REVIEW: BODOM AFTER MIDNIGHT – “Paint The Sky With Blood” [EP]
When the news broke in 2019 that Children Of Bodom had decided to call it a day, it had many fans left wondering if this was truly the end. And while the members of the band went their separate ways, enigmatic frontman Alexi Laiho was never going to go quietly into the night, and his second coming in the form of Bodom After Midnight was announced. Laiho was determined to push ahead, and with his new bandmates, Bodom After Midnight worked hard on writing material that was slated for release in 2021. The band hit their stride and had three songs recorded and ready to go, before tragedy struck and news of Laiho’s passing was revealed earlier this year. As a tribute to their fallen brother, the surviving band members committed themselves to release the completed songs as a modest three-track EP titled Paint the Sky with Blood.
The title track Paint the Sky with Blood is going to instantly resonate with any fans of early-era Children of Bodom. It has a vibe that matches some of their earlier hits and feels like a very real reminder that this sort of songwriting has followed Laiho for his whole career. It’s a well-paced track, from its discordant guitar opening to its more melodically rooted chorus, and will easily earworm its way into listeners’ ears. The solo fits musically very well into the track and stylistically resembles solo’s like Laiho used to perform on tracks like ‘Hate Me’. While the guitars clearly stand out (as they did on almost every one of Laiho’s tracks), the barrelling drumming of Waltteri Väyrynen (Paradise Lost) really sets the tone of this entire song. The persistent rhythmic presence gives both guitarists the best possible platform to shine, and it feels very much like this group had been playing together for several years because the track has a very synergistic feel to it.
For the second track Payback’s A B*tch, you get a less melodic song that doubles down on a deeper thrash/groove tone. The melody is still there, but the chuggy nature of the riffs in the verses gives the track a much heavier quality overall. It’s still got a barrelling rhythm section, and the keys on this track really shine through (much more than on the first track). Opting for a signature guitar/keyboard duel in its solo/instrumental section this track does really well, with a higher-pitched tone leading listeners to think it’s going to be a higher-pitched duel before a lower-toned guitar solo sweeps in to finish the shred off. The transition between the two is a thing of pure magic and really highlights how Bodom After Midnight weren’t afraid to experiment with these sorts of techniques.
A cover of Dissection‘s Where Dead Angels Lie rounds out the EP, and it remains very true to the original song, but the more melodic nature of the cover definitely makes it a more ‘Bodom’ oriented experience. It’s done in a way that maintains the dark nature of the track, but removes some of its grittier elements to really modernize the track for 2021.
This EP is a fantastic offering and is perhaps bittersweet in being the only offering from Bodom After Midnight we will receive. While there is no denying that the other band members — guitarist Daniel Freyberg, bassist Mitja Toivonen, and Väyrynen — would make a fine combination in a band together given their chemistry on this EP, there is just no pushing ahead underneath a Bodom After Midnight banner without Laiho.
While Alexi may no longer be with us, his music will live eternally. With these final three tracks, we are left with the closing chapter of a legacy spanning three decades that will be revered for years to come. The release of Paint the Sky with Blood should be viewed as a celebration of Laiho’s life — and as upsetting as it is to see someone go out at the top of their game, I couldn’t think of a more fitting collection of tracks to be part of his final release to the world.