Children Of Bodom’s 15th Anniversary Tour at Pop’s
By Matt Albers
It’s no secret that St. Louis, Missouri is a town that seems to be slowly fading into obscurity on the national metal map. A great deal of the area’s remaining metal fans understand that the biggest acts, whether metal superstars like Iron Maiden and Rammstein or more underground legends like Sepultura or Meshuggah, simply pass up this area’s hit-or-miss fan base. Even more mid-level popular metal tours commonly decide against a St. Louis date, but every once in a while, a band or two remembers this all but forgotten part of the country. Case in point: Children Of Bodom’s 15th Anniversary Tour.
This tour, presented by ESP Guitars and Full Metal Jackie, crammed twenty-six dates in just over a month. And to the surprise of many fans, a date at the venue Pop’s in Sauget, Illinois (basically, just across the river in East St. Louis) was very early on the schedule, falling on a Saturday night in early February. The last time Children Of Bodom stopped in St. Louis was in 2009 opening for Lamb Of God along with As I Lay Dying, God Forbid and Municipal Waste, and the last time the band played at Pop’s was a year earlier with The Black Dahlia Murder and Between The Buried And Me. After headlining a summer 2011 tour with The Devin Townsend Project, Septic Flesh and Obscura, it was more than surprising, as well as refreshing, to see that Children Of Bodom had not only not forgotten about St. Louis, but saved their return for their biggest and most important headlining tour to date.
The booked as openers for this grand tour may not have been as heavy or brutal as those previously mentioned on Children Of Bodom’s last tour, but each band’s own unique combination of heaviness and melody complimented each other perfectly. Making their St. Louis debut, Ontario, Canada-based band Threat Signal opened the bill with their familiar, but fortunately not too generic, combination of melodic death metal, metalcore and groove metal. Although vocalist Jon Howard’s live talents and stage presence seemed a bit rough around the edges at times, the band’s sound was crisp, clear and ultimately enjoyable to the already packed crowd, resulting in an overall positive response complete with a few mosh pits. The collaborative efforts from guitarists Travis Montgomery and Chris Feener as well as drummer Alex Rudinger kept spectators attentive, and the enthusiasm of bassist Pat Kavanagh made up for the on-stage slack left by Howard.
Next up were Boston, Massachusetts’ Revocation, a band who’s talent and musical ingenuity easily make them one of the most impressive and important metal bands today. Their complex but meticulous combination of technical death metal and thrash, among other influences even including some jazz, ensured that they were more than a worthy opener for the equally original, eclectic and intense sounds of Children Of Bodom. Revocation’s regular dramatic time signature changes complimented with bass breaks, soaring guitar shreds and galloping double bass-driven drums showcased their incredible talent, especially in songs like “Dismantle The Dictator” and “No Funeral.” All of Revocaton’s combined elements not only make them a band that melds and fits well with so many other diverse forms of metal bands throughout the genre, but it’s also damn near impossible not to find something to like about them. However, it was for the reasons of such diversity and extreme style that seemed to make it difficult for the clearly captivated and impressed crowd to properly react to the amount of awesome they were seeing. That is, until front man David Davidson’s overblown, ridiculous and well-spirited metal antics allowed for fans to loosen up from taking in such an impressive act.
It was clear by this point that the quality of bands on Children Of Bodom’s 15th Anniversary tour were exponentially improving as the night went on, much to fans’ satisfaction. But the most intriguing performance of the night came with the direct support act from Switzerland, Eluveitie. It was surprising enough that this pagan, Celtic, melodic death/folk metal band were able to be booked on such an already promising tour, but seeing a band of this nature play on the relatively small stage of Pop’s, let alone anywhere in St. Louis or the Midwest for that matter, was simply downright astounding. Even more surprising was the large amount of fans such Eluveitie had for a band that one would think would be extremely obscure to the average American metalhead, especially seeing a noticeable chunk of the already large crowd actually leave after their performance. This indicates that for some, Eluveitie was the most desired band to see on the bill.
Eluveitie’s stage show was everything any self-respecting fan would expect from such an atmospherically huge European metal act. Seeing eight musicians crammed onto a small stage flawlessly combining instruments of both metal and traditional Celtic folk music obviously blew everyone’s minds with uproarious applause after every song, including from even the unfamiliar Pop’s security staff. Led by front man Chigrel Glanzmann, Eluveitie seemed to treat the unsuspecting crowd with just as much respect and enthusiasm as they would a crowd of familiar fans. When not playing their instruments or windmill headbanging, clean female vocals from violinist Meri Tadic and hurdy gurdy player Anna Murphy complimented Glanzmann’s death growls, who in turn added mandola and pipe folk sounds along with Patrick Kistler on bagpipes and whistles. Whether simply standing and obsorbing all they were seeing and hearing or moshing like a tribe of wild natives sans bonfire, freshly-killed meat and free-flowing mead, it was clear that all patrons knew that they would most likely never see an act like Eluveitie either at Pop’s or anywhere in St. Louis ever again.
After Eluveitie finished their set, it seemed as though Children Of Bodom had little chance in hell to steal the show of their own 15th Anniversary Tour away from such a unique and well-received act. Fortunately, Children Of Bodom’s reputation for consistently insane and fun music and live shows brought out a great deal of enthusiasm from an already pumped and warmed-up audience, pleased but still not completely satisfied with all the other acts before them. As the lights dropped, the sound of howling wind came over the PA as fans blew the large strips of burlap that had been hanging from the between the stage loft the entire night, resembling the cover art of Children Of Bodom’s most recent album, 2011’s Relentless, Reckless Foverver. The Finnish maniacs quickly stormed the stage to open with “Sixpounder” and “Are You Dead Yet?” Front man Alexi Laiho wasted no time in thanking fans for attending the show especially after acknowledging how long it had been since they had last played here.
Children Of Bodom’s set was both interesting and surprising; clearly, they went with a set list that featured their most beloved songs from throughout their career for this special 15th Anniversary Tour. This meant that some of their more famous songs (particularly “Needled 24/7” and Blooddrunk favorites “Hellhounds On My Trail” and “Smile Pretty For The Devil”) were unfortunately nixed to make room for older songs like “Kissing The Shadows,” “Children Of Bodom,” “Deadnight Warrior,” “Angels Don’t Kill” and “Bodom After Midnight.” Obviously, essential songs stayed such as “Everytime I Die,” “Downfall,” “In Your Face,” “Hate Crew Deathroll” and “Hate Me!”
As with all the bands that night, Children Of Bodom’s sound was overall very good, with a few sloppy portions that were probably more due to sound board operation. As far as their live show goes, both new and old fans received the extremely fun, high-intensity show from the band that earned them such a reputation for their live shows. It was interesting, however, to see how much of it simply came from Alexi Laiho himself. While all the members played downright perfectly, and their stage presence tight with constantly running around the stage and jumping on different microphones, all members other than Laiho seemed a tad unenthusiastic. Now, this could just be because Laiho kept his signature “Wildchild” stage presence constant throughout the set (overall shredding, calling for crowd participation, guitar shoulder spins and all), but it seemed like the rest of the band may have been going through the motions. Even keyboardist Janne Wirman played precisely but with little enthusiasm, only thoroughly headbanging during one song, and when not playing keyboards was either playing air drums along with Jaska Raatikainen or drinking. This rather lethargic behavior gave the impression that he may have been tired, sick or drunk. Fortunately, Wirman would seem to perk up when Laiho would join him on his performance platform for either a guitar/keyboard duel or duet.
The impression that Alexi Laiho may have been hogging the spotlight could have just been from the perspective of a first-time Children Of Bodom show experience, because it was undeniable that, as far as live musical performance goes, all members of Children Of Bodom truly did act together perfectly to create a show that both veterans and virgins to their did not walk away from disappointed. Other than the notion of “the Alexi Laiho show,” everything else about Children Of Bodom’s set was purely exciting for both old and new fans alike. The bill of opening acts booked sweetened the deal for all attendees and, although not perfect, the sound quality of this show was everything a St. Louis metal fan could begin to ask for. It is more than reassuring to see that a band like Children Of Bodom, who had and still has a successfully growing fan base in St. Louis, are not afraid to take the time to come back for a performance when they can. Especially, when bringing on an opening bill that works so well with such unique and original bands. It may be safe to say that fans left Pop’s that night feeling that they at least got their money’s worth, if not made a profit after the experience of Children Of Bodom’s sure to be legendary 15th Anniversary Tour…even more especially because Eluveitie was a part of it, too.