Children of Bodom have now reached a milestone in their discography. Hexed shows the Finnish metal band extraordinaire reach the double-digit mark. The album relates both the modern and classic side of COB. Hexed is the culmination of over 20 years of innovation in the melodic death field. Sentenced, Amorphis and Stratovarius paved the way for Finnish metal and their influence wasn’t lost on Children of Bodom. However, these bands provided a mere spark, while COB’s own ingenuity stoked the flames. One of the true guitar heroes of this era, Alexi Laiho’s combination of concrete-textured tones, rich harmonies, and neoclassical scales resulted in a genre-bending concoction that’s both complex and catchy.
Part of the reason the band has stayed active and consistent in their releases is the majority of the band has been together since the beginning. Daniel Freyberg is the only new member on Hexed. Freyberg (ex-Norther, a group heavily influenced by COB) played a major role as in providing a second guitar. Bassist Henkka “Blacksmith” Seppälä conducted the following interview via Skype while enjoying some downtime before heading out to North America on their tour with Swallow The Sun and Wolfheart supporting. Read his thoughts on this tour package, recording Hexed, the addition of Freyberg and how Finland’s metal scene has changed since COB started.
Darren Cowan: Tell us about the new album, Hexed.
Henkka “Blacksmith” Seppälä: It’s the tenth album. We had been working on it for quite some long and it was ready by last summer. It was mastered and mixed before July, so we’ve had it for a long time. Actually, I haven’t heard it. I haven’t listened to it ever since. Now, when I get all the clips from social media, I’m getting excited again. There are a lot of good tracks that I’m excited about, still. We made two videos and we’re going to make a couple more lyric videos. There are a lot of tracks now we’re trying to figure a set list for. We’re actually, for the first time in a long time, including a lot of new songs in our set list. First, we have to see how they work live. I’m really excited, a little more excited than normal, actually.
Please tell us about some of those tracks you really like.
My favorite is “Platitudes and Barren Words.” It was the number two we composed for the album, and ever since it’s been my favorite one. It has the usual Children of Bodom melody — quite catchy, easy going, verse-riff, but quite catchy. I think the favorite part for me on the album is the C part, which I think is the best thing Alexi [Laiho] ever wrote for us. That’s my favorite track, but there are plenty of others. “Hecate’s Nightmare” is my favorite slower one. I didn’t like “This Road” at first, but I’ve become a big fan of that one, too. “Under Grass and Clover,” the first video track, was my favorite since the beginning. “Knuckle Duster” is a remake of a song that’s really old (2004). It was only included on a B-side, like an EP [Trashed, Lost & Strungout]. Hopefully, it gets the attention that it deserves.
How does this album compare to your last album, I Worship Chaos?
I think it’s more technical. It has more old school riffing. I think when you think about technical guitar riffing, there is more of that on this record. There are more songs, also, I don’t know if you say more diverse. It’s hard for me to compare the stuff to the older stuff because the new stuff is very Children of Bodom, but then with time they evolve to do their own things. A couple of fans who heard the album said it was a great mixture of old and new. For us, they are all new (laughs).
You recorded at Danger Johnny Studios. There is some continuation working there. What brings you back to this studio?
It’s our own place. We’ve had it for a while. That’s a place where it’s super convenient to record, especially the drums. We’ve done only two albums on drums there, but it’s super easy to record the guitars, keys, bass, vocals and now the drums are also sounding quite good in that room. It’s very convenient because it’s our own place. Of course, you still have a deadline, but you can work whenever you want, pretty much 24/7. It’s very convenient and the sounding result has always been good, so it’s the perfect place for us to be at the moment.
Janne Warman recorded keys at Beyond Abilities Studios. Why did you record those separately at this location?
That’s Janne’s place. He likes to record on his own. It’s just convenient for him. He can work at his own studio whenever it’s good for him to work. Doing digital stuff with keys, you don’t really need a certain kind of room with acoustics. They’re both in our hometown, so it’s easy to go back and forth if you’re needed.
Daniel Freyberg stepped in on guitar. How was the transition bringing him in for the record?
It was good. He was there since the beginning of the song writing process. We were able to practice the songs with two guitarists from the beginning. Even though he was a new guy, he was not afraid to say his opinions and suggestions on the songs. It’s also refreshing to have a new pair of ears to evaluate the songs. It was refreshing to have him in the composition phase of writing, so Alexi didn’t have to do all the guitars himself. They split all the stuff. Daniel has his own parts and he plays them. Alexi has his parts and he plays them. It’s as simple as that. It’s the same way if we are going to do it live. It was very natural, very easy and refreshing to have him. I’m glad we have him.
