Long hair. Tight pants. Heavy metal band tees. Angry headbanging. Wildly swinging fists against a backdrop of wailing guitar riffs and double bass beats. This was the scene – an orgy of metalheads – in the moshpit at Children of Bodom’s gig at Fort Canning Park on Nov 17.

This was first time the Finnish heavy metal band has set foot in Singapore. Known for dabbling in elements from different metal subgenres, ranging from melodic death metal in 1 song to thrash metal in the next, they were here as part of their Ugly World Tour 2011.

“Ugly” refers to the track of the same name on their latest album Relentless Reckless Forever, released in March. But it’s also an apt description of that almost violent congregation of youth in a celebration of metal fanaticism. In a form of revelry that’s probably inexplicable to most adults, the fans at the show formed a small pit in the crowd, circling it with wildly flailing arms, while Alexi Laiho and the rest of the “Hate Crew” performed onstage.

Despite a moderate turnout of a few hundred, it was clear that Children of Bodom has an extremely dedicated posse of followers in Singapore. The 18-year-old band is one of Finland’s most popular artistes, and lead singer and guitarist Laiho is regarded as one of the best guitarists in the world, having also appeared on the lists of “100 Greatest Heavy Metal Guitarists of All Time” and “50 Fastest Guitarists of All Time” in Guitar World Magazine.

The VIP area at the foot of the stage was meant only for photographers, and was surrounded by metal barriers – with the majority of the crowd behind this enclosure. This did nothing but frustrate fans who wanted to get closer to the Finnish quintet. In the middle of the performance, they finally managed to surge forward, toppling the heavy barricade in a stampede towards the stage.

While this caused some panic among the security guards, who promptly replaced the barriers, Laiho and his crew were very amused. It seems that Children of Bodom are no strangers to crazy fan antics and Laiho, the only member who spoke to the crowd between songs with a surprisingly good command of English, was more than happy to rile up the crowd even further with his obscenity-laden monologues, briefly sharing his experience being in Singapore for the first time.

The band played a tight 2-hour-long set with excellent technical precision, performing songs such as “In Your Face” and “Angels Don’t Kill”, from albums both new and old. Laiho was undoubtedly the star that night, with rapid-fire finger-tapping that accelerated to an almost sonic blur during his solos. The rest of the band was in top form as well: Jaska Raatikainen showed his prowess on the drums, while Roope Latvala on rhythm guitar and Henkka Seppala on bass impressed with great chemistry. The final element in Children of Bodom’s awe-inspiring performance was Janne Wirman on keyboards, dishing out ominous yet melodic tunes that served as the backbone to each song – effectively casting an eerie, sinister atmosphere over the entire show.

Despite vicious song titles like “Are You Dead Yet?” and “Shovel Knockout”, the band came across as an easy-going bunch, often smiling and joking on stage. Their joy in performing clearly rubbed off on the primarily teenage audience – while the slamdancing and moshing was rough at times, it was all in the name of good fun.

Children of Bodom relentlessly displayed their diverse musical styles, leaning towards vicious thrash metal on ‘Bodom Beach Terror’, before opting for stronger elements of melodic black metal on ‘Bodom after Midnight’. The real beauty of the band’s work is how they refuse to confine themselves to any specific metal subgenre. While this has led to much debate, the band is respected and renowned for their truly unique craft. This, coupled with the members’ expertise in their respective instruments, have accounted for the success of this Finnish metal powerhouse.

As the gig drew to an end, the band finished off their set with ‘Downfall’, arguably one of their most well-known songs, from their 1999 album Hatebreeder. The fans, however, wanted more. After barely a minute of chanting for an encore, the band returned to the stage for 2 final songs – “Blooddrunk”, followed by “Hate Crew Deathroll”. The fans, fully aware that it’d be the last song that night, chanted the chorus resoundingly as Children of Bodom lit up the stage with a final spectacular performance.