By Rich Hobson (Metal Hammer)
Bodom After Midnight guitarist Daniel Freyberg reveals the inside story of what would be Alexi Laiho’s final recordings
(Image credit: Terhi Ylimäinen)
Alexi Laiho had barely gotten started with Bodom After Midnight. The band he founded following the dissolution of his former group Children Of Bodom recorded three tracks and played a handful of live shows before his sudden and tragic death in December 2020.
Those three tracks – two Bodom After Midnight originals plus a Dissection cover – will be released this month on the posthumous Paint The Sky With Blood EP. We caught up with Bodom After Midnight guitarist Daniel Freyberg - who also played in the final incarnation of CoB – to look back on what would be the final chapter in Alexi Laiho’s career.
How did you first meet Alexi?
“It was with my first band, Naildown. Our old record label Spinefarm had an office in downtown Helsinki and right next to it was this bar where the staff and bands would hang out. We were sat on a table and he just came walking over to tell us he liked the band – he started asking us about a show we’d played the night before and soon he was buying us drinks. We stayed in touch after that.”
Children of Bodom played their last ever show at the Helsinki Ice Rink on December 15, 2019 – what was the atmosphere like at that show?
“It’s funny; it didn’t feel like a last show! It was like any other show and everybody had their usual routines before and after, with maybe an even bigger afterparty. It didn’t feel so final at the time – it wasn’t until afterwards it really started to sink in.”
Was the plan always to continue making music with Alexi?
“When the decision [to split] was first made, I’d been told Alexi was also stopping. I was so relieved when he called me – he was just like ‘I don’t wanna stop anything – I’ll keep going until I’m in the grave’. He told me he wanted me for his next band, would I be interested? I was just like ‘fuck yeah!’ The other guys were going their own separate ways anyway, so he really was the only option at that point in terms of carrying on to make more music. We didn’t come up with the name until after the final show, sometime early last year. Bodom After Midnight felt just right – it ticked every box.”
What was the vision for Bodom After Midnight?
“It was meant to be Bodom Mark II – a successor for the band. We wanted to make it as big as we could – not just to be a solo project by Alexi, but a whole new band. Only time would tell how that could have been – now we’ll never know.”
How much songwriting input did you have in the Bodom After Midnight material?
“Not really any – they were all Alexi’s, you know? He brings the riffs and melodies, then the band can put input in the arrangements side and suggest fills or whatever. It was probably the smoothest session I ever had though – so much of the work we needed to do had already been completed in our rehearsal space. Although, that did mean the writing and rehearsing was the most intense part of the session! Alexi would come along with ideas for basically everything, which then meant the band had to work fast to learn everything as quickly as possible. From there we could complete a lo-fi demo that we could use as a guideline. It was intense, learning all those parts in such a small timeframe!”
Can you talk us through the three tracks you recorded, starting with Paint The Sky With Blood itself…
“I think this was my favourite track as it was the first we assembled as a band. It took a while to really arrange and we looked at a lot of different options. It’s very melodic but also has this very catchy chorus, with early black metal vibes almost like Dimmu Borgir. Our keyboardist Vili [Itäpelto] wasn’t an ‘official’ member of the band, but he contributed a lot and used a lot of symphonic sounds that really captured those blackened vibes.”
The other original Bodom After Midnight original on the EP is Payback’s A Bitch…
“We finished writing that one right before we went into the studio, so there was quite a bit of time spent tweaking it. I love the verse-riff, but it took a while to get down; it could be tricky when Alexi showed us new riffs because he never used a click-track or anything to work around.”
And the final track is a cover of Dissection’s Where Dead Angels Lie…
“The idea for this actually came from Waltteri, we were all very nervous because we just weren’t sure we could tackle the song! It’s hard to beat the original. It turned out pretty cool; the original song didn’t have keys so were able to make it our own and fit perfectly with what else we were doing.”
Did you record anything else apart from those three tracks?
“Those three tracks are the only ones we rehearsed, let alone recorded. There’s nothing else left. But I’m very happy with it; it really shows Alexi at his best. There’s no proper way go out and end a recording career, but he definitely made something to be proud of.”
Did you get to spend much time with Alexi, given the pandemic?
“Even with COVID, we still did everything in the rehearsal space. We took a month or two when the pandemic hit, but it was just like ‘we can’t sit in our homes forever’; the only option was to head out and write together.”
But you did get to play a few shows. How were they?
“Strange – we were doing social distancing so could only get a very limited number of people in the club, staying back and wearing masks. But on our end it felt super tight, like I’d been playing with them for years. People said some good things online which was a relief – especially because we didn’t know if people would just look at us as the diet COB. We also got to hang out as a band after the shows, which was a very big change from [my time with] CoB. Playing with the new guys was like going on a honeymoon again.”
As the last recorded output of Alexi Laiho, what do you think these three songs says about his legacy?
“It’s Alexi at his best – no doubt. It’s really strong across those two songs, each showing how much of a great songwriter and guitarist he was. There’s nothing more I can add to that really. It was like going back to early COB in terms of what he was writing, so much he even admitted we made him feel 20 years younger.”
Where do you think the band would have gone next, had you continued?
“The plan was to start writing the album in January. That would have been out next step; write, record and look to have it out this year. But now it’s pretty clear we won’t be an active band going forward.”
Bodom After Midnight’s Paint The Sky With Blood EP is out on Apr 23.