With a hot new album, Are You Dead Yet? making a big impact, Finland's kings of neo-classical extreme metal Children of Bodom played their first headline tour in the US, and made their NYC stop at Irving Plaza for a night of metal mayhem and instrumental brilliance. Opening for CoB were the Viking masters themselves Amon Amarth and American metalcore upstarts Trivium. The venue, as have been almost all the shows on this tour, was long sold out, and packed with hungry fans for a night of varied yet powerful heavy metal. Sea of Tranquility's Pete Pardo and Ken Pierce were on hand for the show, and even had a chance to interview CoB keyboard wiz Janne Warmen, who shared his thoughts on the new album the tour, and the ever changing sound of Children of Bodom.
Read on for the complete report and interview!
A few hours before show time, Ken and I crept into the empty upper halls of Irving Plaza and sought out keyboard ace Janne Warmen to give a quick interview about the current goings on with Children of Bodom. While the soundcheck for the drums were going on, we made it to the band's dressing room where Janne and second guitarist Roope Ukk Latvala were relaxing and getting ready for the gig. Both were a little tired but happy to sit in with us for some questions, in which Janne gave some informative and fun answers.
SoT: How is the tour going and how many dates have you played so far?
Janne Warmen : The tour is going great, and most of the shows have been sold out. Tonight is actually the last night of the tour, I think the 29th show, or something like that. It's been amazing really, not at all like we expected. You know, this is our first headlining tour, and when you are a headliner if people don't show up it's your fault! (laughs) But luckily everything turned out good.
SoT: It must be nice to go from an opening slot on the Iced Earth tour in 2004 to this-you are still playing to large crowds, if not bigger right?
Janne: Yes, it's been really good with great crowds every night.
SoT: Congratulations on the new album, we hear it is doing very well. What's the feedback you are getting back from the press and the fans so far?
Janne: Thanks. It's been good. You know, there's always going to be that group of fans that every time we release a new album they have to announce how much better the last album was. (laughs) It's funny actually! We don't record the same album over and over like some bands do, so there are some changes each time.
SoT: I think most of the talk has been just that, that you have evolved so much that the new material sounds nothing like the band on the first album, especially the neo-classical stuff, which has been pushed to the background quite a bit. The new album is kind of more straight ahead, in your face metal wouldn't you say?
Janne: Yes, totally. All the neo-classical stuff has really been gone the last two albums.
SoT: Did you guys do that intentionally?
Janne: Yeah, that whole thing is so 1998. I mean, I was 17 years old when we recorded that first album, and nowadays I just laugh, rolling on the ground, when I listen to that album.
SoT: Alexi told me the same thing about a year ago actually.
Janne: We have hopefully evolved a lot as musicians and as human beings, and all the touring and the experiences have helped us grow in many ways. It shows in how much the albums evolve and stuff like that.
SoT: The last two albums have really been pretty popular for the band-how close are you to getting to that next level where you feel you have really made a significant impact on the metal scene? Do you feel like you are almost there, where you could see Children of Bodom on a Gigantour, or Ozzfest, or having a Top 100 selling album?
Janne: I really feel that in some territories we have actually reached that already, especially home in Finland. I don't think any extreme metal band outsells us there. We are also doing really well in Japan. But the US, being such a big country and big market, there's still a lot of room for improvement.
Janne Warmen of Children of Bodom
SoT: Are you getting any play on college radio or MTV at all?
Janne:Yes, we seem to be getting a lot of play on college radio, but other than Headbanger's Ball there's not much going on for us on MTV.
SoT: Your playing and style on the keyboards has changed a little over the last few albums. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Janne: Alexi and I spend days and days creating new sounds. We are pretty tired of using just the same old strings, piano, and harpsichord, which is of course what every melodic or neo-classical death metal band uses. So we really tried to develop some new sounds and come up with new ideas for the keyboard sounds, and really update them a bit. We had been using the same kind of sounds for so long, so it was time for a change. I'm using a pretty basic, non-endorsed rig with a bunch of different modules for the tour, which allows me to get all the sounds I need.
SoT: What happens after the tour is done?
