Six Feet Under – Undead

If you’d have told me that Six Feet Under had put out a worthwhile death metal album without me hearing it for myself I’d have called straight bullshit.  Barnes an Co have been embarrassing themselves for years now with terrible release after terrible release, crowned by the unholy trinity of Graveyard Classics I, II and III (ok Death Rituals wasn’t too bad, but still not that great).  But here we are, and I’m listening to their new album Undead, and believe it or not it’s pretty fucking good!  I haven’t gotten this much enjoyment from a Six Feet Under album since their debut back in’95 (like many, it was one of the first Death Metal albums I bought).  I still like to throw on Haunted from time to time, and despite its simplicity I simply cannot deny that some of the tracks on it hold up rather well, my personal favorite being Silent Violence.  Perhaps coincidentally, the album title logo is in the exact same font as the one used for Haunted... maybe they’re trying to tell us old school Haunted fans that it’s OK, this one is actually good, it isn’t a parody of the death metal genre that instantly saddens you when you realize the guys performing it aren’t in on the joke.

First off Six Feet Under has basically purged the majority of its lineup, with Chris Barnes being the only original member left.  Terry Butler and Greg Gall left in 2011 from the longest running incarnation of the band which featured Barnes, Butler, Gall, and Swanson leaving only Swanson on guitar and Barnes on vocals.  So they set about recruiting some new blood who’ve built up a pedigree in numerous other acts.  The new lineup features Kevin Talley on drums (Dååth, Nothnegal, WretchedPain, ex-Horror of Horrors, ex-Chimaira, ex-Consumned, ex-Decrepit Birth, ex-Dying Fetus, ex-Misery Index, ex-Soils of Fate, ex-Truth Corroded, ex-Absence of the Sacred (live), ex-Cattle Decapitation (live), ex-Hate Eternal (live), ex-The Black Dahlia Murder (live), ex-The Red Chord (live), deeeeeeep breath, and ex-M.O.D.), Rob Arnold (Chimera) taking up a second slot slinging axe and Jeff Hughell (Osmium, Reciprocal, ex-Jeff Hughell, ex-Brain Drill, ex-Cyanic, ex-Mucus Membrane, ex-Rings of Saturn (live), ex-Vile (live)) on bass.  Barnes and Swanson of course reprise their respective roles. 

So what has this lineup shake up done to the Six Feet Under signature sound?  Well, there’s no more of the embarrassingly shitty stoner bullshit and inept attempts at rock they kept trying to put in there.  It’s back to being straight up Death Metal again, but the music has bumped up in complexity a fair bit from the days of old.  I’m not saying Six Feet Under is attempting tech death or anything, but this is the band at their fastest and meanest sounding ever.  You even get some cool guitar harmonizing ala The Bleeding in the track 18 Days (probably my favorite as the groove is impossible to not head bang to).  There’s even blast beating on this record!  Yes Six Feet Under increases beyond plodding for the first time ever in their career.  Leads are far more prominent as well, but it makes sense since they’ve now got two guitarists and it’s a welcome addition.  One thing I noticed is the songs kind of have a bit of a Chimera feel to them as well, which I suppose makes sense given that’s the band Rob Arnold came from. I think if you want to get an idea of what this sounds like in terms of other albums, this could be described as The Bleeding thrown into a blender with some of Chimera’s older recordings. 

Barnes’ vocals still aren’t quite as good as back in the Cannibal Corpse days or on the first Six Feet Under (where I thought they sounded fucking perfect), but it’s definitely MUCH better than a lot of the shit he’s belched out between that record and now.  His voice still does a bit too much of that warbling sound it has been for years now (one too many hits from the bong perhaps?), but it’s thankfully minimized, and you even get some genuinely deep "Tomb" style delivery from time to time.  He also keeps his “pig being ass raped” squeal to a minimum this outing as well, which is a good thing.  Lyrically, it’s still pretty sub-par too unfortunately.  Barnes has been quoted as saying “Lyrically ['18 Days'] is one of the more disturbing story lines on the album and may cause severe nausea. Warning.”.  I watched the “lyric” video for it and it was uh, nothing special.  Basically just some passé necrophilia lyrics that have been done to death by literally hundreds of death metal bands in far more explicit fashion, including in Barne’s own work on the old Cannibal Corpse albums (Necropedophile anyone?).  Also, regarding lyric videos, they are shit.  Moving around a picture of your album art with some cheap ass Adobe After Effects applied to it, and having the lyrics show up is just a cheap out.  But I guess since music videos are pretty much dead in terms of music promotion or as a viable artistic representation of the music (does MTV even show music videos anymore?), you can’t expect too much effort in that area these days.

One thing that instantly grabbed me about this new release is the rather fucking bad ass cover artwork they used.  Check it out above and tell me that is not an album you want to listen to.  I’m totally digging on how they took the band’s “Six Skull” logo and made it into this mass of writhing tentacles and horrors, fuckin’ cool.  Thank you Dusty Peterson.

I’m not going to try and tell you that Six Feet Under has suddenly positioned themselves at the forefront of death metal.  If you didn’t like any of their other albums, chances are you probably won’t really get into this one either.  But if you still have a soft spot for Haunted and miss the days when the band wasn’t trying to cover ACDC, badly, then I suspect you will get a kick out of this shit like me.  Give it a spin!