So, I think we can all agree that time flies – 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of Children of Bodom’s debut album, Something Wild. To celebrate the occasion, the band did what was only natural: organized a tour where they would concentrate on their first four albums. The 20 Years Down & Dirty Tour consisted of 24 gigs in 13 countries all around Europe. Supported by Canadian ONI and Danish Forever Still, Children of Bodom rightfully played the last gig of the tour in Helsinki, Finland, on April 9th, 2017. And what a night it was!
Full gallery to come later.
I came to the venue a couple of hours before the doors opened, because I was determined to ensure a place in the front row, and there were around twenty people already waiting eagerly in front of the doors. This is no rare sight, since Children of Bodom is one of those bands that tend to get people (at least in Finland) to queue for several hours in order to get a place up front. My personal record is around 8-10 hours, back in the days when I was under 20 and didn’t have normal human needs like staying warm, eating properly, or going to the toilet. By the time the doors opened, a bit after 19:00, the line was at least 50 meters long.
The Circus was soon crowded, despite there being two supporting bands before Children of Bodom. Some people headed straight to the counter, but I believe the majority took their place in front of the stage, where they would stay for the whole evening.
The first to take the stage was Canadian ONI, a progressive metal band formed in 2014. Since I’m not really a fan of progressive metal nor am I that familiar with Canadian metal scene, this was the first time I had heard of them. But, I figured that since they were opening for Children of Bodom, they would probably be quite good.
And I was right. The audience didn’t seem to realize at first what had just hit them, once ONI started their set. It took one or two songs before the crowd shook off their bafflement and started to follow vocalist Jake Oni’s lead and raised their fists in the air.
In addition to the band’s great energy on stage, they surprised me with their skill, as well as their choice of instruments. First of all, instead of having keyboards, they had a xylosynth, which is a xylophone gone electric, played by John DeAngelis. I would rank it even cooler than the circular keyboard in Eurovision 2014. Another interesting detail about the band’s instruments was that guitarists Brandon White and Martin Andres, as well as bassist Chase Bryant, preferred their instruments… well… headless. Guitars and basses missing the head stock is probably nothing new, but it was the first time I had witnessed such a sight.
ONI gave the Finnish audience an intense 30-minute set, and probably played themselves into several hearts that night. Assuming this was ONI’s first time in Finland, I hope it won’t be the last. So, welcome back!
After ONI’s prog-fest, it was time for a bit of a mood change with Forever Still. This Danish rock band was signed by Nuclear Blast in August 2016 and released their debut album, Tied Down, the following October. The gig in Helsinki marked the band’s first time in Finland.
As a golden mic stand – decorated with leaves, rope, and a pair of palms – was brought to the stage, I had my own prejudices of what was coming up next. I expected something slowish and gloomy, or at least something totally different compared to ONI and Children of Bodom.
Once Forever Still started their set, I was glad to note that the band was full of energy and movement. The vocalist, Maja Shining, has a great vocal range and my amateur ear would say she has had plenty of vocal training as well. It was a real pleasure to see her really put her soul into the songs. She sang clean vocals most of the time, so when the first shriek came, I was baffled that it was indeed one person making all those noises.
If the band had good stage presence during the songs, they unfortunately lacked it in between. Maja Shining did do some speeches but there were times when the audience would just wait, while the band members took a sip of water or adjusted their instruments between the songs. I would have wished for some more interaction from the other band members as well, since now it was all on Maja’s shoulders.
The silent moments between the songs was probably one of the reasons why the atmosphere seemed to take a bit of a slump, and thus I felt that ONI and Forever Still should have switched places. I think Forever Still has a lot of potential, but they are still a bit rough around the edges when it comes to their live performance and songs. A bit more variety in their songs and some more interaction with the audience would make a huge difference.
Good things come to those who wait. And I have waited long enough. Finally Children of Bodom took over the stage. And they went straight to the point.
Starting the gig with Something Wild’s opening track “Deadnight Warrior” and “In the Shadows” from the same album, the band gave the audience exactly what they came there for. “Black Widow”, “Lake Bodom”, “Red Light in My Eyes, part 2”…this review could be just me listing the songs on the setlist, because for some that would be enough to tell how great the gig was. However, I feel obliged to write a little more than that.
The last gig of the tour was in no less than a sold-out venue. The atmosphere was heated and trance-like – whatever song the band started playing, the crowd would answer with screaming, moshing, and putting their fists and horns up in the air. I couldn’t see the moshpit since I was fully focused on what was happening on the stage, but I could feel the movement behind me.
There were no slumps, no silent moments, not even a thought of checking how much the time remained. With such a hit parade, one could only listen and enjoy – and mosh and sing or scream along. Frontman Alexi Laiho cut the speeches short this time; that night, it was all about music.
The only thing this gig was missing was the legendary singalong moment in “Hate Crew Deathroll.” As the band was playing the song and slowed down for the part where the audience would join in, some kind of mix-up happened. Alexi did point out after the song how ridiculous it was for them to, well, fuck it up, since the singalong part is something they’ve done several times before. Thus I was left without one of my favorite Bodom gig moments, but it’s all forgiven and forgotten. After all, everything else went great.
Like all good things, also this evening had to come to an end. After playing “Children of Decadence”, the band left back stage to have a small break before they were shouted back for an encore. The band ended the night with “The Nail” and “Towards Dead End”, which was a fitting choice for the last song.
After the gig one could sense the exhausted but happy -feeling of the audience. I was also left a bit numb. The 20 Years Down & Dirty Tour was most probably a once in a lifetime occasion – and the realization that something like that will never happen again just felt plain depressing.
Well, luckily there will be plenty of Bodom shows to attend in the future, even if they never play another theme night… unless the band decides to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hatebreeder in 2019. In that case, I’m more than ready.
1. Deadnight Warrior
2. In the Shadows
3. Needled 24/7
4. Black Widow
5. Lake Bodom
7. Angels Don’t Kill
8. Red Light in My Eyes pt. 2
9. Hate Me!
11. Every Time I Die
12. Hate Crew Deathroll
13. Bed of Razors
14. Children of Decadence
15. The Nail
16. Towards Dead End
Photos: Marco Manzi