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Alexi Laiho, Children of Bodom frontman and metal virtuoso, dies aged 41

Alexi Laiho
(Image credit: Joby Sessions / Future)

Alexi Laiho, frontman of Finnish metal icons Children of Bodom, has died aged 41.

The guitarist passed away in his home in Helsinki, Finland last week – December 2020 – after suffering "long term health issues" in his final years.

A statement by Daniel Freyberg, Mitja Toivonen and Waltteri Väyrynen of Bodom After Midnight – a supergroup formed from the ashes of Children of Bodom – reads, “We are crushed by the sudden passing of our dear friend and band member. Words cannot describe this shock and the profound sadness that we feel.”

Says Laiho's sister, “We are all absolutely shocked and devastated. We ask for privacy and understanding during these hard times. My little brother's funeral will take place privately.”

“Alexi was the most loving and magnificent husband and father. Our hearts are eternally broken”, Laiho's wife Kelli Wright-Laiho says.

Laiho was renowned for his technical solos, which showcased his dextrous sweep-picking ability and ability to weave neoclassical scale runs with influences from across the musical spectrum.

Born Markku Uula Aleksi Laiho in Espoo, Finland on April 8 1979, Laiho's first instrument was the violin, before he switched to guitar at the age of 11, influenced by the hair-metal music of the era.

“That was where it started for me. Bands like Twisted Sister and Mötley Crüe, and guitarists like Van Halen and Randy Rhoads always had good guitar riffs and solos,” he told Guitar World in 2010. “It led to harder music like Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth, and ultimately to death metal and black metal.”

Laiho went on to form Children of Bodom (then Inearthed) in 1993 with drummer Jaska Raatikainen, and sought to fuse influences from all areas of metal.

“I was all about black metal, but in those circles you were not allowed to play lead guitar. Guitar solos are not allowed in true black metal,” he told GW.

“Bodom was really my response to that. I took some of the elements I liked from traditional black metal and mixed it with the things that I liked in thrash metal. It has elements of both, but at the same time it’s neither.”

The band released their debut album, Something Wild, in 1998, and its highly accomplished, Yngwie Malmsteen-inspired solos quickly won Laiho acclaim among guitarists, and eventually a spot as a Guitar World lesson columnist.

Children of Bodom went on to become one of Finland’s biggest-selling artists of all time, releasing 10 studio albums throughout a 26-year career. Their final record, Hexed, was released in 2019.

That same year, Laiho revealed that a “massive shoulder operation” had forced him to relearn how to play guitar.

“Apparently, my collar bone had been broken for about 10 years,” he told Guitar World. “It’s not a nerve problem, but some of my fingers are not up to speed on a lot of things. It’s a slow process; I’m still not quite back to where I was before the operation.”

The closing weeks of 2019 saw Children of Bodom perform their farewell convert, as bassist Henkka Seppälä, keyboardist Janne Wirman and drummer Jaska Raatikainen departed the band, leading Laiho and rhythm guitarist Daniel Freyberg to announce new group Bodom After Midnight in March 2020.

The new line-up released three songs and shot one music video, which will be released posthumously.

Besides Children of Bodom, Laiho was known for his work with acts including Warmen, Sinergy, Kylähullut and The Local Band. He also led a group of 100 guitar players at Helsinki Festival in 2015 for 100 Guitars From Hell, an epic concert piece he composed, and released a string of V-shaped signature models with ESP Guitars.

“Music is about creating something that doesn’t exist,” Laiho told Total Guitar in 2016. “It’s also a bit like playing the lottery – you never know what’s going to happen. You know what you’re doing, but as far as the results – you never know.”