Janne: We go home for 10 days for the holidays, then right after Christmas we leave for a 7 week European tour, where we play Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France, Holland, the UK, Norway, Sweden, and Finland.
SoT: What's the rest of 2006 looking like for you?
Janne: Touring, touring, and more touring! After the 7-week European tour we are going to take a short break, then we will record a video for a song we have not yet decided on. Then in March or April we are going to come back to the US, then we go to Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Japan, China, and South Korea. We are also hoping to do a summer festival tour here in the States as well. There are a lot of options right now for that, so we just have to figure out what is best for us. Maybe then in early 2007 back in the studio once again.
SoT: What's the set list going to look like tonight?
Janne: We will play about 4 or 5 songs from the new album, and then plenty of classics!
After saying our goodbyes and making our way back out of the venue, about an hour later doors opened and we got ready for Amon Amarth. This Norwegian Viking metal band really played a good set, and in my opinion there music comes across better live than on album. With long hair and beards, a few with ample stomachs and sweating like true Vikings, Amon Amarth really lived up to their reputation. Playing songs from their latest CD Fate of Norns as well as their classic Versus the World, their brand of riff heavy Viking/death metal really bullied the crowd into submission, and I think the band was a little surprised at just how well they went over. They night was just beginning.
After a short break, Roadrunner Records hot act Trivium took to the stage. Fresh off a spot on Ozzfest 2005, these guys are one of RR's bread and butter bands over the last couple of years, and their brand of thrashy, melodic metalcore has a strong following, as evidenced by the rousing reception they received throughout their 45-minute set. Playing material from their recent Ascendancy as well as 2003's Ember to Inferno, their music is fueled by crunchy guitar riffs, technical and melodic leads and fills, and a mix of clean and screamed vocals. The band has added an extra guitarist recently and are now performing as a quartet, but singer/guitarist Matt Heafy is the man, as he churns out plenty of riff –o-rama and screaming solos in addition to his multi-faceted vocal attack. This was actually my first exposure to Trivium, and although I thought their sound was a little muddy this night, I was impressed enough with their skills and the crowd reaction to seek out their two recorded works. If you like 80's Metallica, Killswitch Engage, and Arch Enemy, then definitely check these guys out.
The place practically went nuts when Children of Bodom finally made it to the stage. Guitarist and lead vocalist Alexi Laiho is definitely the "wild child" on stage, as he runs all over the place playing lightning licks and bone crunching riffs on his trusty Jackson V guitar. His vocals have also improved greatly over the years, where as in the past he had a very screechy black metal rasp, and now he emits a good mid-range scream, which works real well on the material they are writing now. The new songs like "Living Dead Beat" (which they opened with), "Are You Dead Yet?", "We're Not Gonna Fall", and "In Your Face" went over really well, although I would have liked to also hear "If You Want Peace…Prepare for War" or "Punch Me I Bleed", two other scorchers from the new album, but I can see why they picked the songs they did and stuck to just those few. The rest of the set was vintage Bodom, from the anthem "Needled 24/7" to the classics "Silent Night Bodom Night", "Follow The Reaper", and "Hate Me". The guys in the band, though they may still be in their 20's except for guitarist Roope (he's over 40), play like seasoned virtuosos. Laiho and Roope simply shred on guitars, as does keyboard player Warmen, and most of the members even get some solo time as well to show off their chops. Watching the crowd reaction to their set was quite enjoyable, as there was plenty of moshing, crowd surfing (the photo pit was especially hairy this night) and thrashing going on, as well as people singing and playing air-guitar along to every tune. If I can make a prediction, I will say that Children of Bodom will make a huge impact on the extreme metal scene over the next 12-18 months, and really break out from the underground. It might not be in album sales, or it might be, but I'm thinking they are just a hot tour or CD release away from being mentioned in the same league as bands like Fear Factory, Megadeth, Dream Theater, Korn, or many of the other popularly accepted bands on the metal scene. Right now they are kind of in there with the Shadows Fall and Arch Enemy tier, doing well but just on the cusp of mainstream metal popularity and acceptance. Anyway, the band is coming back around mid-year, so make sure to catch them and see what flashy and virtuoso Finnish extreme metal is all about.
Alexi Laiho of Children of Bodom
Ken Pierce: If you have been paying attention to the shirts you see at Metal shows these days you will definitely notice a large amount of them seem to be for Children Of Bodom. No matter what show I am attending I seem to find the design for this band in the dozens and given the number of bands today this is something that stands out. If you were lucky enough to catch Dimmu Borgir or Iced Earth when they last toured in the States then you are well aware of how exciting this group is in the live sense. Tonight they would be supporting their latest effort "Are You Dead Yet?" which comes to us care of Spinefarm Records. Joining them for this sold-out tour would be Metal Blade's own Viking Warriors Amon Amarth and Roadrunners latest rising stars Trivium. I made sure to get there for everyone this time by having the correct scheduling information and I was glad I did. It was truly a night for Metal from start to finish.
Amon Amarth hit the stage to a great response which I think even took them a little bit by surprise. It's always great to see the starter bands go over well especially in a time where the audience is so fickle and sticks to what they like and not much else. Clearly these guys had the Viking spirit in them as they performed their set that featured mostly songs from the latest release "The Fate Of Norns". It was energetic and intense and they appeared to be having as much fun delivering their brand of Metal as the audience who was listening. I would like to see them play a little longer next time and can attest that I enjoyed them in the live sense more so than I did on record. They sounded much better than I had expected and I think for many Metal heads they should be given a listen. After their set the members of the group wandered around the club and by the merchandise booth. Lead singer Johan Hegg was drinking his beer out of a horn and if that is not Viking than I am not sure what is.
Trivium came up next and this band is one of the Roadrunner Records biggest rising stars. There is a little bit of the Metal core growling in the vocals of Matt Heafy but the music they play shows that these guys respected and were educated by the ways of the Traditional Metal greats. Intense guitars and thunderous drumming make this a very powerful group. I admit that I don't know many of their songs as I don't own a copy of their latest release "Ascendancy" but according to the photographed set list they performed some killer tracks. Among the songs performed were "Drowned", "Flies", "Suffocating Sight" and many others in their almost hour long set. The band has recently added another guitarist and this fills the band out a little more if you ask me. Their music is solid and a little more creative than that of some of their peers. As a result I am finding myself enjoying them a little more each time I get to an appearance of theirs. This tour should surely help them on their rise to the top of the Metal mountain.
The main event was on and now was the time for Children Of Bodom to show everyone in the club the reason for their popularity and impact on Metal. This would be my third time seeing them, as I seem to average one appearance of theirs per album and I am always intrigued by the chaos that ensues when leader Alexi Laiho gets on stage. While the whole band is stellar as far as the level of technical ability on their instruments, Laiho is definitely the main attraction. He is seldom in one place for more than a few seconds and only stands still to scream his lungs out during the songs. He is also a kick ass guitarist and on the new album he played most of the leads. Needless to say the club was insane during their set and it was crowd surfer after crowd surfer making their way to were the pictures get taken. The bouncers and security certainly had their hands full that night and it was so electric in the place that you could almost feel the energy like a physical thing. It's clear that the band also felt this as they pummeled the masses with their set. They would feature about 4-5 songs from the new album as we discovered while meeting with keyboard wizard Janne Warmen before the show and then focus on their older material. While the group does sound great on the record it is most clear without any doubt that this is a band that you have to see live. The concert stage in front of ardent fans is their place and it is in this setting that they rule. I mentioned that this was a sold out show earlier but I left out that this was sold out for weeks in advance. The venue fits about 1100-1300 for a show like this and seeing a line formed around the corner on the night of the show was just incredible. The forces of Metal were totally up to the task tonight and the more this happens for bands like Children Of Bodom then the better it is for their return to play at an even larger venue. I feel if the attention to them keeps growing that they will be revered as giants in the industry and that would be a good thing since the band surely deserves it.
Children of Bodom Setlist
Living Dead Beat
In Your Face,
Are You Dead Yet?
We're Not Gonna Fall
Jaska drum solo
Alexi and Janne guitar/keyboard duel
Angels Don't Kill
Bodom After Midnight/Bodom Beach Terror
In Your Face
Roope guitar solo
Follow the Reaper
Everytime I Die
Silent Night Bodom Night
Hate Crew Deathroll