Alexi Laiho brought light to the dark of death metal

The Children of Bodom frontman, who has died aged 41, used virtuosity, neoclassical melody and rock-star charisma to invigorate and popularise extreme music

Death metal was never supposed to be fun. Pioneered in Sweden and the US by bands such as Death and Grave, it was a niche built around abrasive noise, with chainsaw-like guitar tones, relentless screaming and rushing rhythms. Its lyrics dealt with gore, fear and satanism. It was meant to be pure horror condensed into sound.

Alexi Laiho clearly didn’t get the memo. In a genre that is predominantly morose, for 22 years the singer/guitarist led the celebrated Finnish band Children of Bodom – co-founded with drummer Jaska Raatikainen in 1997 – through a career of neoclassical melodies and anthemic compositions. During that time, his musical back-and-forths with keyboardist Janne Wirman became the heart and soul of the group, adding new levels of vibrancy to extreme metal. In 2019, Children of Bodom sadly split and, barely a year later, their former frontman has died aged 41.

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