Six Feet Under
Chris Barnes- Vocals
Rob Arnold- Guitar
Steve Swanson- Guitar
Jeff Hughell- Bass
Kevin Talley- Drums
review by Jacob Ray
Six Feet Under is a death metal band out of Tampa, Florida that was initially the side project of then Cannibal Corpse vocalist Chris Barnes in 1993. Fast forward nine years and Six Feet Under is set to release their ninth full length album Undead on Metal Blade Records on May 22nd. Undead is shaping up to be the band’s strongest release yet thanks to new guitarist Rob Arnold (formerly of Chimaira), bassist Jeff Hughell and new drummer Kevin Talley, whose impressive resume includes blasting beats for Chimaira, Dying Fetus and Misery Index. Six Feet Under’s new lineup is being brought to life on this new album by producer Mark Lewis (Deicide, Devildriver) and mixer Jason Suecof. The new lineup and production team has given Six Feet Under a positive lease on life (well, at least as positive as it gets for a death metal band) and Undead is going to be one of the biggest must- owns of the metal genre this year.
Frozen at the Moment of Death
Blood On My Hands
Near Death Experience
Delayed Combustion Device
The Depths of Depravity
The album starts off with “Frozen at the Moment of Death” which has a very dark tone to it. The guitar parts at the beginning of the song are so deep that it’s almost like hearing a cello, which I think is actually pretty cool. Barnes delivers his vocal parts in a monosyllabic cookie monster- like style, which, while not exactly eloquent, achieves the desired effect of sounding like a barbaric demon.
The second track “Formaldehyde” kicks off with an absolutely ridiculous drum intro and moves into Chris Barnes’ most guttural and snarling vocal delivery of the whole record. The whole song is very dark and features some of the best and most natural guitar contrasts on the album. For almost the whole song, one guitar is doing the aforementioned cello-esque thing while the other plays a heavier, more chord based riff and the two mix quite nicely.
One of the best things about Undead is how naturally Six Feet Under transitions from a faster tempo to a slower one, or vice-a-versa. Songs like “18 Days” start off slower and gradually get a little faster and then slow back down again all while retaining the same instrumental theme. It makes not only the songs, but the whole album flow very naturally.
As far as lyrical content goes, Chris Barnes sticks to a path thoroughly trodden. All the usual death metal thematic material is explored including, murder, dead people, despair, and reflections on how much people. “Molest Dead” has lyrics that are just as tasteful as the title of the song and from what I could decipher, “Blood On My Knees” is a graphic account of a murder. As much as I wanted it to be, “Vampire Apocalypse” is unfortunately not about the Twilight world coming to a dramatic and violent end (maybe on the next album). “Reckless” which is probably my favorite track on the album, gives an almost anthemic description of how reckless Chris Barnes is. This song almost has a fist pumping, sing-a-long quality to it and can even be described as “catchy” at some points. Everything lyrically that you could want or expect from a death metal album is covered on Undead.
Another fantastic example of Six Feet Under fluidly transitioning from a slow, gloomy part into violent, unadulterated fury is the song “Near Death Experience”. This song also features one of the best riffs on the album. I think that death metal as a genre often shoots itself in the foot in a way because more often than nought, all of the songs on an album sound more or less the same, simply because of the vocalist. This is not the case on Undead. There are so many very distinct melodies, choruses and guitar riffs on this album. It speaks volumes about not only the virtuosity of the individual musicians, but the composing skills of the band as a whole.
Six Feet Under brings Undead to a close with a couple of hate-filled gems, namely “Delayed Combustion Device” which has a badass riff that backs some of the most morbid lyrics of the album. The song is pretty much about a machine that literally kills thousands of people in the most horrific ways imaginable. Barnes has this vocal part during the bridge where he sounds like one of the Uruk-Kai in the Lord Of The Rings movies and it’s pretty terrifying considering you can clearly hear him talking about killing innocent people. A couple of cool riffs and bunch of sonic brutality later and Undead comes to an end with “The Depths of Depravity” which, surprisingly enough opens with an Indian folk instrument (the name of the instrument escapes me but you will clearly hear what I am talking about). The closing song is a little slower and is darker in tone than anything else on the album. Barnes leaves us with the following, “The undertow pulls me down, into the depths of insanity”, just in case you somehow didn’t get that feeling by listening to the album up to that point.
I’m not going to lie; death metal has never really been my thing. I have assumptions that I am going to hear the same cookie monster vocals backed by guitar parts, blast beat drums and a guitar solo or two over and over and over again. The unfortunate thing is that I’m usually right. Before listening to Six Feet Under’s latest album Undead, I had no idea who Six Feet Under was and I had my predictions about what the album was going to sound like. Taking my bias into regard, I was very impressed with the variety of song structures, melodies, and even vocal deliveries that the band was able to offer. And if nothing else, one has to give mad props to their musical abilities. From someone who isn’t big on the genre, if you like any kind of heavy music, definitely check Undead out. Chances are you will be as pleasantly surprised as I was.