"Are You Dead Yet?" is the sound of a band that has firmly locked into a comfortable groove. Following the breakout success of 2003's "Hate Crew Deathroll", CHILDREN OF BODOM's fifth studio effort retains the classic guitar wizardry, keyboard flourishes, and keen sense of melody with a more mid-paced, decidedly crunchier approach. Rather than take a forced leap into the commercial stratosphere, "Are You Dead Yet?" is only a slight "progression," the group continuing to rely on an upbeat thrashiness, vaguely power metal tunefulness, and a big rock and roll heart.
The ripping guitar solos and wild keyboard splashes still remain, but don't jump out at you to quite the same degree as on previous releases. Each song is anchored by a pronounced, yet not over-the-top, melodic chorus. There are no tunes that stand out to the same extent as "Sixpounder" and "Needle 24/7" from "Hate Crew Deathroll", but a couple of tunes come close. I thought "Trashed, Lost & Strungout" was a classic COB tune on the EP of the same name and still do with its reappearance here. In fact, it is one of the better tracks on an album with no momentum-killers. An upside to what could be considered a lack of COB classics is the consistent quality of each of the songs, which in some ways makes "Are You Dead Yet?" work better as a complete album. In addition to the chunky, rough-edged riffs and soaring keyboard parts of mid-to-up tempo rockers like the title track and "Living Dead Beat", the tempo is taken down on a dark creeper called "Punch Me I Bleed". It would not be a COB album without a song with "Bodom" in the title. "Bastards of Bodom" has a vintage COB feel in its pacing, keyboard lines, and guitar leads. Keeping with the tradition of COB covers, the band's version of the RAMONES' "Somebody Put Something in My Drink" is exclusive to the U.S. release. Too bad it is not included on my promotional copy, as I dig the original and would not doubt that COB does it justice.
"Are You Dead Yet?" is a strong COB album that will probably end up being its most successful sales-wise, at least in North America. As much as it has going for it, I don't get the same sense of excitement that albums like "Hate Crew Deathroll" gave me. That hardly makes it a disappointment though.