The energy surrounding 'Paint The Sky With Blood' was celebratory from the onset. The congregation of Alexi Laiho, Daniel Freyberg, Waltteri Väyrynen, Mitja Toivonen and the band's live keyboardist Vili Itäpelto were intent on making an emphatic introduction to the latest chapter in the Bodom lexicon. Rejuvenated and refocused, the synergy being poured into the three-track effort was too profound to be ignored. After decades in the game, Laiho and his creative cohorts, seemed to be on the verge of a rebirth.
Just days after the band finished filming their fiery music video for the title track of the EP, the world of metal lost an irreplaceable talent when Alexi Laiho passed away. As the greater community mourned the loss the man that founded Children of Bodom and established a decorated career that spanned some 10 albums, nearly three decades and legions of fans worldwide, the remaining members of Bodom After Midnight were navigating the departure of their musical brother.
In the wake of such a colossal loss, the band now faced with a bittersweet reality. The tracks that were intended to be the band's impactful introduction would now become Laiho's Swan Song - a powerful farewell from a musical visionary that transformed the landscape of metal music and would once again, leave an indelible mark in the universe of metal one final time.
Bodom After Midnight bassist Mitja Toivonen offered his account of the significance of what has ultimately been the band's first and only recording. He shares what the climate was like as the project progressed, what it was like working with such a talent like Laiho, and how seeing the fruition of 'Paint The Sky With Blood' offers an emotional finality that honors the legacy of their fallen comrade.
Bodom After Midnight was said to be a much much more collaborative effort - what was the working environment like with Alexi during the recording of these tracks?
Toivonen - The whole environment was really relaxed. Of course the music and lyrics were written entirely by Alexi but all of us took part in the arrangements. Everyone's ideas were taken into consideration and tried out before making the final decisions. After combining the songs at the rehearsal place we had the "guidelines" of the songs figured out and when in studio everyone was free to fine tune all the details once the main elements were down. All in all the songs were but together in a pretty old school way without making any demos for example.
Considering this was intended to be the band’s recorded introduction, what about including Dissection’s “Where Dead Angels Lie” felt like a good foot forward in terms of style and substance?
Toivonen - We wanted to take a step in another direction of what COB had done with the covers. We felt that the era of so called "fun covers" was over or that it wasn't our thing. Dissection has been a big deal to us and we tended to blast the Storm of the Light's Bane album a lot when hanging out together. One evening at the rehearsals we were brainstorming cover ideas and then Waltteri came up with the idea of "Where Dead Angels Lie". We knew that it was a bit of rolling the dice since it's a huge song to tackle but I'm really glad we did.
Looking back on the video shoot for the title track, how does it resonate with you emotionally to see the finished product given that Alexi would pass only 10 days later?
Toivonen - That day was the last time we got to hang out together in person, all four of us, so naturally it brings pretty melancholic emotions to the surface. On the other hand, while watching the video I feel really lucky that we got to do this together and proud of what we did. But still it's been just a couple of months so it's really hard for me to reflect properly on the whole matter. When listening to the EP you can never tell what kind of an emotional wave it's gonna cause. Sometimes it's really rough but then again sometimes all the good memories of the past year come flooding in.
The narrative with regards to Bodom After Midnight was that it was not going to be Children of Bodom 2.0 - what was different about this project and how did Alexi play into that given the profound impact he had and how it was synonymous with Children of Bodom?
Toivonen - Well naturally it's a whole different beast when you change half of the band members, but then again, a tiger cannot change its stripes. Alexi really felt this band to be a continuum of his work. Without going any deeper into the matter, I think Alexi wasn't ready to stop even though COB fell apart. When it comes to the line up, I think one of the main things was that we came to the saloon from different doors but to the same table. Everyone had slightly different backgrounds and therefore added something new to the equation. The only actual change that was discussed was to have two lead guitars instead of one at maybe the expense of lead keys.
Was there ever any thought to hanging onto these songs and keeping them for just yourselves… sort of a lasting keepsake between the musicians that made the music and Alexi?
Toivonen - Never. The whole EP was finished before Alexi's passing including cover art etc. So everything was approved by him and we were sure that he would have wanted this to be released rather than shoved into some mausoleum for all eternity. Also, we felt that the fans of our dear friend deserved to hear this and hear the last piece of art he made.
Given how integral Alexi was to Bodom After Midnight, is there any thought about proceeding on in his memory or do you intended to make this the first and only Bodom After Midnight release?
Toivonen - This is a conversation we never needed to have with Waltteri and Daniel. It was clear that the band died with Alexi. We wanted to give our journey together a graceful ending. Then if someday we feel that we want to make music together it shall be under a different name. I think even keeping the word Bodom in a name without Alexi would feel wrong.
In terms of your career overall, where does this project rank in terms of importance and what kind of lasting impact do you hope it was with the fans?
Toivonen - It will always be of huge importance to me. I grew up listening to Alexi's music so I feel truly honoured to be on his last works. I'm glad this band made it possible for the world to enjoy music of such a unique talent one last time.
'Paint The Sky With Blood' from Bodom After Midnight is currently available via Napalm Records and can be ordered - HERE