AS GUITAR WORLD Crosses into its fifth decade of existence, we’ve certainly had to grapple with our fair share of deaths over the years. We’ve said goodbye to countless six-string heroes, including Randy Rhoads, Chuck Berry, Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Malcolm Young, Prince, Tom Petty and Chris Cornell, among many others. Truth be told, it always stings a bit more when we have to bid farewell to one of our own, someone who not only had an impact on us musically, but who we were proud to consider part of our family. Dimebag Darrell, Chuck Schuldiner and Eddie Van Halen are a few who fall into that esteemed category — and it is with a heavy heart that we add Alexi Laiho to our list of friends who left us much too soon.
Laiho, longtime guitarist and vocalist for wickedly shredderific Finnish speed/death metal outfit Children of Bodom, died at his home in Helsinki, Finland, in late December 2020. Details of his death, including an official date, were still unclear when the news broke in early January — all that is known at this point is that the 41-year-old musician had suffered from long-term health issues during the last years of his life.
Guitar World’s history with Laiho dates back to 2003, 10 years or so after the guitarist formed the group Inearthed with his longtime friend Jaska Raatikainen; Inearthed would record three demo tapes before signing a deal with Spinefarm Records and changing their name to Children of Bodom. Laiho first appeared in the magazine’s November 2003 issue; writer Brian Stillman accurately described Children of Bodom in the short introductory article as having a “crushingly brutal, yet melodically complex sound that combines million-mile-an-hour power chords with sweeping arpeggios, Vai-inspired solos and infectious leads.” Laiho became a fixture in our pages for many years afterward, as we wholeheartedly embraced our mission to champion this young world-class musician as the new hotshot shredder in town. He gave us his time for interviews and photo shoots, participated in lessons both in print and on video, became a Guitar World celebrity columnist between 2004 and 2005, and even conducted a brief interview with the aforementioned JeffHanneman from Slayer in our September 2006 issue. Laiho appeared on the cover of our April 2005 Virtuoso Issue alongside Steve Vai and Zakk Wylde and also earned a spot in our 50 Fastest Guitarists roundup in July 2008, as well as our 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists of All-Time blowout special in March 2004. Yes, there was a whole lotta Laiho in our pages over the years — Alexi never said no to any of our requests, and it was our pleasure to devote as much ink to his cause and his music as we did.
Alexi Laiho was born Markku Uula Aleksi Laiho on April 8, 1979, in Espoo, Finland. He showed virtuosic signs at an early age, learning to play violin at five and listening primarily to classical music as a youth. His parents even told him that he was singing before he could talk. “It’s a little weird, I know,” the guitarist acknowledged to Guitar World in 2005. At 10, Laiho had a religious awakening: he saw God. “I was 10 years old and watching MTV when the video for Steve Vai’s ‘For the Love of God,’ from the Passion and Warfare album, came on,” he told us. “That was the moment I knew I had to start playing. Not only did it blow me away, it also opened up a whole new world for me.”
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