Alexi Laiho: A hugely influential musician who helped shape the course of modern metal guitar

The Children of Bodom guitarist, who died suddenly on 4 January, was an important figure in modern metal.

Alexi Laiho

Image: Frank Hoensch / Redferns

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Finnish guitarist, frontman and Children of Bodom founder Alexi Laiho has died at the age of 41.

Laiho’s bandmates in Bodom After Midnight, a spin-off group formed when Children of Bodom was dissolved in 2019, announced the news on social media, releasing a statement via their label, Napalm Records. Details of Laiho’s cause of death are still outstanding but, in another more recent statement signed by his former Children of Bodom bandmates, it was revealed that Laiho had suffered from “long-term health issues” during his final years. The guitarist died at his Helsinki home sometime last week.

Born in Espoo, southern Finland, in 1979, Laiho picked up the guitar during his teenage years after having learnt the violin. Inspired by Scandinavia’s scabrous early 1990s metal scene and acts such as Entombed and Dissection, as well as genre forefathers such as Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Metallica, Laiho formed melodic death-metal band Inearthed with drummer Jaska Raatikainen in 1993. Four years later, the band changed its name to Children of Bodom, signed to Finnish label Spinefarm Records, and released its debut full-length, Something Wild.

Alexi Laiho
Image: Ragnar Singsaas / Getty

In the years since, Children of Bodom released two live LPs and a further nine studio records, including 2003’s Hate Crew Deathroll, the band’s first of six Finnish No.1 albums and regarded by many as their strongest work. In his own Children of Bodom album ranking, published by Kerrang in 2019, Laiho selected the album as the band’s best, saying, “That’s the album that fucking broke everything for us: the shows got bigger, festivals got bigger, and we sold a lot of records”.

Children of Bodom, one of Finland’s biggest-selling acts of any genre, played its final show in Helsinki in December 2019, with Laiho forming Bodom After Midnight with rhythm guitarist Daniel Freyberg thereafter.

Frequently cited among metal’s greatest guitarists and frontmen, Laiho’s shred-heavy skills can also be heard across music by side projects Sinergy, Kylähullut, and Finnish supergroup The Local Band, as well as on guest spots on Impaled Nazarene and Thy Serpent releases. Colleagues and community members were quick to share their memories and tributes.

Lamb of God guitarist Mark Morton called Laiho a “monumental talent” and a “genuine, caring and thoughtful person”, and Testament’s Alex Skolnick said that Laiho “created new possibilities in extreme metal with technically sophisticated solos that held their own alongside the best in more popularized metal genres”.

Gus G described Laiho as one of the greatest guitarists of his generation, said that his passing is “a loss for the metal world and for the guitar community”, and shared an image of the two together on the cover of a 2003 issue of Young Guitar magazine.

Guitar brand ESP, with which Laiho has had a signature line since 2003, announced that its staff are devastated by the passing of “one of [its] most beloved and influential signature artists and great friends”.

Laiho’s final recordings were for Bodom After Midnight and are to be released posthumously. He is survived by his wife Kelli Wright-Laiho.

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