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After releasing both Follow the Reaper and Hate Crew Deathroll, Children of Bodom released an album that betrayed every fan that they won over with those two classic albums. Are You Dead Yet? incorporates some new elements, but at the same time it also removes too much of what made Bodom great in the past even if it does have its share of good moments.
First the good; Alexi's replacement is none other than Roope Latvala. He can write some really good riffs and actually performs some of the albums solos which allows for there to be three members who pull off solos on this album, which makes this release 33% more interesting than previous albums in terms of solos.
What's also good is that the moments where the keyboards synchronize with the guitars are back and create a deeper sound than either of them alone can create. This effect was awesome on Hatebreeder and while it isn't the same effect as it was on that album, it still works. On Hatebreeder it was more of a piercing effect, while here it becomes more of a clunking sound reminiscent of industrial. I personally really like it and it's welcome here since it's one of the few elements that Bodom hasn't incorporated into their music beforehand.
Now comes that bad, the keyboards are almost totally muted. While I felt that Hatebreeder was too excessive in its use of keyboards, Are you Dead Yet? barely uses them at all. Janne is an excellent keyboard player and it now feels as though he's as useful as the arms are on a T-Rex. I honestly had to turn this off after I heard the second track on here since Janne only complements the guitars during certain parts of the song rather then actually using his keyboards for either atmosphere or as an instrument. He's a great keyboardist and it's a shame that he only really gets to shine on a few tracks outside of the solos and guitar synchronization.
Another thing that irks me are the slowed down tempos. Children of Bodom made a name for themselves as a European power metal band that didn't totally suck. Sadly, this album isn't power metal at all and seems to be a cross between melodeath and groove metal. Unfortunately, both of these elements are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum. This is also problematic because groove riffs absolutely have to be catchy. The groove riffs on here for the most part suck, and aren't memorable at all. There are some exceptions but the main riff to the title track is one of the worst that I've ever heard in my life, especially coming from a band who used to write some kickass guitar parts on songs like Needled 24/7 and Deadnight Warrior. At least the solos still rule.
The drums also suck. While We’re Not Gonna Fall may have a good drum beat, most of the tracks on here don’t show off Jaska’s obvious talents and he’s usually playing simple beats whenever he isn’t performing a fill. I know that he’s capable of more due to his performances on Hatebreeder and Hate Crew Deathroll where he was able to pull of some amazing drum work but here he doesn’t do anything that keeps my attention. Much like Janne, he’s just playing on this album because he’s a member of the band and Henkka’s bass drives the rhythm section. I appreciate Hankka being the most important here since he’s been on Something Wild, but Jaska’s contributions to the band’s sound are missed just as much as Janne’s.
Then there's the final nail in the coffin for me, Alexi's vocals. While I may not have liked the monotone and overly harsh delivery on Hatebreeder, Alexi was at least incomprehensible on there. By slowing down his singing and ennunciating more, I can finally understand half of what Alexi is saying and it's truly banal. There has always been a reason why CoB chose to omit most of the lyrics from their booklets in the past and it's now painfully obvious why. The line, "Oh my God! You're so fine!" in In Your Face being the most famous example. Alexi seriously should have used a less clear style of singing since I don't want to hear such poorly written lyrics that Alexi admits to improvising in the studio. He should either write his lyrics down beforehand or make his delivery as impenetrable as it usually is.
That isn't saying that Are You Dead Yet doesn't have any good moments. Living Dead Bead, In Your Face, and Trashed, Lost, and Strungout are still good songs. And some of the other tracks like Bastards of Bodom and We're Not Gonna Fall have some good moments, but most of this album is just boring and full of filler tracks. (One of which was chosen as a video over Living Dead Beat for some unknown reason.) The good tracks on this release keep it from being a total failure but it's still bad by any band's standards and thankfully they haven't released an album this bad before or since.
If you want to hear a Bodom album with groove riffs and breakdowns, listen to Blooddrunk since their at least performed well on that album. Are You Dead Yet? should only be purchased by hardcore fans who have already purchased every other album put out by the band.