Thursday, 31 May 2012

SIX FEET UNDER - Undead (2012)

01  Frozen At The Moment Of Death
02  Formaldehyde
03  18 Days
04  Molest Dead
05  Blood On My Hands
06  Missing Victims
07  Reckless
08  Near Death Experience
09  Delayed Combustion Device
10  The Scar
11  Vampire Apocalypse
12  The Depths Of Depravity

Undead is the ninth studio album by American death metal band Six Feet Under. It is their first album to feature drummer Kevin Talley and the only album to feature guitarist Rob Arnold who quit and was replaced by Ola Englund the day the album was released. Rob Arnold recorded the bass on this album as Jeff Hughell joined after the recording sessions. The album was released by Metal Blade on May 22nd 2012.

When people who aren't familiar with death metal derogatorily refer to the genre's vocals as "Cookie Monster noises," they're referring to Chris Barnes. Partly because he was the voice of extreme gore-mongers Cannibal Corpse and because he's been tirelessly appearing on records almost constantly since, the Six Feet Under mainman has become synonymous with the grunting vocal style. It's a shame death metal doesn't have a poster child more equipped for the role. Barnes isn't a vocalist with much range, and the music he slaps his name on has rarely transcended the mediocre since his Cannibal Corpse golden age. Undead is Six Feet Under's thirteenth studio album, and while it admirably veers closer to true death metal than to the schlocky groove metal and questionable collections of AC/DC covers he's spent most of the last two decades peddling, it's still evidence that he wasn't the cog making his former band the well oiled machine it has now become. In nearly 20 years with Six Feet Under, Barnes has never really managed to capture anything genuinely unsettling or  even memorbale. 'Undead', like the band's entire oeuvre, merely exists.

If I am honest, I have never been too fond of Cannibal Corpse, especially when Chris Barnes was their lead vocalist. I have been always been puzzled by the fact that there were hundreds of other Death Metal bands doing far more intersting things with the genre, who never got anywhere near the success of Cannibal Corpse. It just always seemed to be "style over substance", with that style simply being - shock and offend at all costs. That being said, I did actually enjoy CC's latest release 'Torture'  just like I enjoyed 'Undead' which took me by surprise.

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 an interesting effect . Barnes delivers his vocal parts in a monosyllabic 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 creating the aforementioned cello sound 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 transition 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, death, despair. “Molest Dead” has lyrics that are just as tasteful as the title of the song and from what I could decipher, “Blood On My Hands” , another stand-out track, is a graphic account of a murder.

Alongside modern day Morbid Angel, Six Feet Under takes the cake as the most polarizing act in death metal. Obviously, there are far more extreme and exciting options out there, but on Undead, Six Feet Under gives meat-and-potatoes death metal a nice kick in the behind. And like 2008’s underrated 'Death Rituals', it showcases a kind of quality control that just wasn’t there when the band was virtually spitting an album out once a year.

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