Release Date: April 21st, 2020
When Children of Bodom crashed the metal scene back in 1997, they captivated listeners with their blend of death metal, rock, and power metal. They became one of metal’s most recognizable acts with albums like Are You Dead Yet?, Follow the Reaper, and I Worship Chaos. Frontman Alexi Laiho soon became known as one of the genre’s best guitarists. But this success didn’t happen overnight. It took a lot of mistakes, sweat, and practice to get there. Laiho’s journey from an aspiring musician in Finland to a global metal star is explored in the new English edition of Alexi Laiho – Chaos, Control, & Guitar by Peter Silas.
Laiho gives us a chance to see the man behind the axe. He takes us through his childhood in Espoo, Finland, and how his passion for music started with the Dire Straits. We get a glimpse at his fairly average homelife, schoolyears, and his time as a classical violin. He wouldn’t pick up guitar until in his teens, but once he did, there was no going back. Though he touches on his other hobbies – mainly cars – and his love life, he’s most passionate and detailed when talking about music.
His detail about his guitars, having studied music theory, and the high standards he holds for himself as a musician gives us a glimpse at Laiho’s inner workings. His guitar skills sound so second nature you don’t realize how much work it took to get to that point. Reading about his passion and the effort he put into his skill and the band gives you a newfound respect for the musician.
The most compelling moments come when Laiho opens up about his mental health. He discusses the anxiety and depression he faced on tour, which led to incidents of self-harm. He even talks about his unstable history with alcohol. These are the most honest parts of the book with Laiho bluntly addressing his issues. He doesn’t dance around it, rather he tackles it head on. Unfortunately, he doesn’t spend much time on the topic. He never goes into detail about how he got to that point, what he was feeling at the time, and how he overcame it. Mental health in the music community has been a hot topic over the past few years. We’ve seen more artists open up about their issues to keep conversations about mental health going. This feels like a missed opportunity for Laiho to connect with Bodom fans in similar situations.
For the most part, the book is a standard rock biography, but it suffers from poor writing and editing. It reads like a raw interview transcript. Rather than a linear story, it’s a bunch of anecdotes loosely strung together. Laiho’s narrative can be confusing as he jumps around in time or abruptly moves on to a different topic as if bored with the conversation. The editor fails at keeping Laiho focused, asking for clarification when needed, and cleaning up the text. The bizarre stylistic choices make things more confusing. Chapters start with unnecessary summaries of what Laiho talks about. Paragraphs are disrupted with repetitive quotes that add nothing to the book. There are so many issues, you’re ready to move on to something else.
Despite its issues, the book has its enjoyable moments. Candid stories of Bodom touring the world, Laiho meeting his heroes, how a Bodom album comes together gives us a side of the band we rarely see. We also get a better idea of how they record an album, the way they approach writing music, and their comradery. Like most bands, they’ve had their share of struggles, mainly the 2015 departure of guitarist Roope Latvala. But don’t expect to find any dirt or slander here. Laiho gives us his side of the story in a straightforward manner. He even touches on the band’s 2019 demise in an updated postscript where he has nothing but good things to say about his time in the band. It’s a shame the band is no more considering all the hard work that went into the band and all the success they achieved. Yet, Laiho remains hopeful about the future ending the book on an optimistic note assuring fans there’s more music to come.
Alexi Laiho – Chaos, Control, & Guitar invites us into Laiho’s world, but in an unfocused manner. It’s a struggle to get through the book with its myriad of writing and editing issues along with Laiho’s inability to stay on topic. You get the impression he would rather talk about music and the industry, instead of his own life. If you can make it past the glaring issues, you’ll find some compelling moments, such as his thoughts on the music industry, inner band operations, and his personal struggles with mental health. Otherwise, it’s a messy book that leaves you unsatisfied.
Alexi Laiho – Chaos, Control, & Guitar is out now.