Finland’s melodic death metallers Children of Bodom are set to release their tenth album Hexed on 8 March 2019 via Nuclear Blast Records. We caught up with guitarist Henkka Seppälä to talk about the new album, touring and how the band is still playing by its own rules following the path it carved out 20 years ago.
Hexed struck me as an album that draws from the energy of the band in its early days. Is this in a way a return to your roots and the sound that gave rise to your name?
We never really try to go back. As musicians we try to move forward, look ahead. But I have heard a lot of people saying that it reminds them of the earlier stuff. Yes, there are a few things such as the neo-classical stuff. It was something we hadn’t done in a while and it reminds people of the older stuff. Otherwise, it’s always new. It’s always new Bodom! It’s not us who define how it sounds.
Of course, we did the 20th-anniversary tour in between while composing it and we played a lot of songs from the late 90s. There must be, at least subconsciously, some influence on the stuff that we wrote.
Many of your fans divide your sound into two eras: melodic hook-infested tracks versus a more abrasive side with heavy guitar work. Do you think on this new album that those two sides have merged more seamlessly than before?
I guess you could say that. I think this album is lacking the first stuff that we had on Blooddrunk and Relentless (ed. note: Relentless Reckless Forever) so this one doesn’t have those super heavy thrash riffs that we had some years ago but then we had some more technical, progressive stuff. It’s something that sounds a little bit of Follow the Reaper, and then there’s the neo-classical stuff which brings to mind older material. We also have a couple of softer ones with catchy melodies. I think this album is actually representing our career more than any other albums.
Is there anything on this album that will surprise people?
For me, the opening track ‘This World’ surprised me and will surprise some fans with the old-school super technical rhythm. The songs surprised me and the other guys. It’s really hard for me to say how the people that will listen to it will feel about it.
Would you say this album is more technical compared to your recent releases?
I think it is. To me, it’s not always about every album being more technical than the previous one. Alexi is always pushing himself to the limits, that’s something that he’s doing. He’s always playing on his limits which is really, really cool. It never feels like he’s doing it only because of the technical value. The musical ideas are always the first thing but then the way he writes is very technical and I think that’s very fascinating. It’s also very challenging for us.
Your songs have been dabbling in themes including death, betrayal, what lyrical themes are you exploring this time around?
It’s all Alexi’s, the lyrical stuff. As far as I know, he’s still going through the same stuff. It’s about venting the bad things in life and also maybe the hardships of this profession. I think the whole theme is quite ‘classic Alexi lyrics’.
He has mentioned before that what’s happening around him somehow finds its way into your music. Are there any personal experiences from the band that found their way into this album?
Actually, I don’t know. At least, I know that for example ‘This Road’ describes the hardest parts of this job. That’s probably something that all of us can relate to in a certain way. It’s Alexi’s stuff and we actually never really talk about it and I usually get to read from the media what he’s said about the lyrics!
You mentioned hardships, is it getting easier or more difficult as you are getting older?
The touring, I don’t think it’s getting more difficult. The older you get the wiser you are and you manage better to do stuff that is good for you. Obviously, when you’re almost 40 compared to when you are 20, you really have to take care of yourself. If we were to tour the same way we did when we were 20, it would be really rough but now we know how we are and we know each other better. Everything is smoother and we are more focused on the live shows. Of course, we always were but now we are more serious. We are really proud of what we do live. We don’t want other things to disturb that. It’s all getting a bit easier because we know how to behave ourselves!
You’ve had your fair share of ups and downs as a band. Do you think that those darker moments can fuel inspiration when you’re creating music or are they a hindrance?
I am pretty sure that when it comes to Alexi’s writing, the dark moments is where he gets most of his ideas from. I’d say that the best of his ideas come from when he gets darker in life so I don’t see it as a hindrance. I think it’s more of a necessity to deliver the music that we are doing. If he was a super happy and balanced person, the music would be completely different.
Let’s talk touring, you’ve recently announced a North American tour and some shows across Europe. How do you think the sound of the new album will translate to a live performance?
That’s always interesting, we don’t know. Next week, we will start practicing. We haven’t touched those songs together in six months or even more, more like nine months. It is going to be challenging to practice and figure out how they will come across live. And then it takes a few shows to get used to them before seeing how they will actually work. Of course, we will also see the reactions of the people. It’s impossible to say and that’s the beauty of going on tour with a new album because you never know how it’s going to be.
You recently celebrated 20 years of life in the form of a tour. After all these years, do you see your crowds getting older or younger? Do you attract new people?
Yeah, we do and we always get surprised by it when we see fans who are almost kids in the front row, even fans as young as ten years old. I’m just thinking how is this possible? They weren’t even born when we did Blooddrunk, which is always very inspiring to see. It gives you the motivation to keep on doing it. It’s really inspiring to see new people coming along. Of course, there are also the guys who have been following us since the first album who would have been in their 30s at the time so now they are in their 50s. It’s really humbling to see that they are still following us. They are still really interested in coming to our shows even if our music has been changing. That’s very humbling.
Do you feel that you have a responsibility to your fans? Do you feel restricted by their emotional investment into the band?
I know the feeling because I am a fan as well of certain bands and, especially when I was younger, sometimes I’d get mad when they’d change their style and the album was different from the previous one. I totally know the feeling and I can relate to it but then again the beauty of the music is that it comes as it is. I am sure that most bands do music under their own terms and try not to think of how people think and that’s exactly what we did with the first album. When I hear this kind of critique, I think to when we did the first album; We didn’t really care about anybody’s opinion even though a lot of people tried to tell what to do and what not to do. We just stuck to our thing without caring about other opinions and that made us who we are now. And that’s what we do on every album. We just do it on our own terms without thinking about anyone’s opinion. That’s how the first album was done. It’s a simple mindset for us.
Thinking ahead, what do you hope the future will bring for Children of Bodom?
Hopefully, we can keep doing this how we are doing it now. We are actually enjoying our time together and our stage time together more than ever. It’s probably related to the stuff we talked about earlier. We know how to take care of ourselves and of the chemistry of the band so that we can feel really, really good when we hit the stage. I really hope that we can still do this for a few more years, a few more albums. If we can do that, I will be really happy. Even happier than I am now! I think they are simple goals but they are realistic. We are having so much fun and we still have a lot of good crowds and that’s just the best.
Anything else you’d like to say to your fans?
We will now head to North America and then we will do a lot of festivals in Europe so please come check us out somewhere at some point!