Review Summary: A truly overrated offering from the fast becoming legends that are Children of Bodom. Are You Dead Yet? showcases a heavier yet more bland sound and whilst a few tracks are notable the majority are uninspired and forgettable. An average album from a good
Children of Bodom are undoubtedly one of the most well known and well respected metal bands of recent years. The band have achieved a lot in a seemingly short space of time - five studio albums and two live offerings have enabled them to garner the respect of seemingly every metalhead around. However, along with success and larger audiences comes the choices between going down a more mainstream and widely-accepted road or sticking to your guns. In Children of Bodom's case, they may not have drastically moved away from their sound (it isn't as if they started playing a hybrid of country and soul on tis record), but they certainly departed from their more extreme power metal roots into more simplistic territory.
Are You Dead Yet? is by no means a bad album. Just an average one. Gone are the constant flurry of melodic exchanges between guitar and keyboard. Gone are the over the top yet oh-so brilliant dueling guitar and keyboard solos. Well, not completely. But the band might as well have just gotten rid of all their trademarks that made albums such as Hatebreeder and Follow the Reaper so amicable. Hate Crew Deathroll was a sure sign that the band were beginning to develop and refine a sound quite different to that of their earlier material. However, Are You Dead Yet? takes it one step too far. Alexi is by no means a bad guitarists, far from it. But he does lack one thing and that is ingenuity. His solos are bland and obviously influenced by shredders ala Yngwie Malmsteen and all those other neo-classical fanboys. I've never found many of the band's riffs to be that amazing or memorable (apart from Sixpounder, that is awesome) and this album offers generic metal riff after generic metal riff. Songs such album opener Living Dead Beat, the title track and midtempo moshdown In Your Face aren't exactly bad songs. But they sure as hell are boring after one or two listens. Open C chugs are in abundance. In combination with a relatively simplistic rhythm section (Henkka's bass seems to do nothing but follow the guitar lines and Jaska's drumming isn't exemplary on any level) and Alexi's somewhat annoying vocal style, the listener is left feeling a bit bedraggled after a few spins of the disc. Not in a particularly good way either.
Alexi was never the greatest vocalist in the world. A lot of people dislike the band because of him. But he was at least bearable on classics such as Follow the Reaper, employing a black metal esque shriek which was drenched in maniacal reaper obsession. Speaking of reapers, that is largely what Alexi's lyrics are about. He certainly isn't a poet; most of the band's discography holds host to some of the most immature and cliche lyrics in metal. JR Hayes Alexi is not.
Having said all these negative aspects, the album does redeem itself on occasions. The obvious highlight is that of main album single, Trashed Lost and Strungout. The riffs in this one are fast-paced and interesting. Plus, the keyboard solo is the tits, along with one of Alexi's more original and interesting solo offerings. Whilst vocally and lyrically it is the same affair (except Alexi seems to be yelling about drugs and their effects rather than the reaper and his killing habits), instrument wise it's great. Other highlights include Bastards of Bodom and the huge solo duel in If You Want Peace...Prepare For War. But I can't help thinking that the only reason I listen to the latter, thrash-orientated number is to be wowed by the solos and not a lot else.
By the time you've reached the final track, you may be left in either two situations. Scenario one; you enjoyed the album immensely or the more appropriate one to this review, the second scenario - you want your damned money back. I've got nothing against the rest of Bodom's discography (they sure as hell use the same formula all the time) but this album is a huge step down from previous work. Throughout, I was left thinking "what happened to the cheesy power metal band I used to love?" or "why are the guitar riffs so lame this time?". In short, this album was rated a three because of two redeeming qualities; Trashed Lost and Strungout and the solo duel in If You Want Peace...Prepare For War. Seeing as Scandinavia are fast becoming rulers of all things metal, there are plenty of other bands who have released better albums than this.
Mediocre at best, downright bland at worst, Are You Dead Yet? is enjoyable in very light doses. And if you discount most of the tracks on offer.
Oh, and does anybody else think the title is rather lame?
If You Want Peace...Prepare For War
Bastards of Bodom
Trashed, Lost and Strungout