Please talk a little about making the videos for this album.
We made two videos. We made “Under Grass and Cover” and we did “Platitudes and Barren Words.” They are full-production videos. Then we did “This Road,” which is a lyric video. We didn’t shoot anything for that. It was done from the label. They’re going to make another one for “Hecate’s Nightmare.” I heard there is an animation guy from Australia who would love to make a fifth video. I really hope that’s going to happen. Then we will end up with five videos. So yeah, two of them are bigger production videos: “Platitudes” and “Under Grass and Cover.”
“Platitudes” is a bigger production. It has a storyline. The band only played with it one day of live shoots in a few locations. The production crew had one or two full days shooting the storyline somewhere outside of the city. It’s like an old school metal video with a horror story with live shots of the band in between. I haven’t seen the full production yet, but it was cool what I saw. It’s like an old school metal video. “Under Grass and Cover” we just ended up doing a live-show video, even though it wasn’t a real live show. We rented a small venue in Helsinki and we invited fans. They could apply via email. We had around 100 fans in a small club. We played the song five times. It has a real live feeling even though it’s not a real show. It turned out quite fun. It’s a really simple live music video, but a very good quality one.
How do you feel about the Finnish melodic death scene, considering you’re one of the bands to really break out playing this melodeath style? Do you see a lot of bands coming out that are influenced by COB?
For me, it’s hard to say what bands are influenced by us. I’m sure there are some. When we started, there were bands you could feel were inspired by us. Some bands said it, like Norther. I don’t think they are alive right now. They were the first that made us say, “Wow, they sound like us!” As far as the Finnish melodic and technical stuff there are so many bands now in that genre, it’s hard to say what is inspired by us. The scene is strong. There are a lot of bands now. I think there are more Finnish bands out there than ever before. Now that I follow my social media there are bands playing all over the world and being quite successful. It’s good to see those bands playing sold out shows in big venues in front of big crowds everywhere in the world. Even though the industry is going through major changes, live music is still there. It’s probably stronger than ever, and the Finnish metal scene is probably stronger than it’s ever been.
What was it like for you when you started? Were Sentenced and Amorphis big influences on you?
Sentenced were one of our main influences and also Amorphis. Sentenced was not so big at that time. I think they had a couple of big tours. When we first started touring, the first European tour we did was 12 days or 12 shows. To us, it was a long tour. We knew that Sentenced had done a four-week tour. We were like, “What the fuck? How can they do a four-week tour?” Nowadays, that’s the normal thing to do. Amorphis was the first band that was going out playing a lot of shows in Europe and even the States. I remember they were playing headline shows in the States in the mid-nineties. That was a really big thing for a Finnish band. Even though they played small venues there, it was thought impossible for a Finnish band to go play the States. Stratovarius was also very big in Europe and in Asia. There were three or four bands before us, and then we and Sonata Arctica came in. Of course, Nightwish is now making history.
COB is gearing up for a big tour in the States with Wolfheart and Swallow The Sun. Fragmentation, Summer’s Circle and Hallow Cry playing select shows. How do you feel about this lineup?
We’ve been wanting to play with Swallow The Sun for a long time, but for some reason we couldn’t make it happen. Now they have their album out almost at the same time as us, so it’s the perfect time for them to play with us. It’s great! I’m really looking forward to it because I’ve been a fan of their music for a long time. It’s going to be nice to go out with them. They are super nice guys. I’m just a bit worried because they drink a lot (laughs). It’s great to be playing with them, finally, after all these years. Wolfheart I’m not so familiar with, but again they’re a Finnish band. So in a way, it’s like a Finnish tour, even though that was not the point. Those three bands are from Finland, so it will be interesting to see how it is.
Where do you go from there? Are you coming back to Europe?
In a few weeks we are going back to rehearsal to get our shit together for the North American tour. Then we have a few weeks off, and we have almost fifteen shows to do in the summer and fests in Europe. That means almost every weekend we have two shows. Then, we have a tour in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. That’s going to be three weeks. Hopefully, we come back and do a headline tour in Europe at the end of the year.
(interview published March 8, 2019)