Last month I learned Alexi was dead. I learned it in the worst way, from a RIP comment on a YouTube video. Or maybe that’s the best way to find out your favorite musician is dead, from another fan who loves their music. Maybe that’s better than a breaking news alert from the BBC on your cell phone.
Still, it felt like it should have been a breaking news alert. If it had been, I wouldn’t have stared at the comment, then done a Google search, children of bodom death, hoping all the while that it was one of the other members, whose names I no longer remembered, and not the front man. For someone who sang so much about death to be dead at forty-one seems somehow right and also terribly wrong.
That I pulled up CoB on my laptop was itself a coincidence. It’s been almost twelve years since I listened to them religiously, Alexi’s voice and riffs in my ears while I imagined myself hundreds of miles away, headbanging at a death metal concert in Rio or Helsinki and not cleaning bathrooms in a missionary commune in southern Brazil. I had a lot of anger then, a need to escape, a do or die mentality that I found voice for in Alexi’s screams. They calmed me too somehow. Secular music of any kind, but especially metal, was forbidden. The adults said people who listened to metal were angry, but the only thing that made me less angry was to have someone else’s anger—stronger, louder, fiercer—in my ears.
Alexi was more than just an angry voice though. Before I had any friends who were openly gay, back when even the peers who introduced me to metal thought homosexuality was gross, Alexi was an exception. He was an exemplar of cool bisexuality, a man I could point to and say, “Alexi making out with his keyboardist is hot,” with minimal condemnation. Alexi could do anything. It made me think there might be a place in the world, Northern Europe maybe, where I could do anything too.
Recently I’ve gotten angry again. The same kind of anger from my teenager years that eats at my insides because I cannot speak it; because I must, for my own sake, or someone else’s, let the acid tear through my stomach rather than spit it out. You’d think having experienced it before would make it easier, but it only gets more painful. The quiet of the anger is what depletes me, so by the end of the day I’m exhausted without knowing way.
That Alexi is gone is a tragedy. That he is gone now, in a time of no concerts and no travel, when I finally have enough money in my pocket to imagine crossing the world to hear his voice in person, to see his red hair fly, and his hands dance across the guitar; that is personally devastating in a way I have not fully accepted.
I have his music though and like before, it calms me. The louder, the angrier, the better. And now I play it like I used to dream I would. In my car with the windows down and in my kitchen, on full blast, singing along to those words I know from scrawling them in notebooks and saying them over and over in my mind all those years ago. Out loud now, no matter what. That, at least, is something.
K Ferguson grew up as a third-culture kid in a California-born cult in Brazil. She enjoys reading and writing stories whenever she can escape her desk job. The delightful (mac)ro(mic) has previously published one of her tiny pieces. She can be found on Twitter @KFergusonWrites.