Change. Quite a tough pill for some to take. Others welcome it with open arms. It depends on the situation. In the music world you'll find that change is in the air quite a lot. Unless your band is named Hammerfall, you will probably at least make some effort to the change the sound, writing process, or some other music related aspect, subtle or noticeable. Children of Bodom has encountered this change a few times during their musical career. While early one, such differences were fairly subtle; less atmospheric, more atmospheric, a little faster, etc. But the band made its first major change in 2003 with its Hate Crew Deathroll. While not a drastic modification from Bodom's neoclassical power metal days, it foreshadowed a heavier, darker sound from the extreme power metal heroes. Well, lo and behold, when 2005's Are You Dead Yet rolled around, such a path was treaded.
Are You Dead Yet was a difficult album for some. Gone (for the most part) are the uncontrolled neoclassical guitar and keyboard solos which had become a trademark in the band's style. Gone are the tortured black metal shrieks which once shouted lines such as "Bodom after midnight / Bodom after midnight whoa-oh!" or "In the night I crave to feel your breath / and your touch like an angel of death." Instead, such novelties have been replaced by a greater emphasis on aggressive riffs, and more distorted screams and shouts. Of course, cries of sell-out were bound to, and were indeed, heard. But has Children of Bodom descended to the point where such claims are accurate? Not a chance. Right from the start the band comes out of the gates with the same ferocious force and intense speeds that made earlier albums so much fun to listen to. Unlike the album's predecessor, Hate Crew Deathroll, the fire seems to have been re-lit underneath Children of Bodom's collective asses, as the music feels inspired and fresh. Each musician, except the bassist really, excels at his roll, especially Janne Warman. While his outstanding leads can still be heard every once and awhile, Janne focuses more on creating mysterious atmospheric or rhythmic elements with his performances. Songs such as Living Dead Beat and Next in Line do a particularly good job showcasing his role on the album.
In terms of songs, Are You Dead yet features several excellent performances. Next in Line and Bastards of Bodom are two of the better tracks to be heard on the album. Both offerings do a very good job in alluding to Children of Bodom's older sound, and their heavier direction, featuring solid riffs, intense drumming, and decent song writing. On both of these tracks can be found what are likely Are You Dead Yet's strongest choruses. With that said, the heavier material that everyone seems to be so caught up in does not fall behind. Are You Dead Yet, Living Dead Beat, Trashed, Lost & Strung Out, and some parts of If You Want Peace…Prepare for War offer listeners brutal (the good kind) accounts of Bodom's book of heavy metal. Each of these tracks are very riff based, significantly more than any of the Hate Crew's older albums, and should impress fans of the thrash metal genre (which also seams to be a prime influence on Bodom's guitarist/frontman Alexi Laiho). The only tracks I cannot say that I am a fan of are In Your Face, We're Not Going to Fall, and the lesser sections of If You Want Peace… Each of these tracks contains an unrelenting heaviness that rears its head again and again, but neither of them really take such a characteristic and mould it into an asset. In other words, they're pretty bland and uninteresting.
After four largely adored albums, Children of Bodom finally released Are You Dead Yet, one which recieved mixed reviews. Many fans and critics alike were disappointed by the direction that the Finish band took, and it often gets labelled as the bands absolute worst. Even though I do not consider the apparently controversial album to be among the band's best (i.e. top two or three), I do feel that it is a very worthwhile album to listen to. Are You Dead Yet contains a variety of well written songs which excel at creating the several characteristics that make up the tried, tested, and true Children of Bodom formula. If you're a fan of thrashy, melodic, riff laden metal, don't hesitate in checking this album out. However, I would suggest that newer listeners of Children of Bodom check out one of their older albums like Something Wild or Hatebreeder first.
Next in Line
Bastards of Bodom
Are You Dead Yet
Living Dead Beat