As if the last year hadn’t been vile enough, the untimely passing of Alexi Laiho hammered home the bitter truth that even the greatest talents can be cruelly stopped in their tracks. In truth, nobody wanted to be reviewing Bodom After Midnight’s first, and now presumably only release, with a backdrop of grief and sadness. The irony is that this was a self-evident new lease of creative life for Alexi after the abrupt cessation of Children Of Bodom in 2019, and judging by the limited amount of evidence on display here, the Finn was on the finest of form right up until the end.
Superficially, Bodom After Midnight was a simple continuation of the groundbreaking blend of extreme metal and melodic histrionics that made Alexi one of modern metal’s most enduring icons. And yes, the two new songs unveiled here are instantly recognisable as the great man’s work, from the guitar work’s effortless virtuosity to the incisive gleam of every melodic hook.
The subtle but unmistakable difference between Paint The Sky With Blood and Payback’s A Bitch and the (equally excellent) tunes on Children Of Bodom’s final album, Hexed, is that these songs sound nastier, grittier and closer in spirit to the feral grandeur of early albums like Hatebreeder and Follow The Leader, albeit with a production that adds clattering, W.A.S.P.-like drum sounds and considerably more grandiloquent sonic swell than any previous efforts.
While maybe not quite as instantly anthemic as Hate Me!, Needled 24/7 and the rest, both songs crackle with an energy and intensity that makes their creator’s absence all the harder to process. A faithful but fiery cover of Dissection’s Where Dead Angels Lie completes the EP, wherein Alexi sounds genuinely possessed and having the time of his life. Which, of course, is how we shall remember him.