Hatebreeder and Follow the Reaper instantly appealed to me with their pure neo-classical styles, and lightning quick guitar and synthesizer interplay. Within weeks of first hearing these albums, I checked out Something Wild and was equally impressed by the earlier effort’s straightforwardness, coupled with the same COB speed.
Well, reviews stated that Are You Dead Yet? would be a return to the straightforward style, and I completely agree.
Unfortunately, this release, while good, does not match the intensity, creativity, or character of the COB classics.
Almost completely absent are the deliciously wicked synthesizer/guitar runs which conjure memories of a death/thrash version of Beethoven rocking out the mall keyboards in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Instead we are treated, and treated I will say because this album is good, to more generic melodeath/thrash. Don’t get me wrong, the musicianship is still something to behold, and I doubt these guys will ever fail to impress in this department, but Something Wild, Hatebreeder, and Follow the Reaper had an undeniably unique Children of Bodom sound, while Are You Dead Yet? never really projects a distinguishable identity, just unparalleled instrumental ability.
A few tracks like the slower-paced “Punch Me I Bleed” stand strong as dynamic, well-composed tracks, but even the best songs on this album will have trouble inducing the same kind of epileptic fits that result from listening to vintage Bodom.
Still, most of these criticisms must be considered within the context of Bodom. The album, of course, is worthwhile because you will be hard-pressed to find a band playing this type of music with such proficiency. Long time fans of COB can expect to hear the standard mind-blowing solos, pile-driving drums, and incomprehensibly fast keyboard runs, but I believe most of these fans will also agree that the band does not succeed as well in creating cohesive masterpieces as it has before. I must quit now, because I feel I am being entirely too negative. This album is definitely worth your time and money. I mean, a four star score (80%) is really good, just not spectacular. And in a year of such magnificent metal, and when you are talking about a band with such a worthy catalogue, I hope most of you will consider this a review of a really good album, which simply does not measure up to its legendary predecessors.