torstai 14. huhtikuuta 2011

The Ugly World Tour is go!

Photo credit: K-Man

Jäähalli, Helsinki, 22nd March
It's 9 am on a sunny but bitterly cold Tuesday morning in snow-covered Helsinki. Outside the appropriately named Icehall, people are already queueing for Children Of Bodom's third show of the Ugly World Tour, which kicked off three nights previously in the northern Finnish city of Oulu. Some of the waiting fans have slept here overnight to secure a front-row position when the doors finally open, still many hours from now, and others have travelled long distances, including one diehard, who has come all the way from earthquake- and tsunami-ravaged Japan to attend all three Finnish shows - respect!

Unlike when previous album Blooddrunk was released and the band headed straight to America, this time the touring for the new album begins in Europe. "I'm really pleased that we're gonna start playing in Europe this time, because the last time I think we went to the US first and then it was too late to headline with that album in Europe. I'm really glad that we're starting in Europe first", Janne commented in a recent interview.

The first two shows, in Oulu and Tampere, are predictably well-attended. At the Tampere show, Alexi reveals that Roope broke his ankle a couple of months previously, but he's now able to stand and play live. Alexi asks the audience to give Roope a round of applause, and Roope responds by telling how he has "a shitload of iron" in his leg now!

But it's the 'hometown' Helsinki show that is the real focus of attention, and the guestlist is as packed as the Jäähalli. As the intro starts, eerie green lights reveal the atmospheric new stage design: a huge backdrop of the RRF album cover artwork, with fluttering, tattered rags suspended from the rig and scattered vari-lites raking the crowd with a blinding white light.

The set opens with a ferocious rendering of Not My Funeral, the title track from the new album, and one of five new songs showcased tonight, and it's clear from the get-go that Children Of Bodom are on blistering form, as the five Finns, who are not only technically accomplished but also a hugely entertaining live band, deliver a masterclass in melodic death metal. And the heat is literally turned up by the addition of flames and pyro on several songs.

The old favourites such as Children Of Bodom and Follow The Reaper are, of course, received rapturously, but the crowd are clearly already familiar with the new material, and songs such as Ugly, Roundtrip to Hell and Back and Shovel Knockout are greeted with equal enthusiasm.

Another innovation to the stage set is a second keyboard for Janne, allowing him some movement around the stage, although at times when Alexi goes to join him for one of their famous duels, it seems as though the frontman may have temporarily lost track of which keyboard to go to, tossing a quick backward look over his shoulder to discover Janne's whereabouts!

Relentless Reckless Forever was certified gold in Finland for first-day sales of over 10,000 copies, and just before the obligatory encore, a representative from Spinefarm comes onstage to announce this achievement, and presents each member of the band with a framed gold disc.

Golden oldies: previous gold discs for Children Of Bodom

Then, it's straight into the anthemic Was It Worth It?, and the crowd is more than ready to join in with the 'Hell yeahs', before Hate Crew Deathroll brings the night to an explosive climax.

Backstage after the show there are plenty of people enjoying the aftermath of a killer show, including the band members' parents. We catch a few quick words with Roope before the band heads off to Helsinki's Bar Bäkkäri for the afterparty and ESP guitar giveaway competition.

Photo credit: Amelie Lund

He's in relaxed mood and tells us he was really happy with the show, and to be back on the road. If the rest of the shows are even half as good as tonight's, it's gonna be one helluva tour!

Pakkahuone, Tampere

Photo credit: Karen Fader McBride

Check out more shots by Karen here

Big up to K-Man for organising our backstage passes

HMV Forum, London, 9th April
Children Of Bodom's popularity in the UK has grown exponentially, and the 5 dates they played here recently were pretty much sold out - the Manchester Academy, for instance, with a capacity of 2,300, had fewer than 100 tickets left unsold. The final show was at London's HMV Forum, and the long queues snaking back round the venue way before the doors were due to open were testament to just how in demand COB have become.

The day after this final show would be an off day for the band as they travelled back to Europe for their next gig, and at least one member of their crew, monitor engineer K-Man, was already dressed down (or should that be up!) for the occasion in the traditional 'hawaiian' shirt (he told us later that all the crew were supposed to have done the same, but somehow it ended up as just him).

Towards the end of main support Amon Amarth's set, Roope makes a surprise appearance onstage, to play the solo on Twilight of the Thunder Gods, much to the delight of the audience.

The Forum has rather unfortunate memories for COB's crew, as this was where, during the Blooddrunk tour a couple of years back, the show was brought to an abrupt end when a member of the audience on the balcony threw beer into the mixing desk below, with predictable results. No such drama this time round, just a killer show from a band that seems to have rediscovered it's appetite and enthusiasm for playing live - maybe they could add another epithet to that new album title: rejuvenated!

We spend some time chatting with K-Man and Neubi once the gig is over and load-out is done. Eventually, the band returns from another afterparty, and they seem pleased when we tell them how much we enjoyed tonight's show. Then it's time for their bus to depart for the ferry-trip to Germany, while we go on the hunt for a cab in Camden at 3am. It's been a great night.

Read Subba-Cultcha's pre-show interview with Jaska here and Blitzkrieg Metal Magazine's video interview with him here

Also check out Kristell Gathoye's photographs here and Mark Holmes' (Metal Discovery) review and photos from the Nottingham show here

Photo credit: Mark Holmes

Küçükçiftlik Park, Istanbul, 18th April
The band's show in Istanbul was played at an outside venue, in wet and chilly conditions - " ... it's fuckin raining and cold as shit out here, but we don't give fuck about that, right?", Alexi commented from the stage, and despite the inhospitable weather, the show went well, and the crowd went crazy. Amongst those enjoying the gig was US pro-skateboarder and co-owner of Zero Skateboards and Fallen Footwear, Jamie Thomas, who, along with Chris Cole and Tom Asta, was featured in the video for the first single from Relentless Reckless Forever, Was It Worth It?

A hatted and hoodied Alexi in chilly Istanbul

Photo credit: Jamie Thomas

On the set of the Was It Worth It? video shoot

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