Review: Six Feet Under - Undead

A gruelling record faithful to death metal basics.
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six feet underBegun as a side project when vocalist Chris Barnes was fronting Cannibal Corpse, Six Feet Under has blossomed into a death metal headliner since it first formed in 1993.

Undead is the ninth album in what has become a storied career. The band has remained faithful to the death metal basics, as gruelling as that can get at times, and the new record is more of the same destruction and despair.

Along with Barnes, Six Feet Under features Rob Arnold (guitars), Steve Swanson (guitars), Jeff Hughell (bassist), and Kevin Talley (drums). Arnold is the newest member of the band and Barnes credits his outlook to Six Feet Under’s resurgence on Undead. "Rob brings a fresh outlook to the themes of Six Feet Under. He has a vast knowledge of what I've done, and he has a clear vision and great skill for writing memorable riffs,” says Barnes.

Fans of relentless death metal and gloomy lyrical content will dig Six Feet Under’s latest, but there’s not much here for casual fans.

Still, there’s no doubting the thunderous approach of the band. Barnes’ vocal approach feels like it comes from the depths of hell, couched in noxious, menacing reverberation that is several octaves lower than most Cookie Monster growlers. It takes some getting used to, but the lyrics are surprisingly lucid and his presence is imposing.

This is apparent from the outset of Undead, with “Frozen At the Moment of Death” mutating into a dire anthem of one’s icy expiry. The track thrashes into actuality with Swanson and Arnold tying themselves in knots while Talley beats the shit out of his drum kit with ripping kicks.

Elsewhere, “18 Days” haunts with its diabolical lyrics. Under a punishing set of riffs, Barnes rumbles about being “chosen” to kill someone slowly. Its despicable theme is pure death, bathing in the grime and gore of the genre without sparing any sensitivity.

Indeed, lyrical blackness is an area that Barnes calls home. “Murder, death, life, the supernatural, it's all in there. The hypocrisies of daily life, things that affect us that spawn aggression, loneliness, sadness, there's a lot of emotions going on across the record, and I guess that the dark horror that humans cause is my niche,” he says.

With tracks like “Molest Dead” and “The Depths of Depravity” rounding out this ferocious flood, fans pretty much know what to expect with the latest from Six Feet Under. Curious onlookers may be dismayed and flabbergasted, but death metal junkies will soak in the blood of Undead with a smile.