By Johnny Papan
Where – Vogue Theatre
When – March 28 2019
VANCOUVER – Upon the first full listen of Hexed, the forthcoming record from Finland’s extreme metal outfit Children of Bodom, scheduled for a March 8 release, it’s hard to argue that this may be the band’s heaviest and most thought-out record in recent memory. Hexed feels like 2000’s Follow the Reaper meets 2009’s Blooddrunk mixed with flavours of Hate Crew Deathroll and Are You Dead Yet? It’s fast, thrashing, and features some juicy battling guitar and synth leads. Lyrically, Hexed also proves to be one of the band’s most intimate releases. Frontman Alexi Laiho says this album found him “branching out” when it comes to his penmanship, expressing an introspection on his addictive personality and the difficulties that arose because of it. The opening track, “This Road,” begins the album’s foray.
“I think a lot of people misunderstood what I was talking about before [‘This Road’] came out,” says Laiho. “A lot of people thought it was about alcoholism, but it’s more about being addicted to being on the road. Sometimes it feels like after 20 years of being on the road, everything just becomes kind of a blur and you don’t know what the hell’s going on. You don’t know who you are and sometimes it’s just so emotionally and physically draining that it feels like it’s killing you, but you still wanna do it. You can’t stop doing it because you love it. So I suppose [the song] could be about some sort of addiction, because you can’t stop. I mean, that’s what an addiction is, right?”
Despite people’s misconceptions about the track, Laiho admits that his past relationship with alcohol was becoming a dangerous romance, holding him with a subtle, reaper-like grip. A booze-infused scythe grazed his jugular with every sip he took, and every hangover began to feel like a foot in the grave. This is the concept behind Hexed’s first single, “Under Grass and Clover.”
“‘Under Grass and Clover’ is about severe alcohol withdrawal, which is something I have definitely written about before, but not in recent years,” Laiho says. “I don’t really drink like that anymore, but back in the day it was pretty hardcore. [While writing the new record] I sort of went back in time and started remembering what it felt like to go through withdrawal and go through detox. It was just about remembering those horrible times. I don’t even drink on the road anymore. I cut back a ton so I don’t get those feelings. I don’t want to fuckin’ feel like that ever again. I’d wake up and take a couple shots, not to get drunk, but just to keep an even keel and feel normal. It’s just fuckin’ sad. But in the beginning I didn’t think anything of it – it was normal.”
Laiho cut back his drinking in 2013.
“I said to myself, ‘It’s either the booze or the music. You pick.’ When you put it like that, it’s like, ‘What am I talking about? Of course, the music.’ But I also didn’t want to stop altogether. I wanted to prove not only to myself but to others that I could drink like a normal person.”
It’s very rare that someone can go through detox and maintain a relationship with their substance of choice without full-on relapsing, but Laiho seems to be pulling it off. In fact, Children of Bodom just released their own beer, which was brewed with the water of Lake Bodom, the infamous Finnish murder scene for which the band got its name. For the last five years, Laiho has refused to drink on tour, only opting to controllably drink with friends at home.
“It still takes some willpower,” he says. “I know myself well enough to know I have an addictive personality. It doesn’t necessarily have to be booze – I can get addicted to walking, which I do a lot. Sometimes I work too hard, stuff like that. With beer, I just need to keep an eye on it.”
“I think that’s the most important thing: admitting it,” he continues. “If you stay in denial, that’s not going to take you anywhere good in life. Admit it to yourself, know yourself, and keep an eye on yourself. I’ve been there, and I’ve seen people ruin their lives because of alcohol or drugs. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fuckin’ saint, and I’m not trying to preach here – people should do whatever the fuck they want. This just worked for me, that’s all. It’s actually pretty fucking great, not feeling so fuckin’ shitty everyday.”Children of Bodom, Vogue Theatre