Children of Bodom deliver a Shovel Knockout in Chicago

Photo of Children of Bodom

Band Photo: Children of Bodom

I hadn’t seen Children of Bodom live since they opened for Megadeth back in 2008 so of course I was anxious to see them play again. The fact that they were playing with Devin Townsend and Septicflesh just made this show that much harder to overlook. Plus the fact that The House of Blues has a great location and is known for providing great sound quality sweetened the deal.

After meeting an interviewing Devin Townsend himself for an interview that will be posted shortly as well as getting my Strapping Young Lad collection signed, I unfortunately had to deal with The House of Blues draconian security which required me to leave leave the backstage area, get a ticket after being confirmed to be on the guest list, head to the back of the line and then reenter the venue. So I’d personally like the thank the management, box office and security for helping the most impatient man you’ll ever meet reenter a venue that he already had access to.

Thankfully this was only a mere hour-long inconvenience and I was able to enter the venue in time to see Septicflesh. While I actually enjoy Septicflesh’s albums, their stage show needs a bit of work. It’s too theatrical and artificial. The mic stand shaped like a Lovcraftian Eldrich Abomination as well as Spiros Antoniou’s overly flamboyant stage presence crossed the line between enthralling and distracting for me. The band needs to tone things down a bit if they want to be taken seriously, particularly in the North American market which things are far less pretentious than the band’s native Europe.

Other issues that I had with the band included only playing songs from the two most recent albums and the use of a DAT machine for the clean vocals. I don’t know why Sotiris Vagenas wasn’t provided a second mic on stage but seeing him not even lip sync during the clean vocals made their set seem plastic. The absence of a live keyboardist was hard enough to overlook but the lack of live clean vocals made me feel uneasy. After fans saw through the artificiality of Dragonforce back in 2006 metal fans have demanded that bands have an organic live presence. Crossing the line further than Ashlee Simpson isn’t the way to win people over in metal. A band as old as Septicflesh should know that by now.

The band will need to provide a more raw show during their next tour. I’m still a fan and I hope to see them play again in the hope that they’ll be able to redeem themselves. They’re still one of the best death/doom bands ever and the best to not come out of the UK. It’s just a shame that they underwhelmed me.

Thankfully the rest of the show was excellent. I wasn’t wowed by Obscura when I saw them play with The Black Dahlia Murder but the band’s live show has improved tenfold within the course of a year. Their playing was tighter the vocals were improved and I finally understood why the band has gotten so much good press. My entire opinion of Obscura changed within an hour and I’m certainly going to check out their albums. Sadly I never purchased any of their music so I have no idea what their setlist was but I enjoyed seeing them. Hopefully I’ll get into their music a bit more between now and the next time they’re in town.

Even though I never saw Strapping Young Lad live back in the day, I was still happy to finally see Devin Townsend live. The man has a great stage presence and his stage banter is hysterical, including at one point mentioning randomly that his favorite animal is the unicorn on stage. Devin is such a prolific artist that there sadly wasn’t enough time in his set to cover many of his best songs. As much as I enjoyed his set, I couldn’t help but feel that it was nothing more than an appetizer for an inevitable headline tour. This only made me feel so much more upset that SYL rarely if ever headlined back in the day.

Finally, Children of Bodom took the stage which meant that for the first time in three years I was able to hear Henkka Sepalla’s bass audibly. While they once again played nothing from “Something Wild,” the band is still a very impressive live force. The new material sounds great live, especially Shovel Knockout which will probably remain on the band’s set for the foreseeable future. The band’s detractors will always despise everything after Hatebreeder but as somebody who was only let down by one album that the band has done, I loved hearing the new songs.

I could go without three songs from Are You Dead yet but otherwise the setlist was fantastic. More importantly, the band remembered to play songs from all but one of their albums, ensuring that all fans in the audience except for those cryogenically frozen since 1997 would be able to hear the band play something familiar. It’s sad to see so many “Bloddrunk” songs leave the band’s set after only one album and the ending of “Children of Bodom” getting cut off but I was happy with the emphasis on tracks from “Hate Crew Deathroll.” Also, hearing “Downfall” live never gets old.

Every member of CoB is an excellent musician with a strong presence who are able to juggle technicality with theatrics, in particular Alexi Laiho. There’s a reason why he’s considered to be a guitar legend which made it awesome to see Laiho play some of his most famous solos like the ones for “Needled 24/7” and “Follow the Reaper.” He’s still one of the best guitarists alive today and seeing him play a club show allowed me to pay attention to his technique which I wasn’t able to do three years ago. The only flaw in his performance was his need to talk to Janne Wirman midsong on more than a few occasions. Other than that, Laiho had a great stage presence.

The hardest part of the show for me was leaving the venue. A band like Children of Bodom write so many memorable songs that even a full headline set left me feeling unfulfilled. I’m hoping that CoB are able to return in 2012 for no other reason than the hope that I can hear some classic tracks like “Lake Bodom,” “Tie My Rope,” “Sixpounder” and “Children of Decadence.” If this tour hasn’t come to your hometown yet, I’d recommend calling in sick for work.

Dasher10's avatar

Matt is a freelance writer living in Chicago, Illinois and a metalhead since 1999.