Children of Bodom turned a Sunday night into a blackened power metal odyssey amidst the storms that howled outside in the sleepy, Old World borough of Millvale. A frail looking Alexi Laiho had no time for jokey pop covers, opening with the vampiric blitz of “Are You Dead Yet?” to the delight of the respectably-numbered crowd who clapped and shouted along to everything as if it were Wacken Open Air. From there on in, it was a non-stop joyride through Heaven, Hell, Asgard, Avalon, and all points in between. A buoyant thrash metal ethic was at the fore, be it through classics such as “Angels Don’t Kill” and rhythmic newer material like “Platitudes and Barren Words,” Children of Bodom were fiercely on point from the maniacal keys of Janne Warman, to the Mustaine/Friedman interplay of Laiho and Dan Freyberg. One could take King Diamond, Venom, Cradle of Filth, Randy Rhoads-era Ozzy, Uriah Heep, and Hammerfall without ever hearing Children Of Bodom’s music and miraculously create a similar band. This having been my fourth Children of Bodom encounter, I can say that they still have the “it” factor in their claws after two decades of pioneering, speedway havoc.
The ritualistic blackened doom of Summoner’s Circle proved to be the highlight of the undercard for me, their spooky, occult vibe and costumes making them as interesting visually as they were musically. Ruins of Beverast and Celtic Frost came to mind as they blazed the path for Wolfheart and Swallow The Sun, two bands that apparently have a combined following of their own. Like Children of Bodom, Wolfheart also hail from Finland, and are at least influenced somewhat by their elder countrymen, their brand of melodic death making for a blustery and beastly set. Swallow the Sun I still have yet to warm to. Paradise Lost are an obvious comparison, but the Trouble-infected pinched harmonics and rainy twin leads that evoked Mournful Congregation managed to make this cynic crack a smile. Both bands commanded respect from me for being formidable performers even if their material still hasn’t completely reached its way into my soul, and their swelling fanbases are deserved.
After the winds died down with the chords for the night, it was apparent that ample support exists for this corner of the metal kingdom in the Pittsburgh area. No one was left disappointed, and the good, bloody cheer was abundant.