Devil horns, Viking horns. When it comes to crowd killin', Scandinavian metal crews have always slashed neck-and-neck with their American rivals. And now, bellering in English, they look ready to make U.S. headbangers forget Slayer.
In the trenches 13 years, Finland's Children of Bodom (named in tribute to a 1960 triple teenage murder at a Finnish lake) are true bridge builders. At a time when most metalers were trashing virtuosic flash, Bodom turned up the tech; Thursday's show at Anaheim's House of Blues demonstrated why ax-man/rasper Alexi Laiho has mustered ever-burgeoning mobs. Leg planted on monitor, this classic perma-hunched guitar geek erected instrument upon thigh and ripped out endless sequences of precise, ear-spinning solos and dagger-like riffs, many drawn from last year's hyperdynamic, wall-to-wall-awesome "Are You Dead Yet?" album.
Plenty of credibility stands behind the title and Laiho's grim visage -- he capped the millennium by trying to kill himself, and the power ballad "Mask of Sanity" comes off as nonfiction -- but Bodom's new "Chaos Ridden Years" DVD, studded with beer chugs and an onstage sausage barbecue, flaunts the quintet's party side.
The young audience was armed for whatever, generating unanimous chants of "Bo-dom!" in response to the charged counterpoint among Laiho, quicksilver keyboardist Janne Warman and effortlessly thundering drummer Jaska W. Raatikainen. When the band's machine-like drive and slick tempo changes veered slightly ditchward toward the set's end, it was actually a rock 'n' roll relief. All hail the few bartenders who dispensed much-needed free water to retreating pit dogs.
The preceding set by Swedish vikings Amon Amarth was more fun than pillaging a village. Burly, hairy Johan Hegg stomped around shirtless, bawling commands over the anthemic melodies and martial rhythms of his cohorts, whose unceasing grandiosity, which can feel like too much of the same thing on record, delivered body blows live.
Curiosity simmered over the manifestation of France's Gojira, whose "From Mars to Sirius" CD stands out as one of the year's freshest metal inventions. The quartet's slow, lurching rhythms, streaks of laser guitar, and environmentally concerned lyrics show huge potential that hasn't quite detonated; right now the group comes off a shade distant, intellectual, repetitive.
Appalachian metalers Sanctity opened with rip-roaring thrash, pumped up with the slippery flex of dark cannonball Zeff's lead guitar. It was Belushi metal, and it got an unusually sweaty response for an opener.
The same bill hits L.A.'s Wiltern LG tonight.
Children of Bodom
Where: Wiltern LG, 3790 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles
When: 7:30 tonight
Contact: (213) 380-2005