Six Feet Under
posted on 12/2008 By:
Most of you are probably well aware of Six Feet Under and what they sound like, and likewise have already formed your own opinions on the merits of the band’s stripped down, mercilessly primitive form of rocking death metal. Chances are, you either see them as a mindlessly enjoyable, tongue-in-cheek throwback to death metal’s most caveman-esque tendencies, or merely as a perpetually mediocre band who constantly flirts with becoming a joke entirely. Many think they’ve reached this point already, particularly after the embarrassing Graveyard Classics releases, and yet the band has been going strong since 1995, churning forth albums at a relentless pace and maintaining a high profile.
The thing about Death Rituals is that I feel I’ve been shortchanged on both sides of the spectrum. There’s nothing really noteworthy about this album on a musical level to make it worth buying, and even as an “in-on-the-joke” sort of album, it just kind of falls flat (except for the vocals). There’s a couple of parts that are pretty damn good, a couple that are hilariously bad, but most of the time is just a resounding “…eh.” With maybe a cursory eye-roll thrown in for good measure.
The primary thing that was going through my head during the entirety of Death Rituals was how truly pathetic a vocalist Chris Barnes really is; this is easily the worst vocal performance I’ve ever heard on a death metal album, bar none. These vocals make Lord Worm’s tired showing on Cryptopsy’s Once Was Not sound like the dude from Pagan’s Mind by comparison. Even in the man’s “glory” days in Cannibal Corpse Barnes was never capable of anything more than a one-dimensional, unaggressive grunt, which makes it all the more amazing that he’s actually managed to get this much worse since then. Barne’s choked, indistinct barks are almost hilariously inadequate. He frequently lags behind the music’s tempo, sounds like he’s going to fucking suffocate if he doesn’t catch his breath at times, and occasionally breaks away from the growling to throw in this random garbled screech that had me pissing myself with laughter. The production keeps him mercifully buried, but even low in the mix Barnes turns in a positively embarassing performance, and it was enough to make me want to toss this album and never consider listening to it again.
It's kind of a shame for Six Feet Under because, on the music side of things, I’ve heard much, much worse than Death Rituals. People talk about these guys like they're the worst band ever to exist, but the guitar/drum side of things really ain’t that bad, even shamefully enjoyable at times. There’s a number of solid moments throughout this record, including the great caveman groove in “Involuntary Movement of Flesh,” a face-stomping punkier segment in “Eulogy of the Undead,” and a riff that almost sounds like legitimate death metal in “Killed In Your Sleep.” Steve Swanson even turns in a couple of fairly nice guitar solos, and the ridiculous Motley Crue cover of “Bastard” is worth a listen or two just for its sheer silliness.
When Six Feet Under get the ol’ double-kicks pounding and the guitars chugging, I’ll admit that they have the ability produce some solid, rocking death metal. But that doesn't change the fact there’s simply nothing here that you haven’t heard done better by numerous other bands, who also probably have a vocalist who is capable of singing without constantly choking on his own resin-charred phlegm. If you’re one of those fans who enjoys the corniness of this project, know that Death Rituals is one of the better albums Six Feet Under has released song-wise and you’ll likely have fun with it. Me? I think I’m going to go spin some Obituary and let this album gradually fade from my memory.
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