Review Summary: A fitting, if disappointingly brief, farewell to one of modern metal's most celebrated guitarists.
A lot of great musicians left us over the past year, but Alexi Laiho’s death hit me harder than the others. Growing up as a classical pianist, Children of Bodom’s second record Hatebreeder
was the album that showed me just how well music theory could be integrated into metal. Amidst the soaring guitar solos and harsh vocals, there lay a goldmine of tightly performed melodies and intricate riffs that almost seemed progressive at times. Laiho was at the heart of it all, of course, and was just as influenced by the classical greats such as Mozart and Beethoven as he was by neo-classical guitar heroes like Yngwie Malmsteen. But it’s also important to remember how hook-laden these songs were (and are); despite the complexity and craftsmanship, albums like Hatebreeder
and Follow the Reaper
were anything but mere riff salad. Somehow the songs were just as catchy as they were technically impressive, and the gothic atmosphere definitely played into this as well. And while the band hit a rough patch of declining quality, 2013’s Halo of Blood
and 2019’s Hexed
gave me plenty of hope for their future. But alas, it wasn’t meant to last.
With that said, what we have here is the sole EP by Laiho’s newly formed band Bodom After Midnight, who understandably disbanded after his passing. Despite the change in band name, Paint the Sky With Blood
is exactly what you would expect from a latter-day Children of Bodom offering. Power metal with harsh vocals, catchy but aggressive. The tracklist is very small, only featuring two originals and one Dissection cover; however, the material is still of a reasonably high quality throughout. The opening title track is a fun - if pretty standard - melo-death anthem with all the stuff you’d expect from a Laiho project: blazing solos, anthemic “FIGHT” chants, and a nice layer of synth action to cap things off. In fact, the slow bridge in the middle is quite reminiscent of the bridge in Follow the Reaper
’s title track, which can only be a good thing as far as I’m concerned. Meanwhile, “Payback’s a Bitch” is more in the thrashy vein of Children of Bodom’s middle-era albums, but with a healthy dose of melodicism that saves it from being just a boring chugfest. The guitar and keyboard solos absolutely tear it up, and sound absolutely wicked when performed over the rapid-fire drumming. Finally, we have the cover of Dissection’s “Where Dead Angels Lie”, which manages to be a worthy cover while retaining the classic “Bodom” style. The dark and frigid atmosphere works especially well, especially during the whispered parts in the middle section; the song as a whole doesn’t do away with the sinister edge of the original track, instead expanding upon it with a more touched-up production and dark echo-swathed clean guitars.
Paint the Sky With Blood
provides an interesting look into what kind of music we could have gotten if Alexi Laiho had lived longer. There’s some really solid stuff here, even if we didn’t get a whole lot of material to listen to. Fans of Children of Bodom will feel right at home with these fun melodic death metal tunes, and the accessible songwriting might just draw in some new fans as well. If you have 15 minutes to spare and want to hear some solid metal tunes with some neo-classic elements and a melodic edge, you can’t really go wrong with this album.
R.I.P. Alexi Laiho - 1979-2020