disillusioned when he realized how uncool it felt to pay $15,000 for smashing a painting. He reflected: “I’d rather buy a motorbike than pay to clean up a hotel room.” Ozzy Osbourne learned that hotels tend to rip off customers who turn into vandals after he and Zakk Wylde threw a cheap television out the window in Prague and were respectively charged $38,000 and $10,000.
9. Alexi once butchered his own song on Guitar Hero on national TV.
CoB’s “Was It Worth It?” was featured on Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock. Therefore, Alexi was invited to play the game on Finnish television with another guitarist. “I got maybe 5% right… This epic fail was naturally made even funnier by the fact that we were competing on a song I had written myself!”
10. Material was collected from Alexi’s pelvic area to help fix his pre-existing shoulder injury.
In 2001, rhythm guitarist Alexander Kuoppala fractured one of Alexi’s ribs when he fell on top of his petite companion after the two decided to form a mosh pit at the Hard Rock Café in Seoul. “After being examined I was lying quietly on the slab and suddenly jumped up like a jack-in-a-box. I turned to the nurse next to me and inquired in a clear voice, and in Finnish: ‘You serve any brew around here?”’ In 2007, Alexi had a bowling alley accident that further injured his body. In 2009, he was thrust from a top bunk while on CoB’s tour bus. Afterwards, the Denver doctor who examined Alexi’s X-ray only noticed one of two damaged bones in his shoulder. The medical “professional” also failed to spot a fractured rib. (This may have also been the occasion when Alexi unknowingly broke his collarbone.) Years later, a Finnish orthopedist deduced that Alexi suffered from one bone that had never healed and another that had healed disastrously. In addition to operating on the affected regions, the doctor performed a small-scale operation aimed at gathering material from the musician’s pelvic area to use for his shoulder.
In 2019, Alexi revealed to Guitar World: “… some of my fingers are not up to speed on a lot of things. It’s a slow process. I’m still not quite back to where I was before the operation.” Even during the worst of times, Alexi was still a guitar god. In discussion with KaaosTv, Daniel Freyberg recalled that Alexi often boasted that he felt like he was 20 years younger during his time with Bodom After Midnight. Daniel was answering to the fact that his late colleague seemed to have regained his youthful charisma as evidenced by Bodom After Midnight’s shows. BAM may have only played three lives dates (one at Rytmikorjaamo in Seinäjoki and two at the legendary Tavastia Club in Helsinki), but these intimate Finnish gigs will be remembered as Alexi’s last.
Despite his many woes, Alexi hardly ever cancelled a performance. He was a true workaholic. “… I will live with chronic pain for the rest of my life. Fortunately, scientists have come up with effective medication, and those products will keep me going.” This will explain why Alexi was found with painkillers in his system.
We hope that Alexi Laiho’s legacy will be as “Immortal” as Abbath. Tell us that this is not the greatest Children of Bodom fan pic ever?! Click or swipe right for a close-up image.
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