Children of Bodom's fifth album and first for Universal/SpineFarm Records is a continued step away from the neo-classical death/black metal found on their earlier releases towards a heavier, chunkier sound that first emerged on 2003's Hate Crew Deathroll. Not that CoB haven't always been heavy, but their sound now has a thicker, beefier bottom end to it, as they rely less on blazing classical arrangements and more on classic metal riffs. Of course the trademark Bodom shred guitar & keyboard solos are all over Are You Dead Yet?, so fans worried that there might be a lack of killer instrumentation can just relax.
Upon first checking out the CD I noticed that the booklet was not given the royal treatment that Century Media always gave the band. Gone is the lavish cover art, instead we are treated to some grainy photos of the Reaper on the front and more grainy shots of the band inside, and sadly no lyrics are included. Other than that initial dissapointment, the music hits you right off the bat. "Living Dead Beat" is a crunchy riff fest with catchy hooks and plenty of hot solos. Alexi Laiho's vocals have gotten refined over the years, and while he still has a lethal throaty rasp that bridges the gap between death and black metal styles, he is much easier to understand this time around. The band wrote one of their slowest and doomiest pieces ever on "Punch Me I Bleed", and pummel the listener with monstrous thrash riffs on the blazing "Next In Line". Guitarists Laiho and Roope Ukk Latvala once again turn in stellar performances on the entire album, from the massive riffs to the virtuoso solos, and keyboard player Janne Warmen adds in plenty of symphonic textures and speed of light leads. When the guitars and keyboards of CoB trade solos, there's nothing like it in the world of progressive music today. Other highlights include the crushing title track, the virtuoso prog-metal of "Bastards of Bodom" (featuring amazing bass work from Henkka Blacksmith, not to mention nimble drums from Jaska Raatikainen), and the catchy and upbeat "Trashed, Lost, & Strung Out", a song from the EP of the same name released last year. Ramones fans will get a kick out of the cover of "Somebody Put Something In My Drink", but I would have liked another original song perhaps instead of that one.
Are You Dead Yet? will probably be a pretty controversial release among their faithful fanbase, but there's no denying that it's easily one of the best metal releases of 2005. It may not be as influential or an instant classic like Follow the Reaper or Hatebreeder, but like Hate Crew Deathroll before it, Are You Dead Yet? is a mature, heavy, monolithic metal moster. Get ready as Children of Bodom prepare to take over the world.
1. Living Dead Beat
2. Are You Dead Yet?
3. If You Want Peace... Prepare For War
4. Punch Me I Bleed
5. In Your Face
6. Next In Line
7. Bastards Of Bodom
8. Trashed, Lost, & Strung Out
9. We're Not Gonna Fall
10. Somebody Put Something In My Drink