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Children of Bodom - July 12, 2011 - Mr. Smalls Theater, Pittsburgh, PA

By: David E. Gehlke

Concerts in the summer are supposed to be hot, apparently. It’s muggy outside, so hey, why not have it muggy on the inside? Mr. Smalls seems spacious enough for at least some cool air to sneak in, but ‘twas not the case on this particular evening, where the killer bill of Septicflesh, Obscura, Devin Townsend Project, and Children of Bodom assembled. Yours truly managed to sweat the entire time, although the singer of my band (who probably sweats when he’s ice-fishing) had far more of a sweat worked up. Too bad he didn’t bring his “sweat towel.” That would have done the trick.

Up first were Greece blackened dark metallers Septicflesh, making their second appearance in as many years in Pittsburgh. Touring in support of their excellent The Great Mass, the Greeks relied heavily upon newer cuts like “The Vampire from Nazareth” and “Oceans of Grey” to get the crowd inspired, which is exactly what they did. The band did have one too many “pause for devil horns” moments, which is something Dimmu Borgir does too much as well, yet the swelling throne didn’t seem to mind. Once “Communion” hit the air, Septicflesh had once again bowled over an unsuspecting crowd.

German technical death metal titans Obscura followed next, but were plagued by various audio problems. The guitars were a bit thin (at least from where Blistering was standing), causing the normally skull-crushing (or mind-boggling) material from Cosmogenesis and the band’s latest, Omnivium to not translate as well as it normally would. Nevertheless, “Ocean Gateways” was pretty steller, as was prime cut “Anticosmic Overload.” Bonus points for lead singer/guitarist Steffen Kummerer and his onstage fan. Dude was probably cool as a cucumber during the entire set.

With his stock higher than ever, Devin Townsend and his band of goons got quite the reception, as bald guys should. Townsend was his usual animated self, with a stock of funny faces and expressions to go along with his band’s marching, almost militaristic, but atmospheric sound. This year’s Deconstruction was the focus, although the inclusion of “Resolve!” from 2009’s totally awesome Addicted was a wise one. Townsend’s in-between song banter was priceless, with the Canuck spouting off on the totally-non metal subject of how beautiful life is. Funny thing is that everyone cheered when Townsend said so. He’s a magic man.

Much like Devin Townsend, Children of Bodom’s stock is still quite high…surprisingly (and deservedly) high. And that’s not to say Blistering has ever given up on the Finns, but the band’s 2008 effort Blooddrunk was a total misfire, prompting many (including this scribe) to start preparing to bail altogether. Relentless Reckless Forever rectified all of that, emerging as perhaps the band’s best album since the unstoppable Hatebreeder from 1999. Of course, that was when Bodom was interested in being neo-classical…now they just want to party and floor everyone with killer riff choices.

The band’s song selection was cool, often playing back-to-back numbers from each respective studio album. Highlights included lead single from Relentless “Roundtrip To Hell And Back,” the always-fun “Hate Me,” the daring “Children of Bodom” and ever-popular “Needled 24/7.” Frontman/guitarist Alexi Laiho was in top form, with his axe resting firmly on his outstretched leg while he sang, pulling off tricky and spicy leads without breaking a sweat (although again, we were sweating), while fellow guitarist Roope Latvala was a stoic presence, the perfect balance to the playful antics of Laiho and nimble-fingered keyboardist Janne Wirman.

If there was one takeaway from this evening (other than Mr. Smalls needs a swimming pool), it’s that Bodom’s back catalog is deceptively strong. One-by-one the band rolled out killer songs, and we haven’t even mentioned “Angels Don’t Kill,” “Shovel Knockout,” “Bodom Beach Terror,” and “In Your Face.” Amazing how a band written off by so many for being a flashy novelty without substance ends up having a better selection of songs than 98% of the bands out there. To quote Laiho: “Fuck yeah!”